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Monument could lose protection after Trump Administration announced the site in southeastern Washington was one of nearly two dozen national monuments under review

The Hanford Reach, which encompasses nearly 200,000 acres as well as the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, is home to sacred tribal sites, rare plants and animals, and endangered salmon

Senators in new letter: “For nearly two decades, the Hanford Reach has been preserved as a unique natural, cultural, historical, scientific, and educational asset for all Americans”

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  Today, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), who led efforts in the 1990s to establish the Hanford Reach National Monument, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who is leading the fight in the U.S. Senate as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, urged the Interior Secretary to leave protections in place for the Hanford Reach National Monument near the Tri-Cities. The site, designated 17 years ago, covers nearly 200,000 acres and the last 51-mile, free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in the United States. The Senators reminded Secretary Ryan Zinke that during his confirmation process, he described himself as a “Theodore Roosevelt conservationist” who was committed to conserving public lands.

The Senators wrote: “Rolling back protections for some of our nation’s most prized public spaces, like the Hanford Reach National Monument, does not exemplify President Roosevelt. Instead it would represent just another broken promise by this Administration to the American people.” The letter continues: “We will continue to work with stakeholders, many of whom who have worked to protect the Hanford Reach for decades, to help show you the strong support in Washington state for the Hanford Reach National Monument.”

The Hanford Reach is home to a large variety of animals and plants, as well as 43 species of fish, including threatened and endangered salmon and trout.  The Monument also contains sacred tribal sites and is a critical cultural resource for the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, and the Wanapum Band of Priest Rapids, whose ancestors lived off the land and river. Areas of the Hanford Reach are open to public use for hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, and other recreational activities. In Washington, the outdoor recreation economy generates $22.5 billion in consumer spending and $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.

The full text of the letter appears below. 

May 10, 2017

 

 

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

Department of the Interior

1846 C Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We are deeply concerned with the inclusion of the Hanford Reach National Monument (Hanford Reach) in the Department of the Interior’s review of national monument designations under President Trump’s Executive Order 13792. The Hanford Reach is a local, state, and national treasure worthy of protection. For nearly two decades, the Hanford Reach has been preserved as a unique natural, cultural, historical, scientific, and educational asset for all Americans.

Established on June 9, 2000, the Hanford Reach National Monument covers nearly 200,000 acres of land in southeastern Washington state and the last 51-mile, free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in the United States. These lands were largely untouched since the early 1940s when it served as a security and safety perimeter around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, which helped the United States win World War II and the Cold War.

Today, Hanford Reach’s diverse shrub-steppe landscape and river habitat is home to a large variety of rare and common animals and plants. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Hanford Reach, “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.” [[1]https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Hanford_Reach/Wildlife_Habitat/Wildlife.html 1] It is one of the Northwest’s best fall Chinook salmon spawning grounds, and the Upper Columbia River Spring-run Chinook, an endangered species, and the Upper Columbia River Steelhead, a threatened species, use the Hanford Reach for migration. Visitors can observe resident Rocky Mountain elk, which are the largest in Washington state; coyotes; mule deer; porcupines; bats; ground squirrels; horned larks; great blue herons; bald eagles; and many more mammal and bird species. There are three rare plants unique to the Hanford Reach – the White Bluffs bladderpod and Umtanum desert buckwheat, which are both threatened and do not exist anywhere else; and the Rattlesnake Mountain milkvetch, which is a new variety of milkvetch. Finally, the Hanford Reach includes several insects found nowhere else in the world. And this is just a snapshot of the biodiversity of the Hanford Reach.

The Hanford Reach remains a critical cultural resource for the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the Wanapum Band of Priest Rapids, whose ancestors lived off the land and river. Many areas within the Hanford Reach are sacred Native American sites.

To both protect these sensitive natural and cultural resources, and provide access to the Hanford Reach, a public process was undertaken to develop the Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impacts Statement. As a result the Columbia River Corridor Unit, Ringold Unit, Saddle Mountain Unit, and the eastern portion of Wahluke Unit are open for public use year-round providing access for outdoor recreation like hiking, boating, fishing, and hunting. Outdoor recreation is an important driver in the Washington state economy, generating $22.5 billion in consumer spending and $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.

During your confirmation hearing and in our private meetings, you described yourself as a “Theodore Roosevelt conservationist” and committed to conserving public lands. Rolling back protections for some of our nation’s most prized public spaces, like the Hanford Reach National Monument, does not exemplify President Roosevelt. Instead it would represent just another broken promise by this Administration to the American people.

We strongly oppose any attempt to modify the Hanford Reach National Monument designation. This national monument ensures that Washingtonians and all Americans can enjoy this iconic natural resource, provides protection for rare habitat, and secures valuable salmon spawning grounds today and into the future. We will continue to work with stakeholders, many of whom have worked to protect the Hanford Reach for decades, who are evidence of the continuing strong support in Washington state for the Hanford Reach National Monument.

Sincerely,