PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Columbia Land Trust announced Tuesday the acquisition of nearly 5,000 acres along the Klickitat River Canyon in Yakima County, Washington.

The deal, which adds 4,900 acres to its larger 11,000-acre Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area, represents the non-profit’s largest conservation success through acquisition in its 30-year history by obtaining the land from SDS Lumber Company, a Columbia Land Trust press release stated.

“I think what’s nice to know about this area is it is remote and it is a rugged area that is canyon and river and habitat. It’s also adjacent to the closed Yakama Nation Indian Reservation,” Cherie Kearney, Columbia Land Trust’s Forest Conservation Director, told KOIN 6 News.

The latest land acquisition represents the final piece of a multi-phase effort over 12 years to complete the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area. The area’s conservation was done with support from the Yakama Nation.

Columbia Land Trust announced Tuesday the acquisition of 4,900 acres along the Klickitat River Canyon in Yakima County, Washington. It will be part of their larger 11,000-acre Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area. July 22, 2020 (Columbia Land Trust/Brian Chambers).

“The Klickitat River is Washington State’s longest wild river, a third of which lies within the Yakama
Nation reservation,” said Phil Rigdon, Superintendent of Yakama Nation Natural Resources. “It is
important to share the understanding of the importance of enhancing and protecting these significant aquatic and ecological places because a watershed like the Klickitat is the last of its kind.”

The total conservation area includes 7.8 miles of Klickitat River front, nearly the entire upper two-thirds of the river. Klickitat River also supports one of the strongest wild steelhead runs and one of the only remaining bull trout runs in the lower Columbia River system.

“Through conservation, the Land Trust is ensuring that the Klickitat, the longest free-flowing tributary to the Columbia River in the state, will run through a protected landscape, giving wildlife room to roam and people access to wilderness,” Kearney said.

The land was purchased from SDS Lumber Company, a timber business based in Bingen, Washington.

“We are excited to help make the vision of the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area possible,” said Jason Spadaro, SDS Lumber CEO, in a written statement. “It shows how working together and partnerships can create a legacy that present and future generations will enjoy.”

A mountain goat, one of many wild creatures at the 11,000-acre Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area in Yakima, Washington. July 22, 2020 (Columbia Land Trust).

The purchase was made possible through the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program, as
well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) via the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Section 6 and U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy programs.

The conservation effort comes as a bill to permanently fund LWFC, called the Great American Outdoors Act, is being held for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives after passing with bipartisan support in the Senate.

“This project is exactly what the Land and Water Conservation Fund is designed to support, and why its continued funding is so critical to Washington state and the nation,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who oversees the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, in a statement.