WDFW, partners wrap up first phase in Stillman Creek habitat restoration project

Project slated for completion in fall of 2023

This fall, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and partners at the Lewis Conservation District and Capitol Land Trust are putting the finishing touches on the first phase of a project along Stillman Creek in Lewis County that, when complete, will restore two miles of river habitat for fall and spring Chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout, and coastal cutthroat trout.

During this project, Lewis Conservation District is currently removing invasive plants from 40 acres and planting native vegetation in 45 acres along Stillman Creek. Plantings will later grow into a mature forest, providing shade, insects, nutrients, and woody material to further support habitat for fish and wildlife.

Capitol Land Trust also worked with a local landowner to permanently protect 38 acres of habitat along the lower portion of Stillman Creek. Restoration efforts on this property include the addition of new plantings and large wood structures to improve habitat for salmon, other native fish and aquatic species and wildlife.

Large wood structures help create slower and faster water in different areas to scour deep pools and deposit gravel, providing habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Young salmon use pools, riffles, and off-channel habitats to feed, grow, and find refuge during floods. Large wood helps form these habitats, can slow erosion, and is also an important part of a healthy river system. Side and off-channel habitat provides refuge for fish during high-flow events.

The final phase of this project will continue with construction resuming in the summer of 2023. WDFW and its partners anticipate the project being fully complete by fall of 2023.

The Stillman Creek project is just one of several habitat restoration pilot projects, referred to as Early Action Reach projects, as part of the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP), which is a key component of the Chehalis Basin Strategy. The ASRP a science-based plan designed to restore, rebuild, and protect the Chehalis River basin to support a productive ecosystem that is resilient to the impacts of climate change.

WDFW is also sponsoring habitat projects on the Skookumchuck, Wynoochee, and Satsop rivers, and on Stillman Creek, a tributary to the South Fork Chehalis River.

About the Chehalis Basin Strategy

As the state’s second-largest watershed, the Chehalis Basin in southwest Washington sustains communities, economies, and some of the most important salmon runs in Washington. It is also home to the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Quinault Indian Nation.

In the Chehalis Basin, nearly 3,400 miles of perennial streams and rivers provide critical habitat to salmon, other native fish species, and Washington’s largest diversity of amphibians, including the federally endangered Oregon spotted frog. And, for generations, people have relied on the Basin’s fertile land for agriculture and timber harvest. Flooding is a normal part of the Chehalis Basin, but decades of intensive land use have made lands and waterways incapable of absorbing even normal levels of flooding, putting homes, businesses, towns, and fish and wildlife at greater risk.

The Chehalis Basin Strategy is bringing people together to halt and reverse the devastating decline of salmon and other aquatic species and protect communities and landscapes from the predicted increase in flooding disasters. The long-term goal of the Chehalis Basin Strategy is to make the Basin a safer place for families and communities impacted by flooding and to improve and restore aquatic species habitat now and for future generations.

Funding for the Stillman Creek project is provided by the Washington State Legislature through the Department of Ecology’s Office of Chehalis Basin.

Visit the Chehalis Basin Strategy website to learn how people are working together to reduce flood damage and restore salmon habitat.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.