The Yakima Basin is one of the most diverse watersheds in Washington state and part of the broader North Cascades landscape that The Wilderness Society works to protect.
About Yakima Basin
The Yakima Basin encompasses 320,000 acres of pristine wilderness and waters that are home to endangered species such as gray wolves, spotted owl and bull and steelhead trout. With more than one million acres of public land, the basin also provides an abundance of recreational opportunities from snowmobiling to fly-fishing. The Yakima Basin is a state and national treasure.
From the wet, alpine forests of the North Cascades to the arid, sagebrush-studded Yakima Valley, the basin is home to the largest tributary of the Columbia River, the Yakima River. The Yakima River sustains fish, families and farms as it makes its way to the Columbia. Salmon numbers are dwindling and the water levels are decreasing, which threatens the species and farms that depend on it.
At Wilderness, we're working on bringing back fish levels and protecting the surrounding land.
Threats to Yakima Basin
Though farms continue to produce bales of hay and pounds of fruit and though fish return to spawn in their native waters, the Yakima River is not as healthy as it once was. Long ago, the Yakima supported one of the world’s great salmon runs. Today, those numbers have dwindled due to habitat degradation, dams and former over-harvesting.
Long ago, the Yakima supported one of the world’s great salmon runs. Today, those numbers have dwindled due to habitat degradation, dams and former over-harvesting.
Each spring as crops flourish, farmers are faced with the threat — and often reality — of not enough water, especially in low snowpack years. Low water supply means not enough water for farmers and not enough water in the river to keep fish alive or boats afloat.
While the basin’s lowlands face water-shortage challenges, its forested headwaters also suffer from disease, scars from past management practices and threats of new, widespread development that could encroach upon the very places people love.
Protecting Yakima Basin
At Wilderness, we are leading a campaign to bring the Yakima Basin back to a place where fish, wildlife, farms and families have access to cold, clean water. Through the campaign, we're working to create a basin that can sustain fish, restoring the population and increasing it from 30,000 to 300,000. We're working to improve water storage and management.
We're also working to gain permanent wilderness protections for 20,000 acres and designate 140,000 acres as a national recreation area. We're working to designate more than 100 miles of wild and scenic river corridors for fisheries and recreational use. We hope that by protecting the Yakima Basin, Americans will be able to enjoy it for generations to come.
You can help
You can help ensure that Yakima Basin and the Magnificent Seven wildlands remain part of our natural heritage. Help save this iconic American landscape by making a donation today.