Towards a vision for salmon habitat in the Lower Fraser River

Photo by Michael O. Snyder.

Dozens of streamkeeper groups, First Nations, and conservation groups have been working diligently for years to protect streams and habitat in the Lower Fraser River. Despite these efforts, they cannot stem the damage caused by the rapid pace of growth and development in the lower mainland and the dismantling of agencies that once had a mandate to mitigate habitat destruction.

Ecological governance

We need a long term vision for salmon habitat supported by legislation and a governance structure that puts a priority on the health of the Lower Fraser River and estuary.

Since 2016, we have engaged over 70 organizations and individuals active in efforts to protect salmon habitat. Our engagement with these groups reveals a desire for a broad vision that captures the importance of the Lower Fraser River and estuary for its local and global significance. We published our findings from workshops, such as those hosted by Kwantlen, Sto’lo and Tsawassen First Nations, that outline broad aspirations for addressing the loss and degradation of salmon habitat in the Lower Fraser River.

Prioritizing habitat restoration in the Lower Fraser River

Building on the Fraser River estuary threat assessment and the mapping work, we partnered with the University of British Columbia to establish a scientific basis for habitat restoration initiatives in the Lower Fraser River and estuary. We will use spatial analysis tools to provide an objective, science-based review of salmon habitat restoration priorities. In parallel, we will continue to engage a broader coalition of groups and galvanize support for increased investments in habitat restoration.

With the spatial analysis in hand, we will develop a costed and prioritized restoration strategy for the Lower Fraser River. At present restoration and conservation efforts are piecemeal and uncoordinated. Without a coordinated and cost-effective set of prioritized actions, salmon habitat will continue to be lost and degraded. The goal of this project is to collect and contribute critical knowledge that result in a cost-effective salmon habitat restoration plan for the Lower Fraser River. Such a plan will provide prioritized measures based on the expected benefit from management actions, their cost, and the social and technical feasibility of the actions. This project will contribute to the development of a prospectus for investing in the future of salmon habitat in the Lower Fraser River.

Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy

As environmental experts, Raincoast is participating in the development of the Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy (LMFMS) that is being facilitated by the Fraser Basin Council. The project is entering phase II with the goal of developing a flood action plan with input from a range of stakeholders. Through involvement with the LMFMS we aim to influence land-use practice with regard to alternative flood management structures, the impact on salmon habitat and the potential for salmon habitat restoration. We hope to influence the outcome of this process by demonstrating the value of options that are greener, more sustainable and benefit salmon habitat. We will also encourage municipalities to consider the scientific evidence behind various management options.

Mapping Lower Fraser salmon habitats

We have been undertaking mapping that identifies the broad potential for freshwater habitat protection and restoration. This work is helping to lay the foundation for more detailed assessments to guide conservation planning and restoration through the whole lower Fraser River. Our mapping database identifies the current status of salmon streams in the Lower Fraser, the location of active stewardship groups, and bold conservation proposals such as the Connected Waters program of Watershed Watch. This mapping is ongoing.

Contribute to our map

Do you have comments or contributions? Contact Riley Finn,