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.

Applications are NO LONGER being accepted for the current funding period.


Washington State Department of Natural Resources has $1 million available to purchase Rivers and Habitat Open Space conservation easements for the 2018-2019 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 will be funded in order of ranked priority until all funds are expended. All remaining eligible applications will be offered the opportunity to be considered for future funding. The program is potentially funded every two years. It is unknown at this time when future funding will become available or how much funding there will be. 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 forestland 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 open application phase is now closed for the 2018-2019 funding period of the Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program.  If funding is received for this program for the next funding period, then DNR will begin accepting applications sometime after July 2019. The links to the application can be found in the right margin of this web page.
There are two applications available for this program. One is to be used for property that has habitat for state listed threatened and endangered species and the other application is for property within a channel migration zone. Select the proper application and instruction booklet that applies to your property. Be sure to include in your application the following items: 
  • A description of the property 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. The ranking has been completed for the 2018-2019 biennium and is posted in a link titled “Priority Lists” found on the right margin of this web page.
Direct questions and additional information requests to Dan Pomerenk at (360) 902-1427 or dan.pomerenk@dnr.wa.gov.