Connecting Land and Community

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Working for Wildlife

Maintaining Okanogan's Working Lands & Wildlife Heritage

What is Working for Wildlife?

"Working for Wildlife" is an initiative of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation uniting a variety of organizations (including the OLT) that will work together to maintain and enhance certain qualities of life in the Okanogan-- particularly our working lands and wildlife.

Who is the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation?

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was chartered by Congress in 1984 to direct public funds to environmental needs and match those investments with private contributions. In 27 years, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at

What challenges has Working for Wildlife identified? 

Increased traffic on Highway 97 is elevating the risk to public safety from vehicle collisions with wildlife, and making it more difficult for wildlife to safely migrate as they historically would.  On average, 350 deer are killed each year by vehicle collisions along the 11.7 mile stretch of Highway 97 near Riverside.  Each collision has an average societal cost of over $7,000. 

Sustaining Working Farms & Ranches
A recent analysis found that 45% of large ranches in the Okanogan changed ownership between 1993 and 2008.  Of the land that changed hands, 53% was purchased by developers, investors and amenity buyers.  Such properties are in danger of being subdivided into smaller and smaller parcels, and they are no longer contributing to our local food security or agricultural economy.

Stewardship Partnerships 
Management challenges on state and federal lands have reduced the quality of wildlife habitat and recreational experiences. These challenges can be redressed through collaborative restoration efforts.

The Okanogan's scenic nature and relative abundance of wildlife attracts tourists, including  annual visits by hunters and anglers.  In our economically challenged region we can't afford to ignore this opportunity.  With appropriate long-term strategies, our relative isolation can be an economic asset to the community-- if we maintain the beauty, vitality, and abundance of our land.


Bighorn Sheep (by Justin Haug)

Hungarian Partridge (by Justin Haug)

Mule Deer (by Justin Haug)


How will Working for Wildlife address these challenges?  

This is a multi-year, public and private effort that builds upon existing partnerships and facilitates new collaborations.  Our current program strategies can be summarized in four general categories:

  • Maintain the open landscape and support the agricultural economy of the region via conservation easements.
  • Restore habitat and improve forest health on private, public, and tribal lands.
  • Promote coexistence between wildlife and ranchers.  Members of the coalition will implement species-specific strategies, such as developing adequate winter grazing range for whitetail/mule deer, translocating Sharp-tailed Grouse, and monitoring the ongoing recovery of the Canadian Lynx in our region in order to gauge our success at maintaining linkages between wildlife populations in the Cascades and those in the Kettle Range and beyond.
  • Provide safe passage for wildlife (and subsequently motorists) by installing wildlife underpasses along specific sections of Highway 97.
All of these strategies will be designed and implemented with local input and community support and will be developed with scientifically based decision support tools, as well as rigorous monitoring. This approach will ensure that actions taken are strategic and aligned with the goal of maintaining and improving the ability for wildlife, people, farms and ranches to collectively thrive within this landscape. 

Who is involved so far? 

  • Local organizations: 
    • Okanogan Land Trust 
    • Colville Confederated Tribes 
    • Safe Passage on 97 Coalition 
  • Regional/state organizations: 
    • Washington Department of Transportation 
    • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 
    • Conservation Northwest 
    • Conservation Science Institute Washington 
    • Department of Natural Resources 
  • National organizations:  
    • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation 
    • Trust for Public Land 
    • Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests

Bobcat (by Justin Haug)

Tunk Valley (by Justin Haug)