© Don Jacobson


Featured Landscapes in Cascadia

The Salish Sea

Many of the rivers that define Cascadia flow into the Salish Sea, an intricate ecosystem that includes the waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia. Orcas, whales, seals, sealions, and salmon can all be seen swimming through these waters past some of the largest cities on the west coast. With so many people living on the coast of the Salish Sea, pollution remains one of the biggest challenges affecting this ecosystem and its wildlife, including one of the most endangered marine mammal populations in the world, southern resident orcas. Defenders is working to strengthen federal and state laws to protect the region, advocating for funding to support cleanup efforts, and collaborating with local communities to reduce their impact on marine wildlife.

Cascade Mountains

The conifer forests of the Cascade Mountains, largely in federal ownership, are among the most highly protected landscapes in the United States, thanks to protections in the Northwest Forest Plan that benefit northern spotted owls and other at-risk species associated with late successional moist conifer forests. The Cascades also contain several large national forest Wilderness areas and three of the country’s most wild national parks: North Cascades, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake. The West Cascades in Oregon borders the Willamette Valley and together constitute the Willamette Basin, the location of extensive research and collaborative planning. The Willamette synthesis map provides a shared vision of a conservation future that serves as a model for collaborative conservation planning applicable elsewhere.  


Deschutes Basin

East of the Cascades, the Deschutes Basin includes extensive dry forests – predominately ponderosa pine, much of it in national forest ownership – grading out into arid sagebrush steppe habitats and irrigated agricultural lands.  This landscape is threatened by forest health issues associated with historic fire suppression, insect infestations, and climate change. This ecoregion extends into the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northeastern California. The Klamath Basin has outstanding, internationally significant refuges and migratory bird populations and is a hotspot for at-risk species, including a variety of freshwater fishes. Its future will be determined by federal policies concerning the management of the water.


Federal Forest Lands

Wildlands are protected on various federal levels, and we’re working to ensure that those protections meet the needs of imperiled wildlife. Defenders is pushing for science-based and consistent implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, with any revisions based on sound science and meeting the needs of native wildlife. Overall, ours is a landscape level approach to ecosystem and wildlife conservation. We focus on ensuring public forests are resilient and able to adapt to the impacts from climate change. We also are pressing federal agencies to conduct active monitoring of their on-the-ground programs, with strong adaptive management strategies to address changes on the landscape.


Non-Federal Forest Lands

State and private forest lands in the Pacific Northwest are a vital complement to the federal lands of the region, providing crucial habitat for iconic species such as Pacific salmon, bull trout, marbled murrelet and the northern spotted owl. Defenders is working to ensure that state policies and regulations provide the necessary protections for wildlife habitat on these working forest lands.