Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)


Are you a CREP technician? View program resources.
Program Overview

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a joint federal and state funded program that restores streamside habitat for salmon and protects that habitat for 10-15 years. CREP plants native trees and shrubs to improve stream 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 1,067 CREP projects across the state.
  • CREP projects cover 11,426 acres along 634.4 miles of streams, likely making CREP the largest riparian restoration program in Washington.
  • More than 5.2 million native trees and shrubs have been planted, including nearly 1 million in Whatcom County alone.
  • Domestic grazing animals (e.g. horses, cows) must be excluded from CREP buffers. 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.
Learn more about CREP eligibility and how to apply:
aerial view of crep buffer along field
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 planting

Year 1

crep project at year three - some tree growth

Year 3

crep site after 10 years

Year 7

CREP Files

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: