A joint project by PacifiCorp and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to preserve 5,652 acres of elk habitat in the Lewis River basin in southwest Washington is now complete, with the recent purchase of 640 acres.
The project permanently protects 5,110 acres of habitat between Mount St. Helens and Swift Reservoir, and 542 acres near Yale and Merwin reservoirs.
PacifiCorp spokesman Tom Gauntt told NW Fishletter the project replaces habitat lost with the creation of reservoirs behind Merwin, Yale and Swift dams with upland habitat, as part of PacifiCorp's relicensing requirements. Located about 50 miles from Portland, the land was under development pressure, he said.
"It's one of the bigger projects the company has undertaken with habitat," Gauntt said.
According to a news release from the foundation, the first three phases were completed in 2010, 2012 and 2017.
The property includes summer and winter range for elk, and is part of a migration corridor to higher-elevation summer range in Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument. It is also habitat for black-tailed deer, mountain lions, black bears and other mammals and birds.
The property is part of a 15,000-acre area managed by PacifiCorp with input from the elk foundation and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, which is open to the public for nonmotorized recreation.