Forest and Range Evaluation Program fish/watershed monitoring

Last updated on May 8, 2024

Under B.C.'s Forest and Range Practices Act Government Actions Regulation, and the Oil and Gas Activities Act Environmental Management and Protection Regulationwatersheds with significant fish values and sensitivity can be designated as fisheries sensitive watersheds (FSWs).  

The Forest Planning and Practices Regulation includes objectives for protecting FSWs, as well as conserving water, fish, wildlife and biodiversity within riparian areas in all watersheds. 

On this pageFREP Fish/Riparian Monitoring

Priority question 

"Are watersheds adequately protected and managed to maintain the functional processes and habitat needed for the fish and aquatic/riparian ecosystems within them?"

How the fish/watershed value is evaluated

Effectiveness monitoring and assessment is critical for ensuring that activities on the landscape maintain the natural “watershed processes” and “functioning condition” necessary to conserve healthy fish populations and protect habitat. FREP has two different assessments for watersheds:

  • The Watershed Status Evaluation Protocol for fisheries sensitive watersheds
  • The Routine-Level Watershed Assessment

Both of the options above incorporate riparian, water quality and fish passage/habitat connectivity into the overall evaluation methodology.

The Watershed Status Evaluation Protocol

The Watershed Status Evaluation Protocol (WSEP) is used to assess the fish habitat status of a fisheries sensitive watershed (FSW), and similarly, of other watersheds with high fish values using a two-step approach: 

  • Computer-based GIS (Tier I) monitoring methods to estimate potential risk (or hazards) from disturbance to fish and fish habitat
  • Field-based (Tier II) monitoring methods involving data collection at sites selected through a randomized sampling design to understand the current condition of fish habitat in the watershed

Together the two provide an assessment of the status of a watershed from a fish (aquatic) habitat perspective. The WSEP has been developed jointly by government and partners through application of the protocol to a variety of watersheds throughout B.C.

Watersheds assessed using the WSEP are published as Watershed Status Evaluation Reports (WSERs).

The Routine-Level Watershed Assessment

The Routine-Level Watershed Assessment was developed to give a less rigorous but strategic and effective option to evaluate functioning condition in any watershed of interest by:

  • Using a systematic pour-point sampling design
  • Combining GIS information for riparian disturbance with stream field sampling data weighted by catchment size in an integrated analysis

The routine-level assessment is described in Technical Guidance # 7 and the report detailing pilot testing of the assessment can be found in FREP Report #41.