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.

& 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

Habitat Restoration

Garrison Creek Watershed Restoration

The goal of this project is to increase adequate flow (to the extent possible) and improve water quality and habitat for all salmonid and native fish species in the Garrison Creek watershed.

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Fish Passage

Snyder Cove Creek Fish Passage Project

Snyder Cove Creek is a perennial, fish-bearing watershed that flows into the east side of Eld Inlet. It offers excellent spawning and rearing habitat, and currently supports populations of cutthroat trout, sculpin, and lamprey. An undersized (3ft diameter) culvert creates a barrier to the upstream migration of fish, effectively blocking almost one mile of fish habitat.

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Fish Passage

Upper Weiss Creek Family Forest Fish Passage Project

WFC staff replaced the failing culvert with a 34-foot wide wooden bridge and added large woody debris (LWD) and rock weirs that will provide a huge increase in flow capacity and provide wild salmonids access to critical spawning and rearing habitat upstream from the project site.

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Fish Passage

Lower Weiss Creek Family Forest Fish Passage Project

WFC staff replaced an undersized partial-barrier culvert with a 35′ long by 16′ wide modular steel bridge. Minor in-channel work was performed to provide a consistent gradient through the project reach, and LWD was added to increase instream habitat complexity. Disturbed areas were replanted with native trees and shrubs.

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Fish Passage

Fowler Creek Forest Family Fish Passage Project

The goal of this project was to improve access to both upstream and downstream habitat for salmonids to increase fish populations in this watershed. This was accomplished by replacing an existing fish passage barrier with a new structure that provided unimpeded passage to both upstream and downstream habitat.

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