The Taneum watershed, in the heart of the Central Cascades but only a 90-minute drive from Seattle, provides an awesome place to play outside. Locals and visitors flock to the area to hike, camp, bike, ski, fish, snowmobile, horseback ride, hunt and more. But, though the opportunities to enjoy nature here are tremendous, there’s so much more to the Taneum.
The Taneum watershed is part of the 1.5-million acre Mountains to Sound Greenway, a National Heritage Area connecting communities with nature from Seattle to Ellensburg. The Greenway Trust is an indispensable partner and tireless advocate for protecting the headwaters of the Yakima River.
In addition to the something-for-everyone outdoor activities in the area, the “checkerboard” forest lands of the Taneum are important habitat for rare and endangered fish and wildlife and are a precious water source near the headwaters of the Yakima River. This watershed supports agriculture, outdoor recreation and natural resource economies – both up in the Central Cascades and downstream in the Yakima Valley.
We are proud to partner with the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF) on a project to protect 12,000 irreplaceable acres in the Taneum. Located south of I-90 and the communities of Easton and South Cle Elum, and northwest of the LT Murray Wildlife area, the Taneum is part of a “checkerboard” legacy of land ownership. With support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) this project would transfer 12,000 acres of privately owned parcels to the National Forest. This transfer will improve management efficiencies and public access in addition to protecting the landscape for fish, wildlife, water users and future generations.
Permanently reauthorized and permanently funded one year ago this summer as part of the 2020 Great American Outdoors Act, LWCF is our country’s most important conservation program. With $14.5 million in LWCF funding to support this transfer, the OWNF can take major strides toward restoring forest health and resolving the inefficient pattern of checkerboard ownership that has dogged land managers and frustrated forest users for decades.
The parcels highlighted in orange below – already nearly surrounded by the OWNF – are part of this year’s project. Click on the map for a larger view of this checkerboard landscape.
since time began
The Taneum watershed is located within the ceded lands of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. Descendants of the original inhabitants of these lands still steward the area today, protecting it for future generations. Leaders from the Yakama Indian Nation have generously lent their support to this LWCF project through the years.
Water is the lifeblood of Central Washington, and the health of the Yakima River impacts the well-being and livelihoods of tens of thousands of Washingtonians: members of the Yakama Indian Nation, farmers and vintners downstream in the Yakima Valley, and municipal water users from the City of Yakima to the Tri-Cities. The Yakima River is critical habitat for salmon and steelhead, and protecting the Taneum is crucial to improving the Upper Yakima Watershed’s ability to store and deliver clean water for fish and wildlife, agricultural irrigators, and thousands of urban, suburban and rural households.
Home to Ponderosa pines, large mammals like elk and bear, rare and threatened species such as wolverines and spotted owls, as well as 200 species of birds, the Taneum is under pressure. Water is especially valuable here, and it’s increasingly scarce. The Yakima River is strained by increasing demand for irrigation and a growing population, climate change and wildfire. Partners working to restore the watershed as part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan are seeking to manage the risks and balance the demands with coordinated efforts to protect groundwater, store surface water, remove barriers to fish passage and provide high-quality recreation access and opportunities.