Forest landowners’ efforts to protect fish habitat and water quality recognized
May 11, 2017
Forest landowners honored for re-opening 3,500 miles of streams for salmon and other species
Officials representing Washington state’s largest environmental, wildlife and natural resources agencies formally recognized 43 large forest landowners yesterday for their exemplary efforts to upgrade forest roads and stream crossings to improve salmon habitat and water quality.
Representatives of the Washington state departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources jointly presented certificates of appreciation to the large private forestland owners that had completed required road improvements within the state’s initial 15-year timeframe. “After investing more than $300 million dollars collectively, these landowners upgraded more than 25,000 miles of forest roads, replaced over 6,000 in-stream barriers to fish and opened an excess of 3,500 miles of previously blocked stream habitat,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, who also oversees the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Their efforts are worthy of special recognition because they completed their work on time, and despite the many challenges of a major economic recession.”
“This is a milestone well worth recognizing because these forest landowners stepped up their efforts and did their part to help protect and restore water quality in our forests,” Tom Laurie, senior advisor for tribal and environmental affairs, Department of Ecology. Thanks to them, more cool, clean water is flowing out of our forests into the watersheds and waterways of Washington state.”
“Our department very much appreciates the efforts of these private landowners,” said Jim Unsworth, director, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Even during the recent recession, they remained committed to opening miles of habitat and contributing to the vitality of fish populations and the health of our watersheds. Their actions support sustainable fisheries, outdoor recreation opportunities and the state’s economy.”
Forest road maintenance required by state law
Washington state law requires all forest landowners to properly construct and maintain their roads to protect fish habitat and water quality. The 1999 Salmon Recovery Act also required landowners to protect fish habitat and water quality on 60,000 miles of streams across 9.3 million acres of Washington’s forests.
The RMAP process requires large forest landowners to inventory their roads to determine which ones need to be upgraded to current expectations. Based on the inventories, landowners then have to disconnect roads from streams, upgrade stream crossings to remove barriers to fish passage, and eliminate roads no longer needed. Many forest roads in Washington were built years, even decades, before the relationship between roads and stream water quality were well understood.
The landowners receiving honors today were those that have so far completed their road maintenance and abandonment plans (RMAPs). View a full list of the recognized landowners on the DNR blog.
Agency roles in the RMAP process
As the agency responsible for carrying out provisions of the federal Clean Water Act in Washington state, the Department of Ecology monitors water quality to determine whether activities meet the state's water quality standards.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains a centralized database that serves as a data source for planning fish passage projects and provides expertise on hydraulic projects and sets fish protection standards. DNR implements this program in the forest through forest practices hydraulic permits, including removal of fish passage barriers and installations of bridges and culverts, and other forest practices that can affect water flows.
The Washington Forest Practices Board, an independent state agency since 1974, is charged with adopting rules to protect the state’s public resources (fish, water, wildlife and capital improvements of the state) while maintaining a viable timber industry.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources administers the state Forest Practices rules on approximately 12 million acres of private and state-owned forest lands. This includes overseeing the activities of state and private property owners interested in harvesting timber, building or repairing forest roads or culverts, or other regulated forest practices. The department also monitors compliance with state Forest Practices Rules to help protect public resources.
Bob Redling Public Information Officer