Delicate desert wildflowers and the scent of sagebrush are a part of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s legacy that might bring new generations to visit the region.
“We’re looking at attracting people to the region to see some of the nature that makes the Mid-Columbia so special,” said Lee Rogers, who ran Hanford’s nature reserves until he retired from Battelle’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory last year.
He has helped organize the Arid Lands Field Institute as a start. The group’s first event will be a wildflower tour for amateurs next month into once-barricaded areas of Hanford.
They hope to focus attention on the subtle nature of the shrub-steppe environment in the region.
The Northwest sagelands will draw eco-tourists to the region and stir understanding among those who live here, said another organizer, Georganne O’Connor, who also recently left Battelle.
Too few people understand the elegant fragility of what appears on the surface to be a harsh land, she said.
“I have a lot of young friends who know everything about the rain forest, about endangered species, but they don’t know much about their own back yard,” she said. “They have to understand to appreciate it.”
The field institute was organized under the umbrella of Washington State University-Tri-Cities but arose from such groups as the Nature Conservancy, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society, the Native Plant Society, state and federal conservation organizations and Battelle.