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Skagit Riparian Buffer Incentives Pilot Project

Skagit Riparian Buffer Incentives Pilot Project

Client: Skagit Watershed Council 

Case Study: Peak evaluated a range of riparian vegetation incentive programs used in Skagit County. These programs aim to provide agricultural landowners with funding and assistance for installing riparian buffers along waterways. Our team conducted research and interviewed a diverse pool of individuals working in the conservation field to assess the value, influence, and potential improvements of riparian vegetation incentive programs for state agency consideration. We worked with the Skagit Watershed Council and the Skagit Conservation District with funding from the Washington State Conservation Commission.

Our process included a review of relevant literature about current programs and existing incentive programs. We also incorporated Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) strategies in extensive landowner and practitioner outreach. We incorporated local government, tribal, and stakeholder feedback in developing our report and recommended program improvements for consideration by the state agencies.

Peak examined the challenges in contacting and engaging landowners, the alignment between landowner goals and program offerings, and questions property owners have regarding whether their property conditions are impacting aquatic health. We also looked into the impact of insufficient financial incentives for riparian planting and insufficient funding for general program operations, maintenance, and labor. Additionally, we examined complex enrollment processes and/or regulations, messaging about riparian “buffers,” trust issues for public programs, riparian vegetation width requirements, and lack of success with current incentives.

Impact: Our team assembled a comprehensive package of recommended program improvements for consideration by the state agencies that administer the riparian vegetation incentive programs. Effective riparian management is important to salmon survival. Trees provide shade, retain sediment, improve water quality, and increase biodiversity. Additionally, encouraging voluntary programs that plant and maintain vegetative habitats assists with climate adaptation.

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