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Project Progression

With Riparian Restoration Programs

Here at Whatcom Conservation District, we understand that riparian restoration can seem daunting, complex, and even confusing. Take a look at the Riparian Project Progression images below to get a better understanding of what a ‘typical’ project looks like. No two landowners, properties, or projects are the same. That is why we do our best to meet you where you are at and understand your unique circumstances to create the best possible outcome for you and your land goals.

As always, feel free to request a site visit to get connected with our free consultation services. There, you’ll be able to determine if your land is eligible, and what benefits may lay in store for your future.

Hands Planting

Enrolling in a riparian restoration program such as CREP or RGP is a commitment that can last well over a decade. Over that time, significant changes can happen in a landscape. This page will help you explore what to expect during your enrollment-- from beginning to end. 

Restoration Over The Years

Some say that change is the only guarantee in life. Enrolling in a restoration program puts you on the right side of history---helping native species recover through protected habitat. 

The images below are all taken at the same location through the progression of a CREP buffer. Use the tree with the green arrow next to it as a focal point as you advance forward on the timeline. 

field graphic with weeds

Perhaps you’ve heard stories of old where salmon still ran this creek, but now the amount of soil runoff makes the water so cloudy that you aren’t even sure they are there.


Riparian buffers are a natural part of ecosystems that have bodies of water running through them, and they provide essential services for their local communities. Fortunately, many of these services are helpful for landowners, too. Without a buffer, unstable stream banks can erode and deposit sediment into waterways, as well as pesticides and other runoff. Without any trees, wind, noise and light are permitted to travel unbroken to crops and structures where they can deal damage. Without natural food sources, wildlife such as deer or raccoons scavenge on crops and human scraps from dumpsters and garbage cans. Finally, without any filters, pollutants reach our already damaged watersheds and cause critical damage from the input source all the way downstream into the Puget Sound, where they begin to further impact all life in the world’s oceans—humanity’s largest shared resource.


The first step toward habitat restoration is having an interest, and the good news is that you’ve made it to the right spot to get you started!

field graphic with WCD consulting

After submitting a site visit request form, linked below, a Whatcom CD professional Farm Planner will meet you on your land. There, we will discuss your land goals, farming philosophy, history, and the potential project. Here, we will determine your land’s eligibility for our different programs, such as the Salmon Recovery Riparian Program (SRRP) or the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).


We have several different programs tailored to common landowner situations, and we will adjust programs when possible to make the best possible fit for you and your needs.

At Whatcom CD, our goal is to make the process as simple and streamlined as possible for you. We will handle the paperwork and explain it, all you need to do is sign up once you are confident you would like to proceed.

Field graphic with contractors spraying

After paperwork is complete, the project begins. At this point, the specific needs and context of a site play heavily into the procedures for habitat restoration. Generally, this begins with a crew of trained restoration contractors coming to the site to remove as many invasive species as possible. Blackberry, reed canary grass and other invasive are met with landscaping tools and pesticides to clear the path for healthy native plants.

Learn More

Keep reading here to learn more about Project Progression, or check out our Stream Restoration FAQ for more general questions. 

Buffer design is flexible

Resource specialists work with each landowner to develop a project plan that meets their objectives. The width of the buffer next to the stream or river may vary from 50 to 180 feet.  In certain circumstances, CREP also plants hedgerows on narrow watercourses, these buffers can be as narrow as 15 feet. 

CREP is a partnership between the State and Federal Governments
The program is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency with additional funding from the Washington State Conservation Commission.  The Whatcom Conservation District provides technical support and project planning. 

Ask for a No-Obligation Site Assessment
A Whatcom Conservation District Resource Specialist will visit your property to make a no-obligation site assessment. The Resource Specialist will discuss buffer design options and provide estimates of the rental rate and the signing bonus.  The site assessment is also a good opportunity for questions and answers about the program and site-specific inquiries. Please click the button below to request a site assessment.

Field graphic with planters

Here, the champion blue tubes that are ubiquitous with Whatcom County restoration projects finally get to shine. A team of trained professionals set forth on the newly cleared site. They use a combination of stakes and blue tubes to plant saplings of various native plants that are resilient and hardy.


The blue tubes serve several purposes. They protect the base of saplings from insects and rodents, increase the temperature around the trunk to promote growth, and increase visibility so you always know where your new plants are. These blue tubes will stay on for a period of  several months to several years, depending on the species of plant and application. After this, they can be returned to Whatcom CD or reused elsewhere.


Did you know that Whatcom CD offers unlimited FREE blue tubes for use on your own projects? Come by our office on Hannegan Road to take as many as you can carry!

Field graphic with plants growing in blue tubes

With proper protection provided by the blue tubes, the newly planted saplings take root and begin stabilizing the streambank. Over the next several years they will grow several feet in height and begin to shade out competing understory plants. This reduces the frequency and intensity of required maintenance. Additionally, it sets a course for your land to return to its native wild state, where large trees and native understory grow mutually to protect streambanks, provide habitat, and so much more.


Field graphic with family and salmon celebrating

Years later, fully grown trees, shrubs and grasses form a beautiful and healthy landscape. Deep roots stabilize streambanks, filter runoff, and prevent erosion. 


Some projects are offered a chance to reenroll for an additional term with additional benefits.


Maybe you can get your neighbors in on it, too.



Reach out to Whatcom Conservation District today to learn more about how we can help you.

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