In Eastern Washington, our science projects are helping to improve the future for natural and human communities by conserving critical forests, sagelands and waters that will support wildlife and people.
The Pacific Northwest has experienced rapid wind power development over the last decade, placing the state of Washington fifth in the nation for installed capacity. Wind energy plays a key role in achieving the state’s renewable energy portfolio standards while infusing rural economies with income and jobs. As the pace of development in the region accelerates, efforts to balance the benefits of wind with the need to protect scarce and valuable natural resources has grown more acute, particularly in the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion in Eastern Washington where most wind resources are concentrated and more than half of native ecosystems have already been converted to other uses.
Using wind-sensitive species and ecosystems as risk elements, areas in Eastern Washington were mapped where wind power development appears to pose the least to greatest risk to biodiversity. The blueprint is a first iteration. Future work will incorporate landscape connectivity issues and prioritize appropriate mitigation lands. Through this project, we hope to show how industry and conservationists can work together to achieve the state’s green energy goals while protecting our natural heritage for future generations. Download the Eastern Washington Wind Power Conservation Blueprint Report, located in the downloads section on the top right of this page, to learn more about this project. Detailed descriptions about the analysis, including a suite of maps, are available in the report. For additional information, contact Erica Simek Sloniker.
The survival of Washington’s wildlife species depends in part on their ability to move safely to find food, reproduce, and migrate – this is often termed “habitat connectivity.” However, many of the state’s wildlife populations are at risk of losing this connectivity because of roads, development pressure, and other impacts on the landscape. The emerging threat of climate change will make the need for habitat connectivity even more critical, as many species will need to adapt to a changing landscape and shifting habitats.
The process of preserving connectivity across the state starts with coordinating and analyzing information to identify landscape conservation and restoration opportunities as they exist today. The Washington State Habitat Connectivity Analysis serves as a baseline for reviewing changing conditions over time. At the statewide scale, the Washington Wildlife Connectivity Working Group, including Nature Conservancy Landscape Ecologist, Brad McRae, are applying an analysis approach to this project that uses representative species to help understand the locations of important broad connectivity linkages across the landscape. The list of representative species for the statewide analysis includes black-tailed and white-tailed jackrabbits, American badger, mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bear, elk, mountain goat, wolverine, lynx, American marten, western gray squirrel, northern flying squirrel, western toad, and sharp-tailed and sage grouse.
The analysis, including narrative and maps, helps identify the best places to invest resources for conserving and restoring habitat between important core habitats. Known as “connectivity opportunity areas”, these locations have a high likelihood of aiding wildlife movement. Results of the statewide analysis are now available by visiting the Washington Wildlife Connectivity Working Group webpage. There you can also find connectivity data results and maps at the ecoregional scale in the arid lands of eastern Washington. For additional information, contact Spatial Ecologist Erica Simek Sloniker.
The goal of the Washington Wildlife Connectivity Working Group is to promote the long-term viability of wildlife populations in Washington state through a science-based, collaborative approach that identifies opportunities and priorities to conserve and restore habitat connectivity throughout the state. The core team consists of representatives from state, federal, and private agencies.
This report identifies areas in eastern Washington that pose the least risk to biodiversity if developed for wind power. It provides step by step guidelines for how the analysis was completed and contains maps and tables documenting our findings.Download File (16 MB) Eastern Washington Wind Power Conservation Blueprint Data (2010)
This data shows areas suitable for wind power development potential in eastern Washington as well as areas that pose the least risk to biodiversity if developed for wind power.