Forest and Water Climate Adaptation: A Plan for Whatcom County, Washington

The Model Forest Policy Program, the Cumberland River Compact, and the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) developed a Climate Adaptation Plan for Whatcom County, Washington, with a focus on resiliency and adaptability of ecosystems in the county and Nooksack River basin. Assessments were conducted on the county’s water, forest, and economic resources, current climate, and potential future climate impacts. The assessments informed a risk analysis that identified Whatcom County’s most vulnerable sectors. Local solutions were developed to respond to primary vulnerabilities identified for the area, including water supply, stormwater and flood management, forests, salmon fisheries, and agriculture.

The primary goals for Whatcom County to increase resiliency are: raising awareness for the need to educate local and regional decision-makers about climate change, including climate adaptation strategies in the process of natural resource management planning, and educating Whatcom County’s community on forest and water climate adaptation strategies. The goals are broken down into increasingly specific levels of objectives, strategies, and measures to ensure that each goal is achieved. Specific strategies range from engaging a local realtors association to educate the public on the importance of wetlands, to holding monthly meetings to discuss climate risks to salmon populations.

The document includes a matrix of at-risk sectors in Whatcom County, with corresponding adaptation strategies and examples of how to build adaptive capacity. The plan also provides overviews of climate science projected regional impacts, and assessments of water, forest, and economic resources. 

A highlight of the plan is its attention to critical habitats of endangered species. The area’s already-stressed stocks of salmon are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts on their habitat, such as increased water temperature. Salmon protection strategies in the plan include limiting harvests for selective fisheries, expanding protected areas, and reducing potential for invasive species.  

The NSEA is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring sustainable wild salmon runs to Whatcom County. It created this plan in the Climate Solutions University: Forest and Water Strategies program with funding from the Model Forest Policy Program. Whatcom County was one of six communities nation-wide to work with the CSU program in assessing local forest, water, and climate related risks and opportunities, and creating a localized climate adaptation plan. 

Success for the plan is defined by the recognition by local government officials and stakeholders of the need to include climate change adaptation as a core management responsibility and integrate climate strategies into natural resource planning and management. The NSEA will monitor the progress of the plan. 

Publication Date: December 2010

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Lindsay Taylor
  • Kayla Henson

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  • Adaptation plan

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