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Okanogan Human Impact

The human impact on the Okanogan may be lighter when compared to other ecoregions, but its biodiversity still faces numerous challenges.

  • Invasive Plant and Animal Species. Spotted knapweed, Dalmatian toadflax, and cheatgrass invade lands formerly covered in shrub-steppe, increasing likelihood of fires in a fire-intolerant system. Canary reedgrass clogs waterways. Bullfrogs and bass both prey on native amphibians.
  • Changes in Fire Regime. A vigilant fire suppression policy has caused the overstocking of many Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine stands. This increases the risk of more frequent large, stand-replacing—even catastrophic—fires.
  • Overgrazing. Areas of shrub-steppe in the Okanogan have been damaged by excessive grazing or poor grazing practices. These have been especially harmful in biologically rich riparian areas.
  • Sprawling Development. With its ample recreation opportunities, the Okanogan ecoregion is seeing flourishing residential development—especially second homes. These often encroach on native plant cover and wildlife habitat.
  • Recreation. Motor boating along waterways disturbs feeding and nesting western grebes, common loons, great blue herons, and bald eagles. In the high country, hikers, skiers, snowmobilers, and ATV riders may encroach on grizzlies, wolverines, lynx, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons.

People living in the ecoregion and partners like The Nature Conservancy are working to keep the rich biodiversity of the region healthy. Continuing to develop innovative partnerships and conservation incentives offer opportunities for this richly diverse ecoregion.


For details of this ecoregion within Washington, click a subheading in the left column.

View the more general description of this ecoregion in North America

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