2022-2026 ACTION AGENDA EXPLORER

STRATEGY 4

Riparian Areas

Protect and restore riparian areas by improving regulatory frameworks and incentives and increasing funding.
Decades of land use and development have significantly degraded riparian vegetation corridors along Puget Sound rivers and streams. Intact riparian corridors are critical for keeping fresh and marine waters clean and cool, controlling erosion, moderating variability in water volume and timing of flow (flood storage), and offering key habitat for numerous terrestrial, freshwater, and interface species, such as salmon. Healthy riparian habitat ensures the integrity of the river- or streambank, thereby reducing erosion and flooding; provides a source of woody debris that create habitat features and slow flows; shades the water and reduces temperatures; delivers nutrients necessary to support the base of the food web; and filters out pollutants before they enter the water.

Growing and protecting trees along the lengths of our rivers and streams safeguards our water, provides vital habitat for our threatened salmon species, and improves resilience to climate change. To realize those functions, time is of the essence: trees take years—or even decades—to grow tall enough to provide significant shade, habitat, and carbon sequestration benefits. Meanwhile, land conversion pressures from expanding development threaten to lock in riparian impairment.

Intact forested riparian corridors can better preserve and restore habitat function than land converted to residential or commercial development. A comprehensive suite of tools, including improved regulatory frameworks and funding for incentives, must be deployed to deliver the scale and pace of riparian protection and restoration needed to achieve resilience in Puget Sound.

Implementing the Benthic Index of Biotic Integration and other Implementation Strategies supports the success of this strategy.
DESIRED OUTCOMES
  • Protect habitat from conversion, fragmentation
  • Restore habitat-forming processes
Actions

Establish and implement science-based riparian protection, restoration, and management policies that result in a minimum ‘1 Site Potential Tree Height’ forested riparian area standard. (ID #11)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Establish and implement a statewide riparian standard and ensure it is included in local land use planning and regulation;
  • Establish a riparian plant propagation program at public and private nurseries to meet future riparian restoration needs;
  • Gather and evaluate riparian management, guidance, and implementation data;
  • Enhance funding for and capacity of riparian area landowners, tribal governments, local governments, and nongovernmental organizations (for example, Conservation Corps) to acquire, restore, and manage riparian properties;
  • Develop a monitoring program to track implementation and effectiveness of a variety of tools and incentives.

Provide incentives, financial and technical support to local jurisdictions that have prioritized riparian restoration. (ID #201)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Fund and implement technical assistance and outreach programs with riparian landowners to assist in the implementation of BMPs that will protect, restore, and enhance riparian habitat;
  • Establish a riparian reserve program that provides financial incentives for all landowners to set aside and restore riparian areas important for salmon recovery;
  • Provide technical support and enforcement capacity to local jurisdictions;
  • Support policies that improve effectiveness and advance the intent of the GMA and SMP.
Implementation Considerations

Human Wellbeing

     

Climate Change

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate human wellbeing considerations in efforts to protect and restore riparian areas include:   Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate climate change responses in efforts to protect and restore riparian areas include:
  • Improve residents’ knowledge of and access to riparian areas to foster a sense of place and increase political will for protecting and restoring these areas.
  • Connect riparian area protection and restoration to benefits for both landowners and communities.
  • Offer incentives in expedited procedural frameworks to make restorative practices easier and faster for landowners.
  • Increase resources and capacities of local agencies to protect and restore riparian areas.
 
  • Factor future climate conditions into integrated planning processes for riparian protection and restoration projects.
  • Promote riparian protection and restoration actions that also increase carbon sequestration.
  • Incorporate targeted climate change education into technical and financial assistance programs for landowners.
Ongoing Programs

Ongoing programs provide regulatory oversight, technical support, implementation resources, funding, or guidance and serve as the critical foundation for Puget Sound recovery. The following is a list of example state and federal ongoing programs that help to implement this strategy. Many more local, tribal nations, and nongovernmental programs exist that support this strategy.

What We're Measuring

We are achieving our recovery goals of increasing functioning habitat, improving water quality, and maintaining thriving species and food webs in the Puget Sound region by protecting ecologically important lands from development and restoring instream and riparian areas of rivers and streams based on a statewide forested riparian area standard. Riparian landowners are implementing BMPs to protect and restore riparian habitat, and local jurisdictions are effectively implementing and enforcing the statewide standard. Indicators of success include:

Acres of natural land cover converted to developed uses in priority areas, sound-wide
Acres of riparian areas protected or restored, sound-wide
Acres of working lands treated with Best Management Practices (BMPs), including riparian plantings
Extent of forest cover in nearshore marine riparian areas
Water temperature in streams and rivers

This is a candidate progress indicator measuring our ability to prevent conversion of natural land cover in ecologically important areas due to development. Priority areas include riparian areas, floodplains, estuaries, wetlands, etc. This indicator is under development.

Acres of natural land cover converted to developed uses in priority areas, sound-wide
By:

No reported data available

This is a candidate progress indicator that would track the total acres of riparian areas protected or restored sound-wide, including on agricultural lands and within Urban Growth Areas. This indicator is under development.

Acres of riparian areas protected or restored, sound-wide
By:

No reported data available

This candidate progress indicator would track the total acres of working lands treated with water quality Best Management Practices (BMPs), including riparian plantings. This indicator is under development.

Acres of working lands treated with Best Management Practices (BMPs), including riparian plantings
By:

No reported data available

This indicator measures the percent and acreage of forested cover (vegetation approximately 8 feet or taller) within defined riparian zones landward of the marine shoreline.

Extent of forest cover in nearshore marine riparian areas
By:

No reported data available

This indicator reports on field-based discrete and continuous measurements of water temperature in streams and rivers, at representative spatial and temporal scales for the Puget Sound ecosystem. The indicator will determine the frequency and extent to which temperature is above biological requirements of aquatic species for survival and recovery.

Water temperature in streams and rivers
By:

No reported data available