Juvenile steelhead in Puget Sound

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Habitat in the Puget Sound

Successful projects help to recover and protect habitat

Habitat restoration and protection is paramount for Puget Sound fish recovery. While challenges remain (development, marine survival, climate change, etc.) significant progress is being made throughout the region in terms of restoration and protection:

  • Lyre River Protection (Olympic Peninsula): secured 280 acres of estuary, wetland, tideland, and bluff-backed beaches
  • Fir Island Farm Restoration (Skagit River): restored tidal flooding to 126 acres, supporting estuary habitat for salmon while also maintaining snow goose management and public access, and providing flood protection for farmland
  • Qwuloolt Estuary (Snohomish River): restored 354 acres of historic wetland for Chinook

Continued growth and development threatens habitat quality

While we are making progress in terms of habitat protection and restoration around the Sound, we are continuing to lose valuable salmon habitat in many areas. In some watersheds, development is surpassing restoration. Success in recovering salmon runs will require both restoring degraded habitat and protecting functioning habitat.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s State of Our Watersheds report provides information and data about habitat problems in Puget Sound. The report also notes the greatest pressures affecting salmon recovery:

  • Shoreline Armoring
  • Water Quality
  • Stormwater Runoff
  • Permit-Exempt Wells
  • Impervious Surfaces
  • Loss of Forest Cover
  • Fish Passage Barriers
  • Development in Floodplains and Estuaries

In addition, the high rate of human population growth in the Puget Sound region generates tremendous pressure on habitat quality.

Indicator data

Habitat Projects


Habitat Quality

large wood (volume) – click >> to open legend

Land Use Changes

The map and change data relate to the Puget Sound Partnership’s Vital Sign target for reducing the development conversation of ecologically important lands – part of the Land Development and Cover Implementation Strategy process. For the purposes of this Land Development and Cover indicator and target, ecologically important lands are those lands that in their current state either: 1) Provide high hydrological function, with respect to regulating water flows, or 2) Provide high habitat or biodiversity value.

Note: At the time this target was developed (2011), data were not available to incorporate water quality functions into the definition of ecologically important lands.

The chart shows that while no county was close to meeting the adopted target, it is very important to remember that this information is based on analyzing a relatively small series of time periods, 2006 to 2009 and 2009 to 2011. Additional change detection monitoring over time should help to improve the reliability and utility of this information. A third time period of 2011-2013 is being assessed now and is about 75% complete as of June 2016. Puget Sound counties vary significantly in both the rate and total acres of change within rural lands in the important land base.

For more information on the methods used to detect change on the important land base, see High Resolution Change Detection by WDFW.

Estimated population density year 2040 (click >> to open legend)

For more information about habitat project actions, visit the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Habitat Work Schedule and Project Search public databases.

Visit How we measure for background about this data, and our Salmon Data Portal for original source data behind the indicator charts and graphs used throughout this site.