Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Committee Chair

Robert Hickey

Second Committee Member

Tom Cottrell

Third Committee Member

Chris Danilson

Abstract

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) elk management goals are to adjust the distribution of elk on the landscape in the North Cascades to reduce negative impacts to private property while maintaining a healthy population of elk in the area. The goal of this study was to use custom Geographic Information System (GIS) elk habitat suitability models to model baseline elk habitat suitability in the 8,600 km2 North Cascades elk management area, and then evaluate how theoretical forage enhancement sites would affect habitat suitability. Prior to creating the baseline and proposed habitat suitability maps for the study area, the GIS data inputs were verified and updated as needed, and then model outputs were calibrated using known elk locations in a subset of the study area. Using the baseline predicted habitat suitability, 55 potential forage enhancement sites, covering 726 acres, were outlined within the core elk range. The models predict that these forage enhancement sites would improve the suitability ranking for 2,589 acres. The models indicate that forage enhancement sites have a stronger impact in areas with flatter slopes. The results from this modeling process will be used by WDFW to inform elk forage enhancement planning in the North Cascades.

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