Victory in Washington: 50,000 wild acres protected in Yakima Basin!

Flyfishing in the Teanaway River

Holly Werran

Washington's state legislature protects Teanaway River Valley.

Washington state celebrated a huge victory in early July as the state legislature passed into law a bill that will conserve 50,000 acres of land in the picturesque Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the Yakima River Basin: Water, Jobs and Fish bill into law on June 30, enacting the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan to address current and future water needs for fish, families and farms in the basin in light of a growing population and shrinking snowpack due to climate change.

Video: Why Teanaway needed protection

The bill included funding to acquire 50,000 acres in the Teanaway River Valley to ensure conservation of important headwaters lands in the upper Yakima River Basin.

The Teanaway will be the largest single land acquisition in Washington state in the past 45 years!

A popular destination for superb recreation opportunities, the Teanaway is also the crown jewel of habitat acquisitions in Washington state. It has a critical location in connecting core wildlife habitats on existing public lands. It is also home to one of Washington’s newly returned wolf packs and wintering elk populations and is the best place in the Yakima Basin for salmon and steelhead recovery.

The Wilderness Society’s role has been broadly acknowledged as critical to Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan’s success.

Recognizing the fundamental link between land and water conservation, we pushed for a plan that included significant land protections and are thrilled to see the Teanaway conserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

None of this success would have been possible without the leadership and strength of a coalition determined to set differences aside and find common ground in conserving some of our most valuable water and land resources for future generations, including county commissioners, the Yakama Nation, farmers, Governor Inslee and state legislators, Sen. Honeyford, Rep. Warnick, Rep. Chandler, Rep. Nelson and Rep. Dunshee.

What’s Next?

Our work in the Yakima River Basin is far from over. The Wilderness Society and our partners American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and National Wildlife Federation, are continuing to lead a broader public lands community engagement process as the Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign to refine the public lands protection plans within the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan.

The initial lands protection package includes an additional 25,000 acres of land acquisition, 140,000 acres of designations on National Forest lands, and 200 miles of Wild and Scenic River designation.