Celebrating Success: Improving Skagit Forests for Fish

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  • September 28, 2016

The iconic Skagit Watershed provides critical resources to the Pacific Northwest region, including timber, food, and fish. Northwest Natural Resource Group (NNRG), Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and our partners are proud to celebrate the completion of a three-year project working with Skagit forest owners to protect habitat for the five salmon species that call the Skagit River system home.

Family forest owners are maintaining good roads, removing barriers to fish passage, and protecting riparian buffers. These stewardship activities are helping sustain and restore the health of streams and forests in the Skagit basin and other priority watersheds in Puget Sound.

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To improve forest health and protect salmon habitat, we provided educational workshops, site visits, and technical assistance to owners of small forests. We connected 350 Skagit forest owners to resources and tools to maintain riparian habitat and improve water quality. We also conducted one-on-one site visits with over 80 landowners across more than 1,600 acres in Puget Sound Priority watersheds. More than 84 people attended workshops on ecological forestry, wildlife habitat, road management, fish passage improvement, and riparian restoration. For more information on workshop content, please go to http://www.nnrg.org/skagitwatershed/.

Workshop attendees witness ecological forestry in action in the Skagit Watershed.

Workshop attendees witness ecological forestry in action in the Skagit Watershed.

These educational efforts helped pave the way for on-the-ground restoration of vital fish habitat. DNR and NNRG worked with landowners to develop more than 60 forest management plans covering more than 1,200 acres of forest in Puget Sound Priority watersheds. We also helped landowners access EQIP funding for more than 30 management plans and practices to: repair roads and reduce sediment delivery to fish supporting waters, restore riparian areas, and improve forest health in Puget Sound Priority watersheds.

Demonstrating how to measure stream width to understand forest buffers.

Demonstrating how to measure stream width to understand forest buffers.

 

When adult salmon return from the ocean, they cannot reach their natal streams to successfully spawn if there are barriers like tight culverts blocking their passage. DNR worked with small forest landowners to open up 8.37 miles of fish habitat along tributaries to the Skagit River. These restoration efforts, which benefit habitat for coho salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, bull trout, and Dolly Varden trout, were conducted through DNR’s Family Forest Fish Passage Program. More than 10 Skagit landowners have signed up for this program to further connect fish habitat in this critical watershed.

Workshop attendees viewing a new bridge that replaced a series of concrete barriers blocking fish passage in the Skagit Watershed. This forest owner enrolled in DNR's Family Forest Fish Passage Program.

Workshop attendees viewing a new bridge that replaced a series of concrete barriers blocking fish passage in the Skagit Watershed. This forest owner enrolled in DNR’s Family Forest Fish Passage Program.

 

The project would not have been possible without robust, committed collaboration. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided the funding to improve Skagit forests for fish and people alike. We’d like to thank the DNR’s Small Forest Landowner Office, Skagit Conservation District, and Natural Resources Conservation Service for their invaluable partnership. We also thank the local groups and businesses without whom this project would not have been possible: Skagit River System CooperativeSkagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, Stewardship Forestry & Science, Pacific Rim TonewoodsInternational Veneer Company, and Sierra Pacific Industries.

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Photos: NNRG

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