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J.E. “Sam” Ryan, CBO

5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Telephone: (360) 676-6907

Critical Area Functions and Services Critical Areas Logo

Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas Include:

Rivers and Streams (handout) PDF
Rivers and streams are generally characterized by surface water flow that has produced a defined channel or bed. Rivers and streams essentially function as a drainage system that transports water, sediment, and dissolved nutrients across the land’s surface toward the sea. They also provide important habitat elements for fish and wildlife species. Many factors can affect the function and characteristics of a river or stream system, including: precipitation patterns, geology, topography, and human activities such as dams, dikes, gravel extraction, and removal of riparian vegetation.
A channel or bed does not need to contain water year-round to be considered a stream. Streams can also include drainage ditches or other artificial water courses where:

  • natural streams existed prior to human alteration; and
  • the water way is used by salmonid fish populations; or
  • the water course flows directly into a shellfish habitat conservation area.
River and Stream corridors perform a variety of beneficial functions, including:
  • Fish and wildlife habitat
  • Flood and storm water storage
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Recreation, education, scientific study, and aesthetic values

ESA Listed Species and Habitat (handout) –Listed species are those officially designated by the State Department Chinook salmon photoof Fish and Wildlife and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or candidate. Such species include Chinook salmon, bull trout, bald eagle, and California red-legged frog. Listed species are known to be experiencing, or have experienced, failing or declining populations due to factors such as limited numbers, disease, predation, exploitation, or a loss of suitable habitat.xHabitats and Species of Local Importance Habitats and species of local importance include habitat that supports both vulnerable and recreationally important species. Vulnerable species, such as the great blue heron, are those susceptible to significant population declines because they are uncommon, have a very limited distribution, or have special space or habitat requirements. Recreationally important species include species with high recreational importance or a high public profile, and that are vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation.

Shellfish Habitat Conservation Areas are all public and private tidelands that have been identified by the Washington Department of Health as being mussel and clam photosuitable for commercial shellfish growing areas, as well as any recreational harvest areas identified by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Any area that has been designated as a Shellfish Protection District is also a Shellfish Habitat Conservation Area. Kelp and Eelgrass Beds, Pacific Herring Spawning AreasEelgrass beds may be found along much of Whatcom County’s marine shorelines, particularly near Point Roberts, Drayton Harbor, Birch Bay, Lummi Bay and around Portage Island. Kelp forests and eelgrass beds provide forage, spawning and refuge areas for a number of marine species, including waterfowl, crab, snails, shrimp, and the Pacific Herring, an important local forage fish. Preservation of kelp and eelgrass beds also serves to protect local beaches from erosion by softening the force of waves against the shoreline.

Surf Smelt and Sand Lance Spawning AreasThe Whatcom eelgrass photoCounty nearshore environment provides important migratory corridors and habitat for forage fish spawning. Surf smelt and sand lance are schooling plankton feeder fish that are preyed on by a variety of animal species in the marine food web. Both surf smelt and the sand lance spawn along marine shoreline areas, depositing their eggs on protected upper intertidal sand or sandy-gravel beaches. Juvenile fish rear in nearby bays and nearshore areas.