HABITAT: Elk foundation helps purchase vital land

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, working with a coalition of partners, has acquired 4,010 acres of forestland overlooking Wenatchee Valley.

The transaction took seven years to complete, said Blake Henning, the foundation’s vice president of lands and conservation.

“The lands acquired from Weyerhaeuser are now permanently protected and transferred to public management thanks to support from the Stemilt Partnership, a group of 25 conservation-minded partners,” Henning said In a news release.

Chelan County and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife reached an agreement to manage the land for public use. The county’s 3,370 acres will be managed as a community forest with a focus on forest health and public recreation, while the other 640 acres under department ownership are now part of the Colockum Wildlife Management Area.

The high-elevation mixed-conifer forests of the area host a wide variety of wildlife, but are especially important for migrating elk and mule deer and as a calving area for elk.

In addition, runoff each spring feeds several streams and fills more than a dozen irrigation reservoirs that provide water to more than 5,000 acres of irrigated lands, primarily orchards.

The lands will also provide year-around public recreation such as hunting, fishing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and hiking.