in Fish Habitat Protection
Cool, clean water is vital to maintaining healthy habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Resulting from changes to forest practices outlined in the Forests & Fish Law, forest landowners have widened forested streamside buffers on their lands to provide shade and the large wood needed to restore and protect habitat for fish.
State water quality standards establish water temperature limits for forested streams. While studies are ongoing to determine the effectiveness at maintaining water temperatures, an early review shows Forests & Fish buffers on fish streams dramatically reduce the risk of exceeding the temperature limits.
Eastern Washington bull trout have additional protection in areas included in the “bull trout overlay” identified by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The purpose of this project is to determine if the “all available shade” rule established to protect bull trout habitat is any more effective at maintaining cool stream temperatures than the standard Eastern Washington stream buffer rules. A study on this topic is ongoing, but early results indicate that there is little or no difference between the shade provided by the standard rules and that provided by the bull trout overlay rules. This indicates that standard rules are all that is needed for bull trout habitat protection.
Forested riparian buffers stabilize stream banks, limiting sediment delivery to streams. While some sediment is a natural part of healthy forest streams, too much sediment can be unhealthy for fish. A recent research review shows the protections outlined in the Forests & Fish Law are working to keep streams clean, helping to create healthy fish habitat.
According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Compliance Monitoring Report, 93% of all riparian and roads activities are substantially compliant with regulations. WFPA members have a goal of being 100% compliant with all forest practices rules.