Habitat - Wildlife Area Management
Date Published: November 2007
Number of Pages: 67
Author(s): Mark Grabski
The Cowlitz Wildlife Area (CWA) consists of lands owned by Tacoma Power (Tacoma) and is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as wildlife mitigation for Mayfield and Mossyrock dams. Almost all mitigation lands (14,095 acres) are adjacent to Mayfield and Riffe Lakes. The only exceptions are small parcels located at Davis Lake east of Morton (Davis Lake Unit - 273 acres), 280 acres near the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery (Cowlitz Trout Hatchery Unit), 418 acres south of Randle (Spears Unit), and 415 acres off Savio Road west of Randle (Kiona Creek Unit). The majority of the land base can be classified into one of four habitats – emergent wetland, riparian / forested wetland, coniferous forest, and mixed deciduous forest. In addition to the above habitats, the Cowlitz Wildlife Area maintains several forage pastures throughout the wildlife area.
Management goals for the Cowlitz Wildlife Area are to preserve habitat and species diversity for both fish and wildlife resources, maintain healthy populations of game and non-game species, protect and restore native plant communities, and provide diverse opportunities for the public to encounter, utilize, and appreciate wildlife and wild areas. Specific management goals and objectives for the Cowlitz Wildlife Area can be found in Chapter 3. Currently management is focusing on protecting, restoring or creating habitat for diving, dabbling, and cavity nesting ducks. This is being accomplished through wetland acquisitions, habitat projects, and a nesting box program. These activities have been identified by the Wildlife Area Management Coordinating Committee (WMCC) as a priority in meeting the mitigation needs for Tacoma Power’s Cowlitz Hydroelectric Project.
Peterman Ridge Unit, the largest unit on the wildlife area (6,855 acres), is managed generally as species-specific habitat for pileated woodpecker (sensitive species), black-tail deer, and Douglas squirrels. In addition to providing habitat for beaver, forested wetland areas on Peterman Ridge provide habitat for amphibians and other wetland dependent species. Wildlife use on the area is diverse. Species that are present include elk, deer, black bear, cougar, grouse, turkey, etc.
The primary management concerns and public issues identified in the Cowlitz Wildlife Area Plan are:
- Mitigate for habitat loss due to inundation from the development of Mayfield and Mossyrock dams.
- Enhance and maintain natural preferred foraging opportunities that will encourage species diversity.
- Reduce localized negative landowner / elk interactions occurring on private property.
- Reduce road densities on Peterman Ridge to a ratio of 1.5 miles of open road per square mile.
- Conduct weed management to ensure quality habitats and healthy fish and wildlife populations.
- Ensure the protection of existing and potential cultural resources.
- Manage areas where resource damage is occurring so that further degradation is avoided.
- Protect and enhance existing ESA listed fish habitat.
In 2006, 1,100 Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees were planted on the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery Unit to augment the existing visual barriers and provide new ones where none exist. As these trees grow, a natural barrier will develop along the roadside. This will help to eliminate off-road travel, enhance habitat value, and control illegal harvesting of wildlife. Additionally, three fields totaling 9 acres were planted with 3,700 trees and shrubs representative of a mixed deciduous forest. This area is along a riparian corridor that provides seasonal inundation to the surrounding flood plain that, when finished, will create a palustrine wetland environment. Additionally, a 5-year plan to repair channel breaches and restore existing drainage on the Davis Lake Unit was developed. A Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA) was applied for and all necessary permits were secured. Work began when fields were dry and water levels in the creeks were at low to no flows. Work to remove blackberries from the banks of the channels and silt from within the channel down to historic depths was conducted on approximately 1,600 linear feet of channel. The future objective is to manage the fields as moist soil units and utilize common agricultural practices to “work” the fields to encourage diverse emergent growth for winter migratory waterfowl.
Acquisitions continue and two parcels totaling 35 acres were purchased at the end of 2006. These parcels expand the boundaries of the Davis Lake Unit providing habitat that, when managed, will be critical for elk and wintering waterfowl.
The CWA plan will be reviewed annually with additional input from the CAG and the district team to monitor performance and desired results. Strategies and activities will be adapted where necessary to accomplish management objectives.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Cowlitz Wildlife Area Management Plan. Wildlife Management Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 67 pp.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.