Conserving land along our waterways protects important habitat and helps keep our rivers healthy, clean, and more resilient to drought. Riparian Protection projects conserve and restore fresh and saltwater habitat while protecting fish habitat. In doing so, the grants help provide our families, farms, and fisheries with clean water across the state.
This project will protect 550 acres of vital riparian habitat, salmon-bearing tributaries, upland forest, and forested floodplain in the South Fork Nooksack River Valley as part of Phase 1 of the Stewart Mountain Community Forest (SMCF). The SMCF is a collaborative effort to adopt ~5,500 acres of forestland into local ownership to be managed as a working forest that enhances a range of uses and community benefits. Phase 1 consists of the most ecologically and geologically sensitive portions of the future community forest, where the focus will be on habitat conservation and restoration. The property contains nearly two miles of streambank on the South Fork Nooksack River, as well as over a mile of fish-bearing tributaries in steep inner gorges. 2021 brought a mass die off of 2,500 pre-spawning Chinook, as well as a debris flow and stream avulsion on Stewart Mountain from severe weather. These events show the pressing need for riparian conservation on the east side of Stewart Mountain, to protect both wildlife and people in the South Fork Valley. Long-term protection will allow for incremental improvement in forest structure to increase riparian shading and woody debris recruitment, while also stabilizing steep inner gorges and stream banks.