The Yakama people traditionally are taught they come from the land and that they are part of the land. There is a multi-generational history tied to the land and surrounding environment. Livelihoods are tied to these resources, which is why it is so critical to care for these lands.
These values and the inherent respect it commands have been passed through oral tradition for generations. Oral tradition in the Yakama culture plays a defining role in passing on the knowledge of natural resources and the personal, spiritual and family connections to those resources.
We consider the land given to us by the Creator for the use by the Yakama People and a heritage to be held and protected for unborn generations.
1.4 Million Acres
Lands Held by the Tribes
Forests and woodlands are equivalent to approximately one-third (18.6 million) of the 57 million acres of lands held by Tribes and managed in trust by the U.S. Government. These lands are valued beyond the standing forest, and include fish, wildlife habitat, sources of food and medicine, as well as cultural ties to the land for the Yakama People.
These Native American-owned forest and woodlands provide more than $40 million in annual Tribal governmental revenue and 19,000 jobs for families and communities across Tribal Country (Tribal Forests and Forestry Background, ITC 2012).
The Yakama Nation Reservation consists of approximately 1.4 million acres in south-central Washington State, approximately 650,000 acres in forest and woodlands. These lands provide water, food, medicine, spiritual values, employment, and revenue to the Yakama Nation.
Crucial to preserving the benefits provided by these lands, is their proper care and the stability provided to local communities. To achieve this, the landscape requires consistent and effective management, access, and a commitment to facilitate the continuation of traditional ties to the land for the Yakama People in support of cultural strength and a diversity of ecosystems.
Then the Fires Came
In 1994 the foundation was laid for Yakama Forest Products (YFP) to be established following the results of two large wildland forest fires, Klickitat Complex and Lakebeds Complex, on the Reservation covering 20,000 acres. Following the fire, the Yakama Nation formed a partnership with Vanport Manufacturing, Inc. to log, transport, and deck the salvaged timber in White Swan and then offer the logs on the open market.
Reduce the Risk
This reduced the risk to purchasers and capitalized on the domestic and overseas lumber markets providing an opportunity for the Nation to retain more of the value for their timber and to recover some of the value of the timber burned which otherwise would have been lost.
When lumber markets began to change in the mid 1990’s YFP partnered with outside industry, completed a feasibility study identifying 5 to10 inch diameter logs and a small-diameter sawmill for processing to be the most valuable future for YFP. In 1998 the small-diameter mill was dedicated, could process 30-40 million board feet a year, and employed 110 workers, 90% of which were Tribal members.
In 2002 YFP completed construction of the large-diameter sawmill to complement the operations. The small-diameter log mill currently employs 150 workers, 90% of which are tribal members. In 2005, using both mills, YFP processed 150 million board feet, provided direct jobs to 240 employees, had a payroll of $11.7 million and made a net profit of over $5 million.
Today, YFP provides 240 jobs, and for Fiscal Year 2018 is projected to process nearly 72 million board feet of logs, producing nearly 88 million board feet of lumber, contributing nearly $10.8 million in wages, and generate over $51 million in product sales.
The economic down turn resulted in some impacts to YFP from a reduction in national housing starts and therefore less profitable lumber markets.
At nearly the same time wildfires occurring on the Reservation during 2013 and 2015 led to the salvage logging occurring in 2014 and 2016, which provided an unplanned surge of timber to both YFP mills. YFP was able to provide a great service and improved value to the Yakama Nation through its ability to salvage, process, and generate revenue from trees lost to these fires.
Beyond reacting to disasters such as wildfire in a positive way to reduce losses, YFP remains an economic tool for the Yakama Nation to provide meaningful and skilled jobs to members and families as well as an opportunity to care for the health of the forest lands of Reservation.