Land Use Planning for Salmon, Steelhead and Trout: A land use planner's guide to salmonid habitat protection and recovery


Published: October 2009

Pages: 138

Author(s): Katie Knight

Aquatic Habitat Guidelines (AHG) Program Description

In 1999, the governor's Salmon Recovery Office commissioned the Departments of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Ecology, and Transportation (WSDOT) to develop technical assistance guidance for those who want to protect and restore salmonid habitat. The scope of the program has recently broadened and now includes the promotion, protection, and restoration of fully functioning marine, freshwater, and riparian habitat through comprehensive and effective management of activities affecting Washington's aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Participation in the project has also expanded with the addition of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC), the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to the list of contributing agencies.


The State of Washington Aquatic Habitat Guidelines Program and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have developed guidance on planning for salmon, steelhead and trout to assist the integration of local land use planning programs and state salmonid recovery efforts. This planner’s guide to salmonid recovery is intended for local governments and includes information on state salmonid recovery efforts, sources of best available science, and model policies and development regulations for implementing salmonid recovery.

In the last decade, over one hundred populations of salmon and steelhead have been federally listed as threatened or endangered in Washington State under the federal Endangered Species Act. To recover salmonids populations, Washington State has multiple efforts underway including regional salmon recovery plans and lead entity strategies that guide on-the-ground restoration and acquisition projects. Yet regional salmon recovery projects are often disconnected from local land use planning initiatives.

Incorporating the information provided in this guidance into local land use planning and decision-making is an important step towards reaching the goal of recovering naturally-spawning salmonid populations. The majority of land in Washington State is privately owned and much of this land is in low-lying areas, such as floodplains and river deltas, where salmonid habitat is prevalent. Therefore, land use decisions implemented at the local level affect salmonid recovery efforts and protection strategies.

Salmonid habitat includes in-stream physical characteristics (e.g., temperature, water quantity, structure, substrate conditions, pool/riffle ratios, etc.), but habitat is strongly influenced by watershed processes beyond the waterline, including canopy cover, riparian condition, large woody debris recruitment, impervious surfaces and stormwater discharge, sediment delivery, water allocations (withdrawals), road location and maintenance, watershed hydrology, and nutrient dynamics. Planning for salmon, steelhead and trout must address the condition and extent of water-related resources as well as upland processes that influence aquatic habitat.

The scope of this guidance is to provide technical assistance to protect salmonid habitat through Growth Management Act (GMA) plans and regulations, including critical areas ordinances, updates of Shoreline Master Programs mandated by the Shoreline Management Act (SMA). The GMA and SMA are the two most significant laws governing local planning and decision-making in Washington State and both planning programs have long-lasting influence on salmonid habitat protection and restoration.

There are many sources of best available science on watershed processes, riparian and wetland management, etc. However, very little guidance for translating scientific recommendations into local government planning programs has been available. This guidance document translates existing science into planning tools, including model policies and regulations that can be incorporated into GMA and SMA planning programs to protect salmonids and prevent further loss or degradation of habitat. This document is also a desk-top reference for salmonid planning in Washington state as it includes numerous sources of planning and scientific resources and information on state salmon recovery efforts including regional salmon recovery plans.


Suggested citation

Knight, K. 2009. Land Use Planning for Salmon, Steelhead and Trout. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Olympia, Washington.

Draft documents

Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.