From rivers and streams to wetlands and lakes, private forest landowners are committed to sustaining Washington’s water quality.

Water quality is not only important for Washington’s human population, but to the fish and wildlife in our forests as well. In our state, private foresters are taking steps to maintain cool, clean water, the desired habitat for all life stages of salmon. To create this desired habitat, private foresters are finding new ways of constructing roads and culverts, are leaving buffer zones around streams to keep water cool and out of direct sunlight, and have restricted harvesting on steep, unstable slopes that could accelerate landslides into a stream creating problems for spawning fish. Research in the coming decades will help identify whether these new forest practices are helping in the salmon recovery effort.

Washington’s Landmark Forests & Fish Law Protects Water Quality

Through implementation of the Forests & Fish Law, Washington landowners are meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act for protection of water quality in streams and the delicate interaction between wetlands and fish habitat waters. Washington’s private forest landowners are working with scientists from tribal, state and federal agencies to change forest practices rules to meet temperature requirements for the different life stages of native fish, such as core, spawning and rearing habitats. It is required to classify streams with the appropriate fish-use designation. The Forests & Fish Law puts Washington’s forested streams on a path to meet salmon and bull trout temperature standards. The adaptive management process will determine whether forest practices are found to meet temperature standards and will recommend rule changes if standards are not met.

To better understand the relationship between forest management activities and fish habitat needs, the state resource objectives and performance targets for the “key aquatic habitat functions” fish need for survival. The objectives will guide monitoring and research projects.