A few scary facts for Halloween 2013

common garter snake
In Washington State, the common garter snake (which is nonpoisonous) is found from coastal and mountain forests to sagebrush deserts, usually close to water or wet meadows—or your garden. Photo: Jon McGinnis/WDFW.

If the parade of costumed tricker-treaters coming to your door tonight or the endless reruns of horror movies on TV these past few weeks (or today’s close-up photo of snake) are not enough to give you a fright, here are some scary facts about the state of the environment in Washington State, with an emphasis on biodiversity.

  • Approximately 33 percent of the Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shorelines have been armored with bulkheads and other structures to protect homes, ports, marinas, roads and railways, and other property. More than half of the shoreline in the central Puget Sound has been modified by port development, armoring of beaches, and other uses, causing significant loss of habitats important to beach and nearshore species.
  • More than half of the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion (roughly the area known as the Columbia Basin) has undergone conversion from its shrub-steppe landscape to cropland. What remains is a fragmented shrub-steppe, which compromises the habitat of many species that rely on this type of habitat.
  • More than 90 percent of the original Palouse grasslands in Washington have been converted to agriculture, housing or other uses. A number of plant species once common throughout the Palouse now hang on in small, isolated remnants.

What’s so important about biodiversity?

Native species (such as shellfish, salmon and Douglas-fir) and their ecosystems contribute billions of dollars to fisheries, timber harvests, outdoor recreation and other sectors of our state’s economy. Native ecosystems also provide clean water, natural flood control, and habitats for fish, plants, and wildlife.

To help protect these important native habitats that help nurture biodiversity, DNR manages a statewide network of Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resources Conservation Areas. Many of these areas represent the finest natural, undisturbed ecosystems in state ownership; they also protect one-of-a-kind natural features unique to this region, such as the Mima Mounds in Thurston County or Selah Cliffs in Yakima County.

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