The GAP process was begun in Hawaii, I believe, and the scientists involved with this ground-breaking work mapped areas of the islands where wildlife and plants were known to occur.  Then they over-layed those sites with maps of protected areas such as parks and wildlife refuges.  Sadly, most of the two maps did not match.  In other words, the rare species were mostly not in any conservation status.

As I hope I have stated previously, the key to wildlife conservation is conserving habitat, and most of the areas containing what I’ll call priority habitats and species occur on private lands.

In the Pacific Northwest, priority habitats include wetlands, snag-rich areas, caves, talus slopes, and Oregon white oak woodlands.  These habitats are unique and/or have significant value to many fish or wildlife species.  Priority species are those creatures requiring special efforts to ensure their perpetuation because of their low numbers, sensitivity to habitat alteration, tendency to form vulnerable aggregations.

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) developed management recommendations and guidelines (not regulations) for priority habitats and species to provide planners, elected officials, landowners, and citizens with comprehensive information on important fish, wildlife, and habitat resources.  Considering the needs of fish and wildlife can help prevent species from becoming extinct or increasingly threatened and may contribute to the recovery of species already imperiled.  WDFW updates these maps and information systems every five years.

Whether one is looking to acquire property, is a steward of property owned by another, or has been an owner of acreage for many years, identifying, monitoring, and conserving priority or rare habitats could be considered as an act of stewardship.

One of many nice attributes about priority habitats is their typical low economic value.  Oregon white oaks have firewood use, but are hardly a commercial producer of wood; a patch of dead trees also has little economic worth.  Many special habitats also take up small corners of land.  A seep, pond, cave or rock outcrop may occupy a small portion of one’s land.

Ways to conserve priority habitats are to fence out livestock or big game if appropriate, procure a conservation easement to protect the habitat through time, study and monitor the rare spots to learn about them and to acquire data about whether they are expanding, decreasing and what creatures utilize them.

Enjoy the priority species and habitats you come across in your stewardship travels. ~

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