Family Forest Fish Passage Program

The Family Forest Fish Passage Program is a cost-share program that helps small forest landowners correct fish passage barriers on their forestlands. The program provides 75-100 percent of the cost of correcting a barrier; it also provides technical assistance.

A major key to restoring fish populations is removing barriers to fish passage. A single artificial barrier on a stream can keep fish from reaching many miles of habitat upstream. To help protect fish (a public resource), state Forest Practices Rules require forest landowners to address fish barriers by 2016.

Because eliminating fish passage barriers can be costly, especially for the family forest landowner, the 2003 Washington Legislature established the Family Forest Fish Passage Program (House Bill 1095). In general, the bill required that:

  • The state create a cost-share program that provides 75-100 percent of the cost of correcting small forest landowners’ fish barriers. 
  • Small forest landowners enrolling in the program are required to fix their barriers only if financial assistance is available from the state.
  • Barriers be prioritized and repaired on a worst-first basis.

Once a year, projects submitted to the program are prioritized, and fish barrier corrections providing the greatest benefit to public resources are funded. Lower priority projects remain in the program to be funded once they become high priority and money is available.

By signing up for the program, a landowner is relieved of any Forest Practices obligation to fix a fish passage barrier until the state determines the barrier is a high priority.

Program partners
The Family Forest Fish Passage Program relies on partnerships. The program is implemented by three state agencies; each provides different program services:

  •  The Small Forest Landowner Office at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the main point of contact for Program information. The office assists landowners, provides outreach and coordinates additional funding sources. 
  • The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) evaluates and ranks projects, and also provides information on fish barriers, fish species, habitat, Lead Entities, and watershed groups. 
  • The Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation/Salmon Recovery Funding Board (IAC) administers program funding and provides information on program contracts, billing and reimbursement.

In addition, the Washington Farm Forestry Association (WFFA) serves in an advisory capacity to the Program and assists with policy development on behalf of family forest landowners statewide. Fish Passage Team The Fish Passage Team, made up of representatives from DNR, WDFW and IAC, manages day-to-day program implementation. Through the team, the three agencies work cooperatively on all aspects of the program. Steering Committee The Program Steering Committee, made up of policy-level staff from DNR, WDFW, IAC and WFFA, provides direction to the Fish Passage Team on program policies, reviews outreach materials, and approves project funding. Local Entities Many conservation districts, Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups (RFEGs), Lead Entities, and tribes contribute to the program by evaluating barriers, providing fish use and habitat information, and assisting landowners with all aspects of completing projects.

For a structure to be eligible for the program, it must be:

  • on forestland 
    Forestland is land capable of supporting a merchantable stand of timber and not being actively used for anything incompatible with timber growing. For the purposes of this program, forestland does not include: crop fields, orchards, vineyards, pastures, feedlots, fish pens, and Christmas tree farms. It also does not include land occupied by facilities for the production, preparation, or sale of crops, fruit, dairy products, fish, and livestock. 
  • on a fish-bearing stream
    Streams are generally considered fish-bearing if they are 2 feet or greater in width in Western Washington, or 3 feet or greater in Eastern Washington, and have a gradient of 20 percent or less. Intermittent streams (those which go dry during a portion of the year) may have fish present during those times when the streams are flowing. A determination can be made during project evaluation if it is unknown whether a stream is fish-bearing.
  • a barrier to fish passage, and
    A fish passage barrier is any artificial (human-caused) structure in a stream that impedes free passage of fish––any species, any life stage––to habitat upstream or downstream. Examples of fish barriers include: culverts, puncheons, fords, standpipes, dams, weirs, and spillways.  
  • owned by a small forest landowner
    A small forest landowner is determined not by the number of acres owned, but by the volume of timber harvested. A small forest landowner is one who at the time of submitting an application to the program, has harvested from his or her own lands in Washington State an average volume of 2 million board feet per year or less during the 3 years prior to submitting the application, and expects to harvest an average volume of 2 million board feet per year or less during the 10 years following the submission of the application to the program. (In other words, to qualify as a small forest landowner, from their own lands in Washington, a landowner cannot have harvested more than 6 million board feet over the previous 3 years or expect to harvest more than 20 million board feet over the next 10 years.)

    Exception: Any landowner who exceeded the two million board feet annual average timber harvest threshold in the three years prior to submitting an application to DNR, or who expects to exceed the threshold during the following ten years, shall be deemed a “small forest landowner” if he or she establishes to the state’s reasonable satisfaction that the exceeded harvest limits are to pay estate taxes or for an equally compelling and unexpected obligation, such as for court-ordered judgment or for extraordinary medical expenses.

  • at a road crossing
    structure must be associated with a road crossing in order to be eligible.

Cost Sharing
Landowners who submitted a Forest Practices Application for timber harvest on or after May 14, 2003 may be required to provide a limited share (match) of the overall cost of the barrier correction. The maximum required match per year varies according to the average annual timber volume harvested from the landowner’s lands in this state during the three preceding calendar years, and whether the barrier is in eastern or western Washington. For each project, the most a landowner must pay is 25 percent of project costs, or $5,000, whichever is less. The following chart shows the maximum annual cost-share required by a small forest landowner.

How the Program Works
There are five key steps to the Family Forest Fish Passage Program:

  1. Landowner applies to the program
    Landowners can request the Application for Fish Passage Barrier Evaluation from the Small Forest Landowner Office (SFLO) at DNR. A landowner can use one application form to apply to have more than one barrier evaluated. Application Deadlines: Applications are accepted year round. To be considered for funding in the following year, applications must be received by June 30. 
  2. Barrier is assessed
    Once an application is received, a field technician will contact the landowner to arrange to evaluate the barrier on the owner’s property. If the evaluation determines the structure is not a barrier, is not on a fish-bearing stream, or is not on forestland, the landowner will be notified in writing that it is not eligible, and will not be enrolled in the program. If the structure meets eligibility criteria and is confirmed as a fish barrier, the barrier evaluation is sent to the Fish Passage Team. 
  3. Barrier is prioritized for correction/removal
    Each year, eligible projects from applications received by June 30 (including unfunded projects from previous years) will be grouped and prioritized. Projects will be ranked within their watersheds. The Fish Passage Team will evaluate and rank projects based on:

    - The number and location of other upstream and downstream barriers
    - Amount and quality of habitat opened by the project
    - The number of salmon and trout species benefiting from barrier correction
    - Project cost

    Note: Numerical values, thresholds, or targets have not been established for these criteria. Each project will be compared and contrasted to all projects in the current program cycle and those projects not funded during previous cycles.

    After all projects are prioritized, the Fish Passage Team will submit a preliminary ranked list of projects to the Program Steering Committee for review and approval. The subsequent ranked list will be sent to the local Lead Entities for final review. After receiving Lead Entity input, the Steering Committee will finalize the list of funded projects
  4. Project is funded when it is high priority 
    Those projects providing greatest benefit to public resources will be funded for construction the following year. Projects considered lower priority during one funding cycle will be reconsidered during future cycles. Lower priority projects remain in the program to be funded once they become high priority and money is available. Landowners will be notified of their projects’ funding status early the following year after the June 30 cut-off date.
  5. Project sponsor manages the project
    The entity managing a funded project is called a “sponsor.” If a project is funded, a sponsor
    such as a conservation district, Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group, local fish-related non-profit organization, tribe, etc., or the landowner, if he or she wishes, will manage all aspects of the project .


Contact Family Forest Fish Passage Program

Contact Family Forest Fish Passage Program

Small Forest Landowner Office
Department of Natural Resources
PO Box 47012
Olympia, Washington  98504-7012


Service Area

Statewide Program in:
  • Washington