What We Do to Protect the Yakima River Basin

Kachess River 

In eastern Washington lies the Yakima River basin, extending from the peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River. It’s a spectacular landscape, home to a rich diversity of fish and wildlife, and the state's most productive agricultural area.

Salmon once ran up the Yakima by the hundreds of thousands, but a century of agricultural development pushed the fish to the brink of extinction. Climate change has exacerbated the situation by reducing snowpack and making water supplies even more unreliable.

Faced with this bleak future, National Wildlife Federation and other stakeholders formulated the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, under the joint auspices of the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Ecology. The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is a unique landscape-scale project, supported by government at all levels from local to federal, the Yakama Nation, conservationists, and many community organizations.

This innovative and balanced plan involves:

  • Increasing salmon to as many as 300,000 by building passage to allow access to high-elevation, cold water habitat above federal dams, and improving habitat and flows.
  • Protecting important habitat by acquiring 71,000 acres of high value forest and shrub-steppe lands, and protective designations for 140,000 acres of new Wilderness and National Recreation Areas and 200 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers.
  • Greatly increasing water supply reliability through a balanced mix of increased storage, conservation, efficiency and water markets.

While the Yakima plan has far to go as it moves through Congressional and State Legislature authorization and funding -- it represents the best hope for the fish, farms and families of Washington.

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