There’s the old saying that you never step into the same river twice. Then there are those rivers that never stay in the same place — the channel changes every few decades or more often. Things get complicated when the active channel of a river or stream is prone to move over the short term, especially when it is used to designate a boundary or a management zone.
Where these changeable rivers run through wide valleys and have only a modest gradient (a downhill flow of less than 2 percent), they are called channel migration zones. There are several along the Skagit River.
Channel migration zones have other features. They can be rich areas for wildlife, such as spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and other fish species, which is why Washington state forest practices rules do not allow landowners to harvest timber or build roads in a channel migration zone. A river in a channel migration zone adds a lot of uncertainty for landowners who want to harvest their trees. Into the gap comes the Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program administered by DNR.
The Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program is designed to ensure long-term conservation of these river resources and habitats while reducing some of the economic impact on landowners in active forestry. The program buys conservation easements. Two types of habitat can qualify for RHOSP easements: trees within a channel migration zone and trees within critical habitat for state-listed threatened and endangered species (like northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets) in upland areas.
After screening and ranking applications from eligible landowners DNR can purchase easements. What we need now is a show of interest from landowners so the program can find appropriate funding in coming years.
If you own working forestland in a channel migration zone or within habitat for a state listed threatened or endangered species in the upland that may qualify for a Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program easement, please send us a Notice of Intent online. It’s not an application, just an expression of interest. Find more information, including other ways to indicate your interest in the program, by sending an email to DNR’s Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program.
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