Strategy: Protect and Restore Functioning Ecosystems

Pierce County, along with the rest of Puget Sound, is changing rapidly. We’ve doubled in population in the last 40 years and are likely to double again in the next forty. As our region has grown, many of the things we love most about this area - the rivers, forests, salmon, and orca - have been degraded or even destroyed. If the place we call home is going to remain a healthy, vibrant place that we all love, we must take it upon ourselves to protect the best of what we have left and restore the areas that desperately need our stewardship. Functioning ecosystems are complex, holistic systems, which interconnect to support healthy habitats, soils, air, and water. By working to protect and restore them, we not only benefit the plants and animals that also call this place home, we create a healthier home for all of us.

Because of this holistic complexity, our work to create healthy, functioning ecosystems must incorporate a systems-based approach, working to restore urban and rural habitats, from upland forests to our marine shorelines. While much of this work entails deepening our impact with existing programs, this plan also calls for some new programming. Starting with forests, we will “work with partners to develop and fund a forestry program to provide technical assistance to rural small forest landowners.” Long a service gap in Pierce County, developing this program will allow us to work with property owners to improve local forested lands to make them more resilient to wildfire, to install best management practices that help improve water quality, and increase habitat for fish and wildlife.

As we move further down the watershed, our core programming will continue to focus on freshwater riparian habitats that are vital to the recovery of Endangered Species Act listed salmonids, which we highlight in Strategy 3. For other rare and endangered plant communities unique to our region, which we haven’t traditionally had the resources to work in, such as our local Prairie Oak Woodland, we will explore the feasibility of supporting additional restoration programs and continue to use our Green Partnership Fund grants program to support partners to address these and other priority habitats.

In rural and urban settings alike, we will take a critical look at our technical assistance programming to identify and fill gaps, targeting stakeholders such as developers, real estate agents, and partners that focus on land use planning and permitting. Together, these key actions will help us change development behaviors and reduce harm to the ecosystem before it occurs. Coupled with efforts to increase the scale and pace of our restoration projects, such as bringing our City for Credits program to scale across the county, we will begin to see genuine improvement in our local ecosystems. As a carbon sequestration program, City Forest Credits is also a key component of our Climate Resiliency work captured in Strategy 9.

As we move into the urban setting, we will work to develop and launch a Habitat at Home program that will focus on helping residential landowners create more habitat for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Combined with our Green Stormwater Infrastructure work outlined in Strategy 4, this programming will bring co-benefits of improved water quality and increased urban tree canopy which reduces the negative health impacts of heat island effect and poor air quality.

Finally, along the marine shoreline, we will continue to build out our new Shore Friendly Pierce program, working with shoreline landowners to improve habitat and increase climate resiliency. We will use geographic information systems to target the highest priority parcels for outreach and technical assistance, creating a project pipeline that will deliver beneficial outcomes for years to come. In the next 5-years, we will complete our first major marine shoreline restoration project and stand it up as an example of what other marine shoreline landowners can do to help make our overall ecosystem better.

Collectively, these key actions will help us focus more on the whole ecosystem and will prioritize our work on areas and actions that will have the biggest impact. Taking this strategic approach will move us closer to our long-term goal: by 2040, Pierce County has thriving ecosystems that support native habitat for healthy populations of salmon, orca and other wildlife, native plants, and pollinators. Advancing life-giving relationships between humans and nature is the greatest challenge of our time. Pierce Conservation District works toward this balance by sustaining functioning habitats, improving the quality of fresh and salt waters and improving conditions for healthy salmon runs, making Pierce County a better place to live, work and play.

Key Measures:

  • Geographic area (stream miles, acres) of priority habitat restored
  • Change in program participant composition to reflect more diverse demographics of Pierce County
  • Number of land users implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) 


Key Action

Five-Year Target(s)



Bring City Forest Credits program to scale across Pierce County

  • X lbs. of carbon sequestered by 2025 (need to use this fall's plantings as baseline for estimate)

Q2 2021 - Q4 2023


Improve Residential Habitat Through a Habitat At Home Program

  • 150 number of land users implementing BMPs

Q1 2021 - Q2 2023


Build out a pollinator outreach program to include recommendations of practices for landowners to implement

  • Pollinator program deployed
  • 5,000 pollinator plants installed

Q1 2021 - Q1 2023


Align with new state pollinator task force work lead by WSDA

  • Pollinator habitat projects implemented on 5 farms.

Q1 2022 - Q4 2025


Develop and launch Habitat at Home Program

  • 200 BMPs installed



Explore feasibility of supporting a Prairie Oak Woodland restoration program




Target key stakeholders to change development behaviors and reduce harm to ecosystems/habitat

  • 90% of all education programming participants display knowledge gain
  • 50% of workshop attendees begin implementing conservation practice within 6 months
  • Programs and services delivery are representative of Pierce County demographics

Q1 2022 - Q1 2023


Identify gaps in workshop programming, i.e. developers, real estate agents, land use planners & permitters and landowners


Q1 2022 - Q1 2023


Interface with planning/permitting agencies so that low-impact development alternatives are provided and landowners are directed to PCD programming


Q1 2022 - Q3 2022


In coordination with partners, develop and fund a forestry program to provide technical assistance to rural small forest landowners

  • Establish the program
  • Adaptively manage targets for implementation once program is established

Q3 2021 - Q3 2022


Broadcast the Green Partnership Fund to partners addressing priority habitats outside of the District's current scope

  • Greater diversity of Pierce County habitat types are improved
  • Partners feel supported and priority habitats are restored

Q3 2021 - Q4 2021


Use GIS prioritization of marine shorelines to target high priority parcels for outreach, technical assistance, and shoreline restoration.

  • Map of marine shoreline parcels ranked according to priority criteria.

Q1 2021 - Q4 2025


Conduct landowner outreach according to prioritization and create a project development pipeline

  • 4-5 armor removal projects in development (i.e. the various stages of feasibility/design/permitting/funding)

Q2 2021 - Q4 2021


Complete a demonstration marine shoreline restoration project.

  • Complete a demonstration marine shoreline restoration project
  • Up to 580 linear feet of hard armoring removed

Q4 2025


Explore feasibility and funding for field survey of shoreline armor condition in Pierce County to generate GIS dataset.

  • Conduct a field survey of shoreline armor condition

Q1-2022 - Q3 2023