The Shrub Steppe of Tri-Cities Washington
The shrub steppe is a unique geographical feature that characterizes the Tri-Cities area of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland in the southeastern part of Washington State.
Savannas in Northern America?
The shrub steppe looks very much like the famous savannas of the African continent that lions and giraffes call home. Both the shrub-steppes and the savanna share the same dry, flat land features, as well as the same warm, blustery weather.
However, unlike the savanna where trees occasionally dot the landscape, there are hardly any trees in the shrub steppes of Tri-Cities. The main vegetations are various species of grasses and shrubs that grow on the plain, thus the name shrub-steppe.
To the untrained eye, the shrub steppes look barren and desolate; incapable of supporting any kind of wildlife and vegetation. But taking a closer, second look, the area will reveal a landscape that hosts a long and diverse list of living organisms.
The shrubs alone growing in this area are varied. While it may be hard to tell one shrub from the other, you can tell them apart by smelling their leaves or looking at their flowers. Of course, the wildlife that grows and thrives in the shrub steppe depends upon the type of shrubs that are present in the place because the wildlife depends upon the shrubs for their food and shelter.
The Threat of Human Encroachment
With growing urban sprawl and industrialization, shrub steppes are fast disappearing from our collective landscape. What once covered hundreds of thousands of miles of land area is shrinking even as you read this article. The disappearance of shrub steppes is brought about by a lot of things, but the biggest threat to their existence is the encroachment of man upon the area.
Washington State is fortunate enough to have one of the best-preserved shrub steppes in Northern America. Compared to other shrub steppes in the country, the one found in the Tri-Cities area is virtually untouched. The shrub steppes of Tri-Cities are protected by State laws, prohibiting any activity that will destroy and contaminate this distinctive land feature.
In fact, the shrub steppes that can be seen in Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland are the very same shrub steppes that Lewis and Clark once walked upon when they were exploring and mapping our great country. Nothing much has changed since Lewis and Clark first saw the land some two hundred years ago, the same plants and wildlife still exist in healthy numbers.
The preservation of the shrub-steppes is proof that we can preserve our land even as we take what we need for food and shelter. There are areas in our country that must be preserved and kept at all costs. The local government must be resolved to protect their natural heritage and enforce all the laws as required to protect them.
Our country’s paternity has blessed us with majestic snow-capped mountains alongside dry, barren deserts. Both are equally breathtaking in their beauty. As inheritors of such, it is incumbent upon us to protect the land even as we live off of its abundance and graces.