New road threatens river otters and other wildlife at Amon Creek

Did you know we have river otters swimming around in the Tri-Cities?

They live in the Amon Creek Natural Preserve (ACNP) in Richland near Leslie and Rachel Roads  a beautifully preserved wetland and shrub-steppe habitat.

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River Otters swimming at ACNP / Tapteal Greenway

But that habitat is being threatened by development, said Tapteal Greenway, a non-profit aimed at protecting the lower Yakima River and its tributaries (including Amon Creek).

Even though the preserve is flanked by homes and roads, it is currently still a contiguous wildlife corridor.

Wildlife corridors are an area of habitat that connects isolated wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures like roads. They are critical for biodiversity and lower the chance for extinction for both plant and animal species.

“Open space is disappearing at an alarming rate, and with that also contiguous wildlife corridors that are critical for survival,”  Karen Sowers, president of Tapteal Greenway, told Bored in Tri-Cities.

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Tapteal Trail along the Yakma River near Benton City / Tapteal Greenway

“The west fork of Amon Creek runs through the heart of ACNP, and continues through the Meadow Springs Golf Course, through Leslie Canyon, and eventually reaches the Yakima River,” Sowers said.

But the City of Richland is planning to build a road or bridge through the preserve. A new elementary school and more housing development is planned on private land adjacent to the ANCP.

A bridge or road through ANCP would fragment that corridor, particularly at Rachel Road, which is through the heart of the Preserve,” Sowers said.

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Great Blue Heron at ANCP / Tapteal Greenway

The City has held open houses and opened the project to public comment in order to find a solution that works for everyone.

“The hope is, through a collaborative public process, a preferred solution will be identified that meets the needs and interests of all stakeholders,” the City of Richland page on the project said.

The City began the Rachel Road Alignment Study in October 2016. The last open house was on April 12 and public comment closed on April 26. Soon, the City of Richland will vote to decide how to extend Rachel Road to connect the new development.

Most of the people who participated in the open houses supported an alignment that would have minimal impacts on the ANCP — especially not bisecting the center of the Preserve, Sowers said.

Many who took part in the public process enjoy walking, biking, horseback riding, bird-watching, kayaking, and hiking along the Tapteal Trail that extends from Bateman Island almost to Benton City.

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Trail in Chamna Natural Preserve / Tapteal Greenway

Tapteal Greenway maintains the trails and works towards conservation in the ANCP and other local wildlife habitats.

“Regardless of what alignment is chosen, ANCP will be impacted — plants, animals, insects, birds … and all trail users, will see a different place than what it is now,” Sowers said.

She encouraged the City to make a decision on an alignment that protects the important wildlife corridor at ANCP.

“As we’ve all heard so many times before — once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” Sowers said.

Have you explored the Amon Creek Natural Preseve?

Do you think a compromise between development and conservation can be reached?

Let us know what you think about this issue!

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