Riparian Open Space Program

Riparian Open Space Program


As one of the aspects of implementing the Forests and Fish legislation, the
Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has established a Riparian Open Space Program. This program offers new options to owners of timbered lands within unconfined avulsing channel migration zones. The lands addressed by this program are essentially islands of timber within rivers or streams. Willing landowners can apply to donate or sell the land itself or a permanent conservation easement covering the trees or land and trees to the DNR.

The purpose of these acquisitions is for ecological protection and fisheries enhancement and to provide compensation for qualifying lands.

Qualifying Lands
To qualify for consideration for the riparian open space program, lands must be:

  • located within an unconfined avulsing channel migration zone, and

  • identified in county assessor records as designated as forest land under chapter 84.33 RCW or currently taxed as forest land under chapter 84.34 RCW.

As defined in WAC 222-16-010, an “unconfined avulsing stream” experiences abrupt shifts in channel location, creating a complex flood plain characterized by extensive gravel bars, disturbance species of vegetation of variable age, numerous side channels, wall-based channels, oxbow lakes, and wetland complexes. An “unconfined avulsing channel migration zone (CMZ)” means the area within which the active channel of an unconfined avulsing stream is prone to move and where the movement would result in a potential near-term loss of riparian forest adjacent to the stream. The unconfined avulsing CMZ doesn’t include areas permanently restricted from channel movement by a dike or levee.

Land which would otherwise qualify will not be considered for the Riparian Open Space Program if:

  • lack of legal access to the land is likely to impair the DNR’s ability to administer the program in relation to the land,

  • any persons having an interest in a particular property have not agreed to convey or subordinate their interests to the state to the extent necessary for the purchase of the property or conservation easement,

  • unacceptable liabilities are present, such as hazardous substances or any other condition that may jeopardize DNR’s ability to maintain fisheries enhancement or ecological protection, and for which the applicant is unwilling or unable to provide reasonable indemnification,

  • any circumstances make the land unsuitable for fisheries enhancement or ecological protection.

Application and Selection Process
The DNR welcomes applications from all landowners. Application forms can be downloaded from the DNR website,, or requested from Omroa.Bhagwandin in DNR’s Asset Management and Protection Division, Cooperative Conservation Programs Section at phone 360-902-1059 or e-mail address

A selection committee will evaluate applications to determine a ranked order for purchases of land and/or conservation easements. If eligible applications exceed current funding, the remaining applicants can opt to be considered for future funding opportunities.

Applications are currently being accepted. NEW

Selection Criteria
As specified by program legislation, the following criteria will be considered by the selection committee in prioritizing applications for funding:

  • Order of receipt,

  • Ecological value, including importance to salmonids, water quality benefits, quality of habitat, site significance, etc.

  • Immediacy of need on the part of the landowner
Program Funding
The legislature has made funding available for riparian open space acquisitions and administrative costs through the biennium. DNR will request future funding through the legislative budget process.

Contact Riparian Open Space Program

Contact Riparian Open Space Program

Dan Pomerenk
Riparian Open Space Program
1111 Washington Street SE
PO Box 47014
Olympia, Washington  98504
Phone: 360-902-1059


Service Area

Statewide Program in:
  • Washington