Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Opens Public Comment Period on Access to Hanford Reach National Monument

October 12, 2018

Contact(s):

Brent Lawrence, (503) 231-6211 or brent_lawrence@fws.gov


Hanford Reach National Monument

Hanford Reach National Monument and Rattlesnake Mountain Credit: Desert wildflowers at Hanford Reach National Monument. Photo credit: Rich Steele

RICHLAND, Washington – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement regarding public access to Hanford Reach National Monument’s Rattlesnake Unit. The Service is accepting public comments on the proposal through December 3, 2018.

In 2014, Congress directed the Service to provide public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain. The Service has expanded that direction to consider access to all of the Rattlesnake Unit of Hanford Reach National Monument. Currently, access to this area is restricted due to U.S. Department of Energy safety and security measures, and for the protection of natural and cultural resources.

The Service has put forth three options for public comment, which include potential auto tours, environmental education classes, and visitor access to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain. Highlights of the three alternatives are:

  • Alternative A: Known as the “No Action Alternative,” it would continue current access guidelines and retain closed areas.
  • Alternative B (preliminary preferred alternative): Expand public access for up to 28 days per year, including up to 20 days of guided tours per year, four days of environmental education classes, two “open house” days, and two days for the public to tour the area in personal vehicles. Most would include access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain, and the open house days would allow for horseback riding on one designated road.
  • Alternative C: This would offer access for up to 120 days per year to Rattlesnake Mountain, but would not offer guided tours and/or access to the rest of the Rattlesnake Unit.

Hanford Reach National Monument has a rich history and is home to abundant wildlife, tremendous biological diversity and beautiful landscapes. Part of Hanford Nuclear Site, Reactor B produced the plutonium used in the “Fat Man” bomb that fell on Nagasaki, Japan, contributing to the end of World War II. Due to its national security importance, this area was off limits to the public for many years, resulting in an important island of habitat in a sea of agricultural development.

Hanford Reach National Monument was established by Presidential Proclamation in 2000. Of the 196,000 acres, the Service manages approximately 165,000 acres as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  The Department of Energy has management responsibilities on the remaining lands. 

The monument hosts a variety of wildlife and plants that change with the seasons, from sandhill cranes and wildflowers in the spring to bugling elk and migrating waterfowl in the fall. Rising to 3,527 feet, Rattlesnake Mountain towers above the valley floor and the nearby Columbia River. Also known as Laliik, which means “land above the water,” it serves as a geographic, religious, and cultural point of reference for Native American tribes, including the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Wanapum.   

Because of the cultural significance of the mountain, the Service is engaged in ongoing consultation with the state, tribes, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding public access.

The Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement with additional details on the proposed alternatives is available at www.fws.gov/refuge/hanford_reach, or by email at hanfordreach@fws.gov or telephone at (509) 546-8333.


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