Protecting and Restoring Habitat

Our Approach

Since our inception in 1989, Wild Fish Conservancy has placed a high priority on initiatives to protect and restore wild fish habitat and improve conditions for the northwest's wild fish.

Our staff work throughout the region to implement projects to restore natural watershed processes that have been compromised by past land-use practices, conduct research and monitoring to better inform efforts to protect wild fish ecosystems, and prevent functioning watersheds from being damaged in the first place.

A guiding principle driving our work is that first-hand information about where fish live and how they use their habitat can, within the framework of existing resource management laws, lead to significant improvements in aquatic ecosystem protection. To this end, we use primary data from our field studies throughout the region as a platform for advocacy and public education, and to improve basic understanding of the natural and anthropogenic processes influencing the health of wild fish populations.

Ecosystem Protection

To effectively conserve and recover the region’s wild fish ecosystems, we must first know and understand current fish species composition and distribution – that is, what fish are using which habitats.

These fundamental data are critical to influencing successful strategies for conserving wild-fish ecosystems. A critical goal of Wild Fish Conservancy science programs is ecosystem protection, preventing the loss and damage of currently functioning wild fish habitats. Wild Fish Conservancy bases its ecosystem protection advocacy in large part on primary field data derived from water-typing surveys, the mapping of fish presence and habitat characteristics to correct the misclassification of fish-bearing stream reaches.

Ecological Process Restoration

A major focus of the region's wild fish recovery effort has been habitat restoration. However, habitat restoration is a broad term, and approaches to it have varied widely. In fact, many habitat restoration initiatives throughout the region have been of questionable value.

Wild Fish Conservancy develops and implements ecological process restoration initiatives, intended to recover important ecosystem functions, to recreate dynamic and self-maintaining habitat systems, and to serve as models for similar efforts throughout the region. Wild Fish Conservancy has developed projects involving stream channel naturalizations, riparian plantings, passage-barrier removals, Engineered Log Jam installations, and levee set-backs and removals, designed to benefit wild fish and affected landowners.

Research
& Monitoring

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested annually to protect and recover declining fish populations in the Northwest, many fundamental questions regarding our region’s wild fish resources remain unanswered.

Existing assumptions have too often been made in lieu of empirical study. Testing those assumptions drives Wild Fish Conservancy’s research and monitoring program. 

We conduct research and monitoring projects in rivers, on lakes, and in near-shore marine habitats, at sites heavily impacted by human activity and in pristine areas untouched by development. We document the abundance and diversity of targeted species, their behavioral patterns, and geographic distribution. We study salmon spawning activity, fish passage at road crossings, water diversions, and agricultural pump facilities, and interactions between wild and hatchery fish.

Our Featured Projects

Wild Fish Conservancy is working throughout the region on a long list of wild fish restoration, monitoring, and protection projects in collaboration with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, local landowners, universities, and other conservation professionals.

Related Projects

Fish Passage

Harris Creek Family Forest Fish Passage Project

This project removed an undersized culvert which crossed under a private forest land road. The culvert was 67% passable and was replaced with an 18′ by 15′ by 7′ concrete box culvert. This project improved access to 5.43 miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat for coho,  and cutthroat, steelhead, and bull trout.

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Engineered Log Jams (ELJs)

Beckler River Engineered Log Jams (ELJs) Restoration

WFC engineers and ecologists developed restoration treatment designs including Engineered Log Jams (ELJs) to capture and retain sediment in the mainstem of the Beckler river channel, which when implemented, will improve aquatic habitat diversity and reconnect the channel to its historic floodplain.

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Fish Passage

Salmon Creek Family Forest Fish Passage Project

This project removed four undersized and ill-angled culverts, which were a barrier to fish passage due to the high velocity of water running through them. These culverts were replaced with one 16′ wide, 8′ high and 20′ long concrete box culvert that improved the spawning and rearing habitat for coho, olympic mudminnow and both cutthroat and steelhead trout for up to 5.14 miles upstream.

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Fish Passage

Dempsey Creek Family Forest Fish Passage Project

This project removed two barrier culverts and improved access to 0.7 miles of coho, cutthroat and steelhead habitat up to the headwater lake. The first barrier was a culvert with a 3.27% slope (67% passible) and was replaced with a 5.5ft high, 12ft wide and 12ft tall concrete box. The second barrier had a 1 meter outfall drop (0% passible) and was replaced with a 40ft long steel bridge.

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