Washington state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is urging the U.S. Interior Department to preserve the nation’s National Monuments, one of which includes a free-flowing section of the Columbia River that supports more than 40 species of fish and has been used by Native Americans for millennia for hunting and fishing.
That stretch of river, Hanford Reach, is one of 27 National Monuments whose status is being reviewed by Interior, in accordance with President Trump’s Executive Order 13792.
“The Hanford Reach hosts an unbelievable array of rare wildlife and plants and is home to the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, our nation’s second-largest river,” Franz wrote Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on July 10.
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“The area hosts unparalleled fish habitat, including islands, riffles, gravel bars, oxbow ponds and backwater sloughs which provide habitat to 43 species of fish,” including Upper Columbia River spring chinook, Middle Columbia River steelhead and Upper Columbia River steelhead, all federally designated as threatened species. All told, more than 48 rare, threatened or endangered animal species find refuge on the reach.
“The area is also home to almost 200 bird species and 700 species of plants, including 127 populations and occurrences of 30 rare plant taxa and seven rare plant species associated with the riverine emergent wetlands found throughout the reach,” Franz wrote. “As was recognized when it was named a monument in 2000, the reach ‘is also one of the few remaining archeologically rich areas in the western Columbia Plateau, containing well-preserved remnants of human history spanning more than 10,000 years. The monument is equally rich in geologic history, with dramatic landscapes that reveal the creative forces of tectonic, volcanic, and erosive power.’”
Franz noted that Native Americans used the site for hunting and fishing for millennia before European settlers arrived. “Indeed, hundreds of prehistoric archaeological sites have been recorded, including the remains of pithouses, graves, spirit quest monuments, hunting camps, game drive complexes, quarries and hunting sites. The reach also contains numerous historic structures and other remains.”
The nation’s National Monuments create a recreation economy “supporting more than 7.6 million jobs and generating $887 billion of annual economic activity, with most of these jobs at small businesses operating in rural communities,” Franz wrote.
“These places provide amazing diverse landscapes for our nation’s residents to learn and play in. The beauty of these national monuments is their shared ownership. This is a right granted to all United States citizens, and it’s one we see so often embodied in the great American road trip … This is all because of the availability and access granted to each citizen so that they might be able to experience the outdoors, in turn enhancing the quality of life for everyone.”