An Assessment of the Values and Effectiveness of 15 years of Streambank Stabilization and Riparian Restoration Activity in the Salmon River Watershed

Several hundred individual restoration sites have been undertaken on the Salmon River since the SRWR began developing its watershed restoration partnerships in 1993 . The assumption to date has been that completed restoration sites have incrementally contributed to a process of watershed restoration. Partnership building based on this assumption has now involved over 2000 individuals including agencies, landowners, First Nations, industry, citizens and NGOs. Attitudes and practices appear to have changed during this period perhaps for a variety of reasons. The vast majority of restored sites appear to have been successful from a technical point of view. Assessments of key features show quite clearly that these sites generally contribute to watershed integrity rather than detract from it. A few sites (approximately 3%) have been identified operationally as failures. Most of this small number of sites appear to have failed due to partnership issues rather than technical shortfalls, emphasising the importance of human behaviour. Meanwhile measurable progress is being made toward the goal of restoring riparian health on the Salmon River since 1993. The process of undertaking restoration sites on the Salmon River continues and the original list of sites is now nearly halved. However site performance and restoration values have not been assessed at a watershed scale. Although far from complete, this collective effort towards watershed sustainability seems to demonstrate our collective capacity to change how we see and act regarding fish and fish habitat issues at a watershed level. Individual project actions fit within this context as we approach a 1991 goal of restoring the majority of severely eroding sites and begin to see corresponding changes in fish habitat and human behaviour that has resulted incrementally from these undertakings. In terms of improvement to local stewardship practices growing participation and improved practices in our program over the past 16 years suggest a shift in human behaviour toward more proactive approach of caring for the riparian areas along the Salmon River and its tributaries. Local Stewardship practices and perspectives were polled using a subset of 52 restoration projects and 34 landowners to comparing past practices to present practices as well as awareness and willingness to undertake beneficial practices. The 2008-09 review results suggest that stewardship and restoration activities have been effective tools to promote salmon and salmon habitat. This is based on a correlation evident between awareness, attitude, values, and land practices suggesting that a shift toward more sustainable practices has accompanied the extensive streambank restoration process that has been undertaken. In addition, an increase in habitat values at restored sites correlated well with increasing age of the site restoration structures to date, suggesting that as assumed habitat features continue to improve at most sites for at least 15 years following restoration. This assessment of site condition and human attitude reinforces the idea that a policy driven more by social marketing Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program 2008 Final Report 3 than streambank reconstruction will be an important switch to make once the main benefit from achieving streambank recovery at a watershed scale has peaked on the Salmon River. This study suggests that an inventory of remaining sites should be completed, a completion goal specified, and that a planned transition that emphasises social marketing techniques and de-emphasises the need for extensive bank reconstruction be undertaken as the threshold is approached on the Salmon River, which appears feasible within a decade.