Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program

River with channel migration zone
The Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program (WAC 222-23) is available to eligible Washington state landowners who would like to sell a permanent forestland conservation easement to the state.
Two types of land are eligible for the program: 1) forestland habitat critical for state-listed threatened or endangered species (Critical Habitat), and 2) a specific type of river habitat called unconfined channel migration zones (CMZ), which are islands of timber within a river channel that is actively shifting. Since 2002, when funding first became available, the program has protected 1,043 acres of important habitat through 16 conservation easements.

The application window is currently closed for the next funding period. The application window will open again before the 2025-2027 legislative session begins..


Washington State Department of Natural Resources has $1.6 million available to purchase Rivers and Habitat Open Space conservation easements for the 2021-23 biennium. Generally, when the funding level exceeds $1 million, DNR expects to allocate approximately 70 percent of the funds for Critical Habitat and 30 percent for CMZs. If the demand is limited in either funding category, DNR may shift moneys between the funding categories.
Applications are provided funding in order of ranked priority. All remaining eligible applications are offered the opportunity to be considered for future funding. The program receives funding every two years, at the discretion of the WA State Legislature. Lands may be donated for a conservation easement at any time.


Applications will be prioritized for funding based on, but not limited to, the following elements for the two types of applications:
Critical Habitat Applications Channel Migration Zone Applications
  • Habitat quality
  • Risk of future habitat loss
  • Documented occupancy
  • Species' landscape continuity
  • Species diversity
  • Habitat Quality
  • RMZ Quality
  • Species' landscape continuity
  • Species diversity


To qualify for a conservation easement under the Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program, your property must be:
  • Located on forest land containing at least one of two habitat styles:
  • Identified as either "designated forestland" or "current use forestland" on county assessor records, and
  • Free of unacceptable liabilities such as hazardous substances or other site conditions that may jeopardize the preservation of fisheries enhancement or ecological protection of the project area.
In addition, you must allow DNR adequate legal access to the property to process the application and administer the easement terms and conditions and everyone with a legal interest in the property must be willing to convey or subordinate their interest to the state for the conservation easement.


The application window is currently closed for the 2023-25 funding period. The application window will open again before the 2025-2027 legislative session begins.
There are two applications available for this program. One is for forest land that contains habitat for state listed threatened and endangered species and the other application is for forest land within a channel migration zone. Select the proper application and instruction booklet that applies to your forest land. Be sure to include in your application the following items:
  • A description of the forest land that includes the location and an estimated acreage,
  • A description of the method used to determine whether the land qualifies for the program, and
  • A map showing the approximate boundary of the qualifying land.

    Return completed applications to:
    Washington Department of Natural Resources Forest Practices Division
    Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program MS 47012
    Olympia, WA 98504-7012


When the total easement values of the applications exceed the biennial budget provided, then DNR needs to rank the easements for funding. The ranking is done using multiple criterion including: habitat quality, risk of habitat loss, etc. DNR will post the ranking list on this website once it has been completed for the 2023-25 biennium.
Direct questions and additional information requests to KelliAnne Ricks at (360) 480-9702 or kellianne.ricks@dnr.wa.gov