One of Washington state’s last remaining, and best preserved, sagebrush steppe ecosystems with a uniquely peculiar history. Located in eastern Washington abutting the Columbia River, the lasting intactness of the 195,777-acre riparian and sagebrush habitats can be credited to an unlikely industry: the production and testing of the nuclear bomb. Only until recently, this region of the Columbia River Plateau has been off-limits to most human access since the construction of the nuclear reactors during WWII. This limited disturbance has allowed the Monument to sustain vital populations of 48 rare, endangered, and threatened animal species, as well insect species found nowhere else on the planet. It is also considered one of the best spawning sites for salmon in the northwest and is historically important to the region’s elk populations for the last 10,000 years by some estimates.
The semi-arid lands of the Hanford National Monument showcase a wide array of endemic shrub-steppe flora populations that have been extirpated or fragmented in most other similar zones across the eastern part of the state. These flora include several species of sagebrush, bunchgrasses, biotic soil crusts, and dune plants, Due to the Monument not being subjected to the same anthropomorphic pressures as adjacent areas, plant communities that are relatively rare in these neighboring areas thrive within the Monument’s borders.