The Columbia River begins its 2,000 kilometre journey at Columbia Lake near Canal Flats, B.C. and continues until it reaches the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. As the sixth largest river basin in North America, the entire Columbia Basin covers 671,000 square kilometres within Canada and the United States.
Fifteen percent of the Columbia Basin lies within Canada. Four mountain ranges deeply dissect the Canadian Basin, creating an incredible range of ecosystems - including grasslands, wetlands, dry pine forests, interior rainforests, alpine meadows and glaciers. The Basin is home to over 700 species of birds, mammals, fish and reptiles as well as many large and small human communities. The wetlands, streams, rivers and lakes are the lifeblood of the Columbia River system - providing habitat for a rich diversity of species and bringing water to its human inhabitants.
Humans have long been a part of Columbia Basin ecosystems. Archaeology tells us that First Nations have inhabited the Basin for more than 10,000 years. The fur trade brought David Thompson, the famous cartographer, to the Columbia in 1807. Significant settlement began in the mid and late 1800s with mining booms and construction of the Canadian Pacific and other railways. Through time, Basin natural resources have been the foundation for significant economic development through forestry, hydroelectric power generation, mining, tourism and agriculture. The Basin environment also supports quality of life by providing clean water, clean air, spectacular landscapes, a range of outdoor recreation opportunities and connections with nature and wilderness.
Recognition of the importance of the unique natural biodiversity of the Columbia Basin is essential. Humans are a part of Basin ecosystems, both dependent upon and influencing them. As the intensity and extent of human activity expands within the Basin, ecosystems and natural elements are suffering. Globally the condition of the environment is becoming more of a concern. Now and in the future, the Basin deserves a collective stewardship responsibility to conserve nature.