Statement on Hanford Reach National Monument protections

Statement on Hanford Reach National Monument protections

Conservation Northwest / Jul 13, 2017 / News Releases, Public Lands

Last night, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray announced that they received confirmation that the Department of the Interior will not pursue changes to Hanford Reach National Monument due to overwhelming public and local support for this important area.

In response to this welcome news, Conservation Northwest issued the following statement:

“We appreciate that Secretary Zinke and the White House have chosen to listen to the many thousands of Washingtonians who want to see monument protections remain in place at Hanford Reach,” said Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of Conservation Northwest.

“Hanford not only safeguards the last free-flowing stretch of the mainstem Columbia River, it’s also a vital area of increasingly rare desert grassland habitat, protecting and connecting lands in the heart of the Columbia Basin for species from elk and mule deer to rare ground squirrels and hundreds of species of birds,” said Friedman. “We’re thankful to everyone who spoke up in favor of continued protections at Hanford, and especially to our state elected leaders and Senators Cantwell and Murray, who showed great leadership in championing continued protections for this special place.”

The Hanford Reach National Monument has been identified by the Arid Lands Initiative, a consortium of land managers and conservationists, as one of several shrub-steppe priority areas in central Washington, connecting and protecting core habitats for shrub-steppe species east of the Cascade foothills. The area is noted for its high resilience to climate change due to diversity of microclimates, topographical range, and habitat connectivity.

The monument contains a high diversity of habitats in relatively pristine condition, including rare, large tracts of pristine native shrub-steppe vegetation, dunes, white bluffs, and the 51 mile Hanford Reach, the last free flowing non-tidal section of the Columbia River and spawning grounds for the largest run of wild Chinook salmon in the lower 48 states.

Numerous wildlife species depend upon the Monument’s intact ecosystems—43 species of fish, including threatened and endangered salmon and trout; 42 mammal species; 258 bird species; 4 amphibian species; 11 reptile species; and over 1,500 invertebrate species have been documented on the Monument.

Conservation Northwest is opposed to any boundary adjustments or rescindment of the 27 reviewed national monuments, which the American public owns and overwhelmingly supports. Only Congress holds the power to diminish and rescind national monuments. An executive-branch monument review is truly unprecedented, unnecessary, and possibly illegal.

We embrace the underlying vision of President Roosevelt that is “the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.” The Antiquities Act and America’s national monuments are a shining example of this vision, and they should not be undercut or diminished in any way.

Full comments from Conservation Northwest submitted during the recent national monuments review process are available here.