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Habitat Restoration & Protection in Washington

Baseline for all of the salmon recovery plans related to habitat is to do no further harm. WDFW works on this by...
  • Working with salmon recovery groups on land use planning
  • Maintaining regulatory standards in an attempt to achieve no-net-loss
  • Providing technical assistance to develop sound projects that effectively address habitat issues
It is far easier to protect habitat up front, than it is to restore it at a later date.


Taneum Creek Restoration Project In Washington State, habitat conservation is a multi-stakeholder effort that spans federal, state, tribal, and local governments and authorities; and relies upon partnerships with private land owners.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works across agencies and through multiple partners to protect and recover habitat in Washington State. Many of WDFW's habitat programs are described here.

Washington Department of Ecology plays a significant role in protection of salmon habitat through their important programs that protect our shorelines and our water. WDFW works closely with Ecology on water management to ensure that the water quantity and quality are adequate to protect fish habitat, provide hydrological cues for migration, and provide adequate connectivity for migration routes and nutrient supply.

A major force in organizing local, state, tribal and federal efforts in recovery of salmon and steelhead is Washington's regional recovery organizations. The regional organizations are made up of local, state, and federal agencies; tribes; citizens; and others interested in salmon recovery.

Regional Recovery Organizations

CleElum River Over-arching planning, coordination, reporting

To coordinate the work of recovery planning and implementation, there are seven regional organizations. Recovery plans for these regions have been accepted by the federal government and are being implemented.

A regional organization may have many roles, including:
  • Providing a forum for communities to create and sustain a local vision of the goals they are striving to achieve.
  • Providing technical support to local salmon recovery projects.
  • Promoting implementation of the recovery plan's elements by those responsible.
  • Analyzing how the salmon recovery goals are being met and identifying changes that may be needed over time.
  • Integrating, through a collaborative partnership, the salmon planning and recovery activities of all recovery participants (federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, citizens, and other stakeholders) for habitat, hatcheries, harvest, and hydropower.
  • Broadening support for salmon recovery activities.
  • Providing a place of information sharing and public outreach throughout the process.

Lead Entities: Develop protection and restoration strategies and locally prioritized project list for Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) funding

Lead Entities are watershed based organizations authorized by the Legislature in 1998 (Revised Code of Washington 77.85.050 - 77.85.070) to develop habitat restoration and protection strategies, and look for projects to meet those strategies.

Project Applicants

Project applicants develop habitat restoration and protection projects based on Regional Recovery Plans or strategies developed by lead entities. Project applicants typically are regional fisheries enhancement groups, local governments, tribes, state agencies, community groups, land trusts, and others. They apply for grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and others to pay for projects to protect or restore salmon and bull trout habitat.

See the current list of successful applicants.

Water Quantity and Quality

Blasted Falls Fishway Water quantity and quality are closely linked, as the U.S. Supreme Court recognized when then-Attorney General Gregoire made the case on behalf of WDFW (actually Fisheries and Game at that time) and Ecology. Sufficient water quantity and quality are fundamental to habitat value; without them other habitat attributes will not support fish. Water quantity influences water quality through dilution and through resistance to heating. Water quantity in streams (stream flow) influences distribution of depth and current velocity in relation to channel structure; different combinations of depth, velocity, and channel structure are used by different life stages (e.g., spawning, fry, juveniles, adults) of different species. Changing flows can change the production potential of a stream. High flows also shape channels and maintain or refresh channel structure. In addition, changes in water quantity can stimulate fish migration and flush food to fish. Water that is too shallow can block migrating fish.

The Washington Department of Ecology, with technical advice and recommendations from WDFW, establishes instream flows (water quantity) which includes minimum flows and base flows (see RCW 90.82.020(3)) to protect fish, wildlife, and other instream values (RCW 90.22.010, 90.54.005, 90.54.020). Without sufficient water, other habitat protection and restoration will fail. WDFW provides technical assistance and recommendations to Ecology on how much water is needed by different fish in different places at different seasons.

In addition to efforts to protect water quantity (instream flows), WDFW and Ecology also collaborate to restore flow through purchase and lease of water rights or cooperative work with water users to ensure water is used in a way that minimizes impacts to fish. Water trust organizations often partner with the two state agencies to improve water use efficiency and minimize impacts to fish.

For more information visit the Department of Ecology website >>Development and Implementation of Watershed Plans

For more information on
salmon recovery and conservation, please contact
the WDFW Fish Program.

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