Farmlands offer a valuable opportunity to restore watershed health. Streamside buffers on agricultural land can reduce the amount of sediment, excess nutrients, pathogens, and chemicals reaching lakes, rivers, and streams by as much as 90 percent. State, Federal, and local partners in
Washington are using the Federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to restore 200,000 acres of riparian agricultural land along streams inhabited by eight species of endangered salmon and trout. In addition to their role in filtering contaminants and sediment, these buffers will also provide valuable wildlife habitat, and will shade streams and rivers, helping to maintain the cooler water temperatures that salmon species need. The Washington-Oregon CREP project uses Federal and State dollars as part of the voluntary Federal conservation program. The States chose the target areas for the program, the conservation issues to be addressed, and the conservation practices to be used. States pay a minimum of 20 percent of project costs. In
Oregon, farmers and producers can enter into ten to fifteen year contracts to plant and maintain long term riparian vegetation. Producers who are irrigating their land are eligible for rental payments based on the value of irrigated land rather than the dry land rental rate. In return for the higher rate, producers agree to divert less irrigation water, allowing more water to stay in streams and rivers. In
Washington, producers receive a 50 percent higher incentive payment plus a 10 percent payment for lands protected as agricultural lands under the Washington Growth Management Act. Federal and State programs pay the cost of the conservation practices. Volunteers help by growing and planting native trees, removing invasive species, monitoring restoration sites, counting salmon, participating in educational programs, and more.