From the snowy peaks of the North Cascades to the rolling hills of sagebrush, balsamroot and lupine, the Yakima Basin is one of the most diverse and ecologically rich areas in the state. The forested headwaters of the basin are home to a wealth of wildlife, including lynx, cougar, gray wolf, wolverine and flying squirrel. Elk and mule deer migrate across this landscape as well, feeding on the bitterbrush and browsing in the foothills during the winter, while calving in the early spring. National Forest Service lands in the Yakima Basin provide cold, clean water that supports recovering fish populations, including salmon, steelhead and bull trout and an array of bird and aquatic species, from the harlequin duck to the Cascade frog. Water flows down from higher elevation lands, eventually joining the Yakima River, providing a valuable resource for irrigation and communities.
In total, the Yakima Basin encompasses 4.2 million acres and three subbasins—the Upper Yakima in Kittitas County and the Naches and Lower Yakima in Yakima County. About 1.7 million acres of the basin is public land, 1 million of which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. While the entire basin is within the Yakama Indian Nation ancestral grounds, the 1.4-million acre Yakama Reservation is located in the southern portion of the basin in Yakima County.
The Yakima Basin Conservation Campaign supports the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan’s land conservation proposal to protect and restore the ecological integrity of the watershed—from the forested headwaters to the valley floor. The lands proposal focuses on four areas throughout the basin: Teanaway, Manastash-Taneum, Bumping Lake and shrub-steppe.
The Teanaway area is in the upper Yakima basin to the north of the I-90 corridor and west of Highway 97. The Wenatchee Mountains, Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Stuart Range provide an impressive backdrop to this rich valley, home to thriving wildlife populations, including vital winter habitat for elk and one of the state’s newest gray wolf packs, and picturesque farms. The rocky summits, thick forests, serpentine soils and water-filled valleys make the Teanaway a truly unique place.
The Manastash-Taneum area bridges the Upper Yakima and Naches sub-basins of the Yakima Basin and lies south of the I-90 corridor. The conifer forests, basalt cliffs, talus slopes, rolling plateaus and wildflower meadows represent the diverse ecosystems of the Manastash area. This is also prime elk country and a major wintering and calving ground for elk and mule deer.
The Bumping Lake region lies in the foothills of Mt. Rainier, surrounded by thick conifer forests and ancient old-growth. The William O. Douglas Wilderness provides a stunning backdrop to this popular recreation destination. Big game species, such as deer, black bear and elk, make their home here, as well as mountain goat, grouse and northern spotted owl.
Yakima Basin Shrub-Steppe
Shrub-steppe is one of the basin’s most unique—and quickly disappearing—ecosystems. The Yakima Basin’s shrub-steppe features basalt columns, sagebrush and grasses, wild flowers, ponderosa pine stands and succulents. Water is scarce here and shrub-steppe flora and fauna have adapted to the environment. The basin’s shrub-steppe also provides a home for the sage grouse and ferruginous hawk.