I-90 Wildlife Corridor

The I-90 Wildlife Corridor is a landscape-level effort to conserve critical wildlife habitat near Snoqualmie Pass, ensuring an effective connection between the north and south Cascades for both terrestrial and aquatic species.

Gold Creek Valley overshadowed by Alta Mountain
Photo by Charlie Raines

This exciting project has already conserved over 2,000 acres of land between the Pass and the town of Easton. Forterra has collaborated with Washington Department of Transportation, the I-90 Wildlife Bridges coalition, Washington Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and others on this exciting project.

Forterra is currently in Phase V of its land acquisition program utilizing grant funds under the Endangered Species Act to conserve land critical to threatened or endangered species. The threatened and endangered species benefiting from the acquisitions include spotted owl, grizzly bear, gray wolf and bull trout. Deer, elk, cougar, wolverines and river otters are just a few of the mammals that inhabit these lands and use these bridges. We work in close partnership with Washington DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Railroad Legacy challenges land and wildlife management

The checkerboard land ownership pattern is a legacy of the land grant to the Northern Pacific Railway which completed that transcontinental railroad through the Cascade Mountains at Stampede Pass in 1887. The subsequent establishment of the Wenatchee National Forest by Teddy Roosevelt left those mile square railroad sections intermingled with the public land. This has been a management headache for the Forest Service and private timber companies ever since. Over the past few decades much of the railroad land in this wildlife corridor has been acquired by the Forest Service. Recently, the remaining strategic parcels have been targeted by state agencies and other private conservation entities. Forterra has focused on a few critical pathways for wildlife, leading to crossings of I-90.

I-90: Safe Passage for both humans and wildlife

A crucial element of the wildlife corridor is safe crossing of the Interstate 90 freeway, east of Snoqualmie Pass. Over the past decade, the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been widening the highway, eliminating avalanche dangers and reducing animal-vehicle collisions. The project has already completed a very effective wildlife underpass at Gold Creek (near Hyak). This year, they will begin construction on an iconic wildlife overpass near Keechelus Dam (mile post 61)—the first on I-90 and the first over a state highway.

The lone deer under the Gold Creek wildlife bridge—with heavy Memorial Day traffic—captures the essence of our efforts to provide safe passage for animal and human travelers.
The lone deer under the Gold Creek wildlife bridge—with heavy Memorial Day traffic—captures the essence of our efforts to provide safe passage for animal and human travelers.

Accomplishments

In June 2015 the Washington Department of Transportation broke ground on our state’s first of its kind Wildlife overpass near Keechelus Dam. (See the Seattle Times Article here). KIRO TV news also reported on this milestone.

Most recently, the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition is developing a documentary video to tell the story of this huge challenge, amazing collaboration and real results. Take a look at the trailer below.

Forterra’s prior contributions to this effort include:

December 2014 — Acquired a strategic parcel of land on Keechelus Ridge, adjacent to forest lands previously acquired and stewarded by Forterra.

December 2013 — Led the multi-year effort to acquire 640 acres of land along Cole Creek and transferred the property to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to be managed as part of their Upper Yakima Wildlife Management Area.

December 2013 — Acquired 52 acres of land along the John Wayne Trail and transferred that property to Washington State Parks to ensure users of the trail have a beautiful natural and scenic view along the trail.

December 2012 — Completed the acquisition of the old-growth forested Sawmill Creek property with ESA Section 6 funds. Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) received the property to manage as part of their watershed conservation lands. This is adjacent to another parcel that Forterra secured for TPU just downstream.

What’s ahead

  • Forterra is working on a complex transaction to conserve another 25 acres of forest and wetlands in Gold Creek Valley
  • Forterra is working with land owners on acquiring another 100 acres of forest and riparian lands in the corridor.
  • Forterra, DNR and USFWS just applied for Phase VI of acquisition funds in order to continue our connecting wildlife habitat to the safe wildlife bridges over or under the highway.

Project partners

I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition

Conservation Northwest

U.S. Forest Service

Washington Department of Transportation

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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