NCW — The state Department of Natural Resources will be spending more than $5.3 million to buy land or conservation easements near Wenatchee and Leavenworth to protect rare plants.
The recent funding awards include:
Nearly $2.74 million to buy up to 1,960 acres to expand the Upper Dry Gulch Natural Area Preserve to protect the Whited’s milkvetch, a rare plant. The preserve is about 13 miles southeast of Wenatchee.
Over $2.6 million to buy some 230 acres near Leavenworth to help protect a rare plant called the Wenatchee Mountains Checkermallow.
Funds for the Camas Meadows purchases includes $1.86 million from the Washington Wildlife Recreation Fund to buy 171 acres, and $749,400 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to buy 60 acres, including a stretch of the South Fork Camas Creek.
The lands are all within critical habitat for the Wenatchee Mountains Checkermallow, a federally-endangered species with the largest known population growing in the 1,987-acre Camas Meadows Natural Area Preserve, about 12 miles southwest of Leavenworth.
DNR spokeswoman Diana Lofflin said the agency has not yet identified the lands it hopes to buy, but all are within the 6,135 acres identified as critical habitat for the rare plant.
She added that the endangered status is not forcing any land acquisitions. “We only work with willing sellers to purchase conservation easements or land,” she said.
Other species will also gain protection, including the state-endangered Wenatchee larkspur. Both only exist in a portion of the Wenatchee Mountains.
David Leonard, regional coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife grants, said in an email that the checkermallow is known to exist only in a five-mile by 10-mile area, most of it in the Camas Meadows preserve, where more than 11,000 of the plants are growing.
Portions of the population also occur on private lands that are currently unprotected, and will be purchased with these funds.
The money will also help protect the area’s hydrology, critical to keeping the endangered plants from extinction. The South Fork Camas Creek is integral to the hydrology of a large part of the meadow where the flowers grow, he said in the email.
Funds to buy up to 1,960 acres to expand the Upper Dry Gulch Natural Area Preserve come from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
That will help protect the Whited’s milkvetch, which exists nowhere else besides a three-mile band between Colockum Creek and the existing preserve. Federally, it is considered a species of concern. A recent proposal for a housing development increased the urgency of the threat to these plants, according to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s description.