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
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:
Lead Entities: Develop protection and restoration strategies and locally prioritized
project list for Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) funding
- 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,
- Broadening support for salmon recovery activities.
- Providing a place of information sharing and public outreach throughout the process.
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
Project applicants develop habitat restoration and protection projects based on
Regional Recovery Plans
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
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
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
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