Hanford Reach National Monument
President Clinton today signed a proclamation creating the Hanford Reach National Monument along the Columbia River in south central Washington. The 195,000-acre monument encompasses one of the last free-flowing stretches of the Columbia – a critical area for spawning salmon – and contains a wealth of wildlife and remnants of human history spanning more than 10,000 years.
An Unusual Natural Legacy. The new monument protects an irreplaceable natural and historic legacy – one preserved by unusual circumstances. It is situated on federal lands within the borders of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where development and human use has been limited for the past fifty years, creating a haven for important and increasingly scarce objects of scientific and historic interest.
Bisected by the stunning Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, the monument contains the largest remnant of the shrub-steppe ecosystem that once blanketed the Columbia River Basin. The Hanford Reach is the last free-flowing, non-tidal stretch of the Upper Columbia River, where approximately 80% of fall chinook salmon spawn. Within its mosaic of habitats, the monument supports a wealth of increasingly uncommon native plant and animal species, the diversity of which is unmatched in the Columbia Basin.
The monument is also one of the few remaining archaeologically rich areas in the western Columbia Plateau, containing well preserved cultural artifacts of Native American history and other remnants of human history spanning more than 10,000 years. It is equally rich in geologic history, with dramatic landscapes that reveal creative geologic forces including volcanism.
Numerous proposals for converting portions of the monument land to agricultural and other uses could jeopardize sensitive salmon habitat and other important scientific and historic objects. The monument lands have been or are being cleaned up to meet Federal and State requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). None of the reactors or associated out-buildings are included in the monument boundary.
Managing the New Monument. Much of the area has been managed for its ecological and biological values by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under agreement with DOE. Under the new designation, that management would continue within the monument. The FWS and DOE would extend such agreements in the future to lands in the monument not now managed by FWS when appropriate cleanup has been completed. The monument would not affect cleanup of surrounding lands, the operations of Bureau of Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Project or the Federal Columbia River Transmission System facilities already located with the monument.
History and Process. In 1988, Congress directed the National Park Service (NPS) to study the Hanford Reach of the Columbia to recommend protection measures. In 1994, the NPS recommended designation of a National Wildlife Refuge north and east of the river, and a National Wild and Scenic River designation for the Hanford Reach. Senator Patty Murray introduced legislation in 1995 to designate the Reach as a Wild and Scenic River. In 1997, Senator Murray and Representative Norm Dicks introduced companion bills, S. 200 and H.R. 1477, that would designate the Hanford Reach a Wild and Scenic River. Intense discussions followed until 1999, but failed to produce legislation.
In 1999, after extensive discussions with the State of Washington, Tribes, local governments, other Federal agencies, environmental groups, and the public, DOE issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for future land uses of the entire Hanford site, which designated the lands covered in the proposed monument for preservation. Earlier this year, Senator Murray asked the Secretary of the Interior to consider recommending monument designation to protect the area. In May, Secretary Babbitt visited the area to discuss protection for the Hanford Reach and surrounding land with a wide variety of affected interests. Secretary Babbitt recommended to the President last month that the area be designated a National Monument.
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