The Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan


Recognizing the priceless heritage of the Nisqually River, in 1985 the state legislature directed the Department of Ecology to create a comprehensive management plan for the river and its watershed. Over 30 years later, the members of the Nisqually River Council continue to steward and monitor the health of our waters, wildlife, and communities.

The Nisqually River Task Force, consisting of federal, state and local governments, business representatives, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and interested citizen activists, created the Nisqually River Management Plan in 1987. The plan provides for a “…balanced stewardship of the area’s economic resources, natural resources and cultural resources.” The Nisqually River Council (NRC) was formed as an interagency coalition to implement the management principles outlined in the plan.

One of the most pristine rivers in Washington State, the Nisqually journeys through an amazing variety of habitats – from subalpine meadows and old-growth Douglas-fir forest through forested foothills and across lowland prairies to its estuarine reaches and tidal mudflats.

The watershed encompasses a broad range of land uses and jurisdictions – rural communities, national and state parks and forests, public and private timberlands, municipal hydropower projects, farmlands, Mount Rainier, the Nisqually Indian Reservation, Joint Base Lewis McChord and the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The NRC’s mission is to create sustainability in the Nisqually Watershed for current and future generations by developing a common culture of environmental, social, and economic balance among governmental and community partners.

Between 2005 and 2011, the NRC produced an update to the 1987 Management Plan titled the Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan (NWSP). The NWSP created the NRC’s current mission, guiding principles, and organizational structure. It also established 12 overarching long-term goals for watershed sustainability, including social, economic, and environmental measures. These goals and sub-indicators form the guiding principles and overall goals of the Nisqually River Council.

In 2018, the Nisqually River Council produced the first comprehensive NWSP Status Report. The Report documents the watershed’s health on measures for each of the 12 NWSP goals. It celebrates the remarkable successes in restoration, recreation planning, and innovative resource management achieved under NRC leadership over the last 30 years. Where necessary, it also identifies challenges, concerns, and gaps in existing data to help guide future study. This Report establishes a baseline of data about the watershed and its communities to inform future strategic planning for long-term sustainability projects.

Nisqually Watershed Sustainability Plan Goals

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Environmental Sustainability: The natural resources of the Nisqually watershed — the forests, the fish and wildlife, the water, and the agricultural lands — co-exist with the community and economy it supports. The natural resources of the watershed are finite and can easily be spoiled. With the looming pressures of population growth, we must redouble our efforts to leave a legacy of one of the healthiest and unspoiled watersheds in the region.

  • Protect, restore and enhance ecosystem function
  • Protect and enhance biological diversity
  • Promote sustainable resource use
  • Facilitate the appreciation, protection and enhancement of the watershed through education and participation

Social Sustainability: Communities in this watershed determine how they affect the economy and environment. It is important to keep these communities healthy so they can continue to make good decisions. Strong communities require access to good schools, health care, employment, the arts, and a healthy environment.20150926_101055_resized copy

  • Promote health and wellness in the community
  • Protect and enhance the network of trails and recreational opportunities for all ages and abilities
  • Promote local community identities, cultures, arts and heritage
  • Support fully functioning, integrated communities with the full complete of services

Economic Sustainability: An economy that is built on sustainable industries is critical to the success of this plan and the Nisqually watershed as a whole. We work to encourage other new and sustainable economic opportunities along with the tourism industry that is becoming well established. Our vision for sustainable businesses includes sustainable goods and services that are produced in a sustainable manner, within a culture of sustainability. We seek a healthy, vibrant economy that values the qualities that make the Nisqually watershed a wonderful place to live.

  • Promote the development of sustainable businesses and built communities
  • Support sustainable tourism and recreation
  • Enhance economic viability of sustainable agriculture, forestry, and fisheries
  • Increase market access for watershed-based businesses

NWSP Links

Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan Status Report (2018)

Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan (2011 update)

Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan (2009)

Nisqually River Management Plan (1987)