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 creates 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.
  • Protect habitat from conversion, fragmentation
  • Restore habitat-forming processes

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

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate human wellbeing considerations and climate change responses into efforts include:

Human Wellbeing

  • 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.

Climate Change

  • 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.

Program Name Owner Organization
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program USDA NRCS
Aquatics land acquisitions and exchanges WA DNR
Clean Water Act Section 303(d): Impaired Waters and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) program US EPA
Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program US NOAA
Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy WA DFW
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) WA SCC
Conservation Reserve Program and Enhancement Program USDA FSA
Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund USFWS
Creosote and Marine Debris Removal Program WA DNR
Ecosystems Support WA DFW
Environmental Quality Incentives Program USDA NRCS
Family Forest Fish Passage Program WA DNR
Farmland preservation WA SCC
Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program US BIA
Forest Practices Program including the Habitat Conservation Plan WA DNR
Forest Riparian Easement Program WA DNR
Governor's Salmon Recovery Office WA RCO
Hydraulic Project Approval Program WA DFW
Integrated Resource Restoration program USFS
Leasing program for State Owned Aquatic Lands WA DNR
National Estuary Program and Puget Sound Geographic Funds US EPA
National Estuary Program: Habitat Strategic Initiative WA DFW
Natural Areas WA DNR
Natural Heritage Program WA DNR
Nutrient Management Plans, technical assistance WA SCC
Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund US NOAA
Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration WA PSP
Puget Sound and Adjacent Waters Restoration Program USACE
Puget Sound Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan US NOAA
Puget Sound Conservation Districts (12) WA SCC
Puget Sound Corps WA DNR
Puget Sound Federal Task Force US EPA
Puget Sound Steelhead Recovery Plan US NOAA
Puget Sound Watershed Characterization Assessment WA ECY
Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program US Navy
Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups (RFEGs) WA DFW
Regional levee-based vegetation standards USACE
Riparian Plant Propagation Program WA SCC
Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program WA DNR
Salmon Recovery Funding Board WA RCO
Salmon Riparian Funding Program WA SCC
Shellfish Funding WA SCC
Shorelands - Shoreline Master Programs WA ECY
Shorelands - Wetland Technical Assistance WA ECY
Terrestrial land acquisitions and exchanges WA DNR
Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) WA SCC
Washington Geological Survey WA DNR
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program WA RCO
Water Quality - National Estuary Program (NEP) Stormwater SI WA ECY
Water Quality - Provide Financial Assistance WA ECY
Water Resources - Streamflow Restoration program WA ECY
Watershed Restoration Program USFS

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:

Estuarine habitat acquisition
Estuarine habitat restoration
Extent of forest cover in nearshore marine riparian areas
Floodplains habitat restoration
Riparian habitat acquisition
Riparian habitat restoration
Water temperature in streams and rivers

Acres of estuarine habitat acquired for habitat conservation or restoration

Estuarine habitat acquisition

No reported data available

Acres of estuarine habitat improved through restoration activities

Estuarine habitat restoration

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

No reported data available

Acres of floodplain habitat improved through restoration activities

Floodplains habitat restoration

No reported data available

Acres of riparian areas acquired for habitat restoration or conservation

Acres of riparian areas improved through restoration activities

Riparian habitat restoration

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

No reported data available

Current Legislative Actions (8 Bills)
2024 | State Bill SB 5667
Related Activity Types
Related Strategies
2 - Working Lands
4 - Riparian Areas
Status: Passed
2024 | State Bill HB 2085 & SB 5922
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2193
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2286
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2289
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2291
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2456 & SB 6237
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill SB 5876
Status: Did not pass