Massive, inflexible buffers and salmon recovery
Sometimes called “big, dumb buffers,” the huge inflexible buffers called for by activists and Governor Inslee are hundreds to thousands of feet of trees and bushes on both sides of all streams, rivers and even man-made drainage ditches. The buffer distance is measured from the edge of the floodplain; so if a stream or river floods occasionally, the buffer distance starts from where it possibly may flood. The width is based on the average height of a mature tree, meaning that in Western Washington hundreds to thousands of feet –– or much more –– would be converted to buffers on either side of the waterways potential flow. They are called inflexible because of their standard size and design without considering local conditions.
Buffers can help salmon
Riparian buffers help protect salmon by reducing water temperature in the summer, protecting against runoff from roads and fields, adding woody debris to streams, controlling sediments and protecting banks. That’s why farmers voluntarily provide land for miles of buffers and continue to support implementing smart, flexible buffers.
Taking thousands of acres of farmland will harm salmon recovery
Buffer activists and our Governor are focusing their demands for these buffers on farmland. But, this would harm farming and salmon recovery while ignoring the greatest challenges for salmon. As farmers point out, “Our whole farm is a buffer.” Deer, coyotes, beavers and hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl show how important farmland is in wildlife habitat. But, instead of requiring these buffers where they will do the most good, the activists and government leaders who support them target farmland. By targeting farmland their demands would greatly accelerate the already devastating loss of farms and conversion of farmland to urban sprawl –– causing more problems for salmon. This land would no longer grow food and farmland would simply be taken out of production without compensation to the landowner. Smaller farms losing much of their farmland would be forced to sell to much larger farms or to developers for roads, homes and businesses.