Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

Changing Stream Corridors Throughout Washington

Program Overview

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a joint federal and state funded program that restores riparian (streamside) habitat for salmon and protects that habitat for 10-15 years.  Most of the funding (80%) comes from the Farm Service Agency with the remainder through the Conservation Commission.  CREP plants native trees and shrubs to improve riparian conditions and enhance wetlands along salmon streams.  All of the costs for these improvements are paid by the program.  In addition, the program provides oversight and maintenance for about five years after planting to assure success.  The landowners are paid rent for allowing their land to be used for fish and wildlife improvements and receive a monetary bonus for signing up.  Interested landowners should contact their local conservation district.


  • In 2012, we reached a milestone by surpassing 1,000 contracts.  We currently have 1,021 CREP projects across the state.
  • The projects cover 13,662 acres along 735 miles of streams.  Likely the largest riparian restoration program in Washington.
  • More than 5.2 million native trees and shrubs have been planted.  Nearly 1 million in Whatcom County alone.
  • CREP buffers are “no touch” buffers.  Animals must be excluded.  To that end, more than 1.5 million feet of fencing has been installed by this program.


  • CREP plants are growing and surviving well with growth ranging from 10.6 to 29.3″ per year, and site survival averaging 75-90%.
  • Cooling summer water temperatures for salmon is an important goal for CREP.  CREP sites that are 5-10 years old are already averaging 72% canopy cover along small streams.  This is a remarkable result!
  • In areas where CREP has been targeted so that most of the stream has been restored, benefits to water temperature and salmon have been seen.  In the Tucannon River, 79% of the riparian has been restored and in response, summer water temperatures have dropped about 10 degrees and young salmon are using areas of the river that were previously too warm for them.


Changing the Face of the Landscape

“CREP has changed the landscape in Whatcom County” (Wayne Chaudiere, Whatcom Conservation District). Riparian buffers, such as the one shown in the photo, now span along 132 miles of stream in Whatcom County, forming a panorama of native tree and shrub forests that were just recently open fields or invasive plant species such as blackberry. Photo: CREP buffer along Kamm Creek flowing into the Nooksack River. Photographed by John Gillies, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Awards and Accolades for CREP

Whatcom Conservation District received the Puget Sound Champion Award in December 2012 for their extensive CREP buffer work.  They have restored more than 2300 acres of riparian habitat in their district.

In the Walla Walla County Conservation District, Drs. Sato and Nakagawa recently visited from Japan.  They’ve been studying various riparian programs around the world and found the Walla Walla CREP to be the most advanced and successful of those that they’ve visited.  They are selecting the program as the template by which Japan will design their riparian restoration programs.

As part of their 25th anniversary of the federal Conservation Reserve Program, the Farm Service Agency awarded their State Conservation Stewardship award to the Schulke family in Walla Walla County for their use of CREP to restore over 260 acres of family farmland for fish and wildlife habitat.

Through the Years with One CREP Project

CREP Project at Year 1

Same CREP Project at Year 3

Same CREP Project at Year 7

CREP Files, Reports, and Maps for Download

CREP Monitoring Reports

Each year, a randomly-selected group of CREP sites is monitored by the Conservation Commission for effectiveness.  Below are the links to each of the annual reports that include this monitoring:

2-CRP Handbook and Amendments

Below are the links to the 2-CRP Handbook for CREP and amendments.  This handbook provides CRP policies and instructions to FSA State and County Offices and NRCS Regional, State, Area, and Field Offices for: adhering to general provisions and carrying out Agency responsibilities; maintaining useful life easements; approving CRP-I ‘s; making annual rental payments; performing other CRP activities; CIS policies.

Eligibility Maps

Below are links to four files that describe the stream miles that are currently eligible for the forested buffer practice under CREP. The zipped file contains the statewide shapefiles. The Excel spreadsheet is a summary of the segments and lengths, and the htm describes the metadata. Please note that there are three views of the stream data in the spreadsheet. Click the read more link for more information or to download the available files.

(Note: In the spreadsheet, view 1 is the state summary, view 2 is the district summary, and view 3 is the stream summary. You can select a view by clicking the appropriate number located to the far left under the toolbar.)