Under British Columbia’s Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), the B.C. Minister of Environment is authorised to designate a watershed as a Fisheries Sensitive Watershed (FSW) if it has either: 1) significant fish values; or 2) watershed sensitivity. FSW designation includes setting associated objectives aimed at directing forest and range management activities in a manner that maintains and protects habitat conditions essential to fish (e.g., hydrology, stream bed dynamics, channel integrity, water quality and quantity, and cumulative hydrological effects). Thirty-one FSWs have been designated to date by the Minister and, over the course of the next several years, there are plans to identify and designate additional watersheds in the province as FSWs.

ESSA was contracted to assist the Ministry of Environment (MOE), in conjunction with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) , with developing the framework for an effectiveness monitoring program that can be used to determine whether FSWs are meeting their intended goals. ESSA’s role in the project involved three phases of work:

1. Conducting an expert literature review of the current and relevant science/information on watershed-based effectiveness monitoring methodologies with specific reference to aquatic stream channel (fish habitat) conditions.
2. Recommending well-founded options for a cost effective and statistically valid multi-scale FSW monitoring program design, based on review of various approaches to monitoring watersheds at the landscape and regional level, and bearing in mind the data (and other) resources available to the Ministry.
3. Implementing two FSW monitoring pilot projects (evaluating required personnel [i.e. expertise], resource requirements, and cost estimates) within the Lakelse drainage of north central BC and the Memekay watershed of eastern Vancouver Island.