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Finding Balance
Map of Columbia Basin Orientation map of Columbia Basin
When Lewis and Clark made their way down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean in 1805, the Columbia Basin was home to Indian nations and a small number of European trappers and traders. Up to 16,000,000 salmon returned to its streams and tributaries, supporting one of the largest concentrations of aboriginal people in North America. Today, nearly half of the habitat once open to salmon and steelhead has been lost. Much of the rest needs improvement if we want it to support fish and wildlife. People sometimes refer to the Columbia Basin's "open spaces." But most of this country is being used — these are working landscapes. And, agriculture is one of the region's biggest economic engines. It's also a part of the culture that sets this place apart.
"When it comes to water challenges in the Columbia Basin, one thing most folks can agree on is that we'd like to solve them ourselves. I think one of the best ways to make sure water gets where it needs to go, is to use the free enterprise system to give property owners some choices. That's what I like about the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program."
– John Wilson, Oregon Rancher, Wilson Cattle Company