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Chum salmon diving back into water with a splash


Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

A voluntary program designed to help both landowners and the environment. CREP pays landowners to establish buffers of native trees and shrubs along fish bearing streams and rivers. 



  • Restoring & protecting critical fish habitat

  • Increasing & protecting water quality

  • Annual rent paid to landowner

  • Providing attractive borders

  • Stream bank stabilization

  • Increasing privacy

  • Increasing protection from noise & wind

  • Carbon sequestration

  • Creating travel corridors for a wide range of wildlife

  • Reducing erosion

  • Lowering water temperature

  • Invasive species removal

  • Creating shade

  • Free fence installation

  • Active ecological stewardship

Landowners smiling at restoration site.
CREP field in front of Mt. Baker and adjacent to waterway

Get Paid to Improve Your Land

The benefits of CREP are limitless. You are able to earn passive income, while taking an active role in salmon recovery and ecological stewardship. Plus, you improve your landscape.

Building riparian buffers is no easy task, but our team of experts will do everything in our power to make the process simple and streamlined. 

The network of landowners in Whatcom County that are enrolled in CREP is growing. This is your chance to join a community of hardworking people who have a vested interest in protecting native landscapes while producing for our thriving economy. 

The investment is personal. The risks are minimal. The return is intergenerational. 

Investing in CREP is investing in the future of Whatcom County for every living thing. 

Request a no-cost, obligation free & confidential site assessment today. 


Number of Projects


Miles of Buffer


Seedlings Planted


Acres Planted

Learn More

Keep reading here to learn more about CREP, 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.


How do riparian buffers help salmon?

The water needs of our native salmon can best be expressed using the 5 C's: Cold, clean, clear, consistent and complex. Riparian buffers enhance all 5 C's.

Water is kept cold by the shade that riparian buffers provide, preventing warm water disease.

Native plants help to filter pesticides, herbicides, oil and other pollutants from our waterways, creating clean water for salmon.

Native plants in a riparian buffer can help filter sediments and particulate matter in a stream to keep water clear for salmon. Clear water is essential to ensure proper oxygenation. Some bodies of water, like the Nooksack, are naturally filled with glacial sediment that the salmon are accustomed to. Further sedimentation is an issue.

Consistent water is critical to spawning salmon populations that want to reproduce for more than a single generation. Riparian buffers help stabilize stream systems.

Native plants provide complex habitat in streams and rivers. Debris, snags and root beds are essential to break upstream currents so salmon can rest on their long journey. 

Salmon Buffe


Frequently Asked Questions

Is my property eligible for CREP?

Most, but not all, streams are eligible. Reach out today to find out if your land qualifies. 

Peafruit Rose


  • Annual rent paid to landowner

  • Providing attractive borders

  • Stream bank stabilization

  • Restore & protect critical fish habitat

  • Zero cost to landowner

  • Increasing privacy

  • Increasing protection from noise & wind

  • Carbon sequestration

  • Creating travel corridors for a wide range of wildlife

  • Increasing & protecting water quality

  • Reducing erosion

  • Lowering water temperature

  • Invasive species removal

  • Creating shade

  • Free fence installation

  • Active ecological stewardship

Hands planting a plug in soil.

Can I choose what is planted?

With a few caveats, yes. The species chosen for official projects must be native to the area and must be compatible and appropriate to the specific site. We are very flexible when it comes to preferences and land goals. Reach out for more information. 

What Maintenance Is Needed?

A huge benefit of native landscaping is the fact that almost all native plants require little maintenance once established. By utilizing plants that are endemic to your area you are encouraging them to take advantage of resources, weather, and soils that they have spent thousands of years evolving to survive in. 


Maintenance of competing vegetation is essential to establish the native trees and shrubs.  The CREP technician will typically prescribe mowing and herbicide applications for the first few years after planting.  This work will be completed by the same restoration contractor who will do your planting.


We understand that every farm is unique. We will work with you.  If you're curious about what kind of weeds your CREP contractor will be working with, you can learn more about our most common weeds and how to handle them by visiting our habitat improvement page. 

Cows crossing fish passage barrier replacement bridge amid field of CREP tubes that have been planted
CREP tube with plant inside

What are the blue tubes for?

The blue tube seedling protectors are the most cost effective way to protect the small seedlings during the first few years after planting. Your contractor will remove the tubes when the trees and shrubs are large enough to survive without the additional protection.


Also, Whatcom CD provides used blue tubes for personal use at no cost! Swing by our office and pick up as many as you can carry, today!


For more information on the blue tubes, visit our Blue Tube Information Page.

What about livestock exclusion?

Keeping livestock out of riparian zones is essential for effective restoration and keeping contaminants out of freshwater.

The program only covers the cost of the fence if exclusion is necessary to protect the sensitive restoration area. 

The CREP program can cover the costs of excluding livestock. This is generally only applicable if there is an adjacent pasture of grazing animals and there is reasonable potential for these animals to gain access to the riparian buffer.

Black cows looking through barbed wire fence onto field of blue CREP tubes
Restoration technician planting with blue tubes.

Who does the CREP work?

The planning for a CREP project is done by professional staff at Whatcom Conservation District while consulting the landowner for insight into their specific needs and circumstances. 

The field work for a CREP project, such as invasive species removal and restoration planting, is done by licensed professional contractors that work with the Conservation District. 

How long does CREP last?

The benefits of a CREP project last for lifetimes, and the results are intergenerational. What do you want your legacy to be?

A typical CREP enrollment contract period involves either a 10 or 15 year agreement in which the landowner will receive annual rent payments in exchange for allowing riparian restoration to take place on their property. 

Woman with child at the hip, looking at blue tubes.
Western hemlock in spring.

Can I walk there?

Keep in mind that the purpose of streamside restoration projects are to restore the habitats back to a healthy state. 

However, light footpaths intentioned to provide access to the restoration area are welcomed. The purpose of these restoration sites is to provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife, and reporting by residents is always helpful. Please contact us to discuss details. 

What happens after the contract is up?

Even after the project period is up, WCD will be here to answer stewardship questions and provide advice. 

We hope that CREP and other programs build a relationship of stewardship between the landowner and the waterway. A best case scenario is intergenerational care and stewardship of the project. 

Small horse in field.
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