Washington State, also called the Evergreen State for the plentiful rainfall that keeps the soil fertile and the grass and trees green throughout the year, has an abundance of natural resources. The most prevalent of these is timber, but the state is also well known for its farming and fishing industries, as well as its capacity for generating hydroelectric power.
Washington State is one of the world's leading lumber producers. Forestland covers almost half the state, and nearly 21 million acres are used for commercial timber. These areas are especially rich in Douglas fir, western hemlock, ponderosa and white pine, spruce and cedar. Washington produces high-quality wood products and is home to major paper companies, all of which makes forestry an important part of the state's economy.
Washington is a major agricultural state, producing an abundance of fruits and vegetables. According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the state produces 300 commodities commercially and ranks first in the United States in apples, sweet cherries, pears and red raspberries, among other fruits.
With more than 600 wineries, wine is also a fast-growing industry in Washington. The state is the second-largest wine producer in the country. Wheat and potatoes are among the other major crops, along with asparagus, dry peas and lentils. Washington leads other states in its production of potatoes grown for French fries and other processed foods.
Washington State is known the world over for its fishing resources, which include salmon (the biggest catch), as well as halibut, oysters, crabs, flounder, halibut and many other varieties. Commercial fisheries exist in five zones of the Columbia River and one zone between the Bonneville and McNary dams. Although commercial fishing must constantly adapt to changes in the state's fish farming regulations as well as environmental concerns, the industry remains a mainstay of the state's economy.
The state's ample water resources provide not only crop irrigation but a major energy resource. Washington is the nation's leading producer of hydroelectric power, a resource that accounts for three-quarters of the state's electricity generation. Washington State began building hydroelectric dams on a large scale during the early part of the 20th century, culminating in the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in 1942.
The Grand Coulee power station is still the fourth largest hydroelectric plant in the world and nation's highest capacity electric plant. More than three-quarters of the state's electricity is produced by hydroelectric power. Some of the electricity is exported and used in other states.