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Winter treeline.

Salmon Recovery Riparian Program

The Salmon Recovery Riparian Program (SRRP) is a voluntary and streamlined program designed for landowners who are interested in receiving support for planting riparian buffers. The program is designed with landowner needs in mind, and aims to increase opportunities for citizen engagement and stewardship for the recovery of salmon in Whatcom County.

The program is designed with landowner needs in mind, and aims to increase opportunities for citizen engagement and stewardship for the recovery of salmon in Whatcom County. 

SRRP hosts a simple, easy to understand landowner agreement and more flexible buffer width than the CREP program.

Keep scrolling to learn more details about the program, or click the link below if you are interested in enrolling. 


WCD staff walking CREP field with landowner.


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


  • Restoring & protecting critical fish habitat

  • Increasing & protecting water quality

  • 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

  • Active ecological stewardship

Autumn forest.


Salmon recovery all starts with native plants. Planting native species in areas where salmon are present significantly increases the water quality, clarity, and nutrient content, thereby securing safe passage for our critically endangered salmon to reproduce in the wild. Healthy salmon populations directly coincide with healthy orca populations, as salmon are their main source of food. 

Culvert allowing fish passage along a stream.
Fish held in a net.


After successful approval and planting, the maintenance of added plants generally defaults to the contractor assigned to the site. Taking advantage of the limited time SRRP is a great way to steward your land without breaking the bank or having to spend time and labor on the project yourself. 


Last year, the Washington Legislature approved $10 million to be used as incentive-based funding for salmon recovery projects in the first half of 2023. This is a landmark achievement and is the result of successful riparian projects, recovery teams, research, lobbying, voting, and citizen participation. 

Funding will help pay for outreach efforts, contractor work & equipment, and enrollment bonuses. 

Riparian buffer on a dairy farm.
Planting a plug in soft soil.
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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. 

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, blazing the path to 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. Water that is naturally opaque is not a concern. Murky water filled with pollutants while fish are trying to migrate is like a human trying to run a marathon breathing only diesel fumes.  

Riparian buffers can help return water to its ancestral flow, where it geologically settled at the end of our most recent ice age. This optimizes water flow to ensure it is there when the salmon are counting on it to be. This consistent water is critical to spawning salmon populations that want to reproduce for more than a single generation. 

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. 

Riparian buffers are an excellent solution to confront the challenges that salmon face on many fronts. 



Himalayan Blackberry and Evergreen Blackberry are extremely common and aggressive invasive in the entire county. Our abundance of disturbed sites like clear cuts, roadsides and urban dwellings provide ample opportunity for this plant to grow. 

Blackberries are an issue in the county because they out compete native species for soil nutrients and easily stifle their growth. Additionally, blackberry creates large impassable areas and contributes to habitat fragmentation. Further, because it is so difficult to work with it often goes overlooked or ignored in favor of more easily accomplishable projects and goals. Left unchecked, Himalayan blackberry can grow over 20 feet in a single year. The best time to begin managing your invasive species is yesterday. The second best time is today. 

Unlike most of our food crops, blackberries do not need to be pollinated to reproduce. It most commonly spreads by birds eating the berries and excreting seeds in nearby areas. 


One of the pleasures of clearing out blackberry is getting to deal with thick thorns that can range from 1mm to 2cm. When clearing, cuts and nicks are often unavoidable but can be mitigated by wearing proper safety equipment such as safety glasses, thick leather gloves, and thick clothing. Clothing designed for heavy arbor work, such as chainsaw chaps, are a good companion. 

The plant can only be killed by removing or destroying the roots. When digging be sure to remove all the roots, as they can easily resprout and undo all of your hard work. 

Consider penning in your four legged friends with blackberry, as field tests have recently shown that animals such as goats, sheep and horses can successfully limit growth and even help cut back on existing populations. 

Fire can be used to destroy the canes, leaves, and fruit but it will not kill the roots. To dispose of them, wrap them in a bag and send them to the landfill. 

As an absolute last resort measure herbicide may be applied. Consult a professional to get an evaluation before application. There are alternatives. 

Blackberries on bush
Reed canary grass

Reed Canary Grass

Reed Canary Grass is another aggressive invasive species that easily outcompetes others. 

The grass does not provide much nutrition and provides little to the ecosystem. Additionally, the lack of rootage can contribute to siltation in our streams and irrigation ditches, which is bad news for our salmon and many other species. 

It is one of the most common species to be found in riparian zones, and prefers saturated soil. 

Mowing before seed heads can be formed can prevent reseeding. You can target your landscape maintenance to twice yearly mowings, once in early June and once in early October, to mitigate growth. 



Knotweed began as a traded ornamental plant in Washington State, and has escaped and grown into wild populations over the previous decades. It is extremely aggressive and easily chokes out native species, particularly in riparian areas. During dormancy the plant can become a fire hazard. 

While we have six different species of knotweed in Washington, the two most common are Bohemian and Japanese Knotweed. 

The most effective way of eliminating knotweed from gardens and farms is harvesting the entire plant, including roots, drying and then burning according to local laws and regulations. Monitor the area to spot regrowth. This process often takes years and is rarely comprehensive. 

Autumn forest.

The Usual Suspects

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