Fraser Salmon &  Watersheds Program


Every sector of the economy, every aspect of life is linked to the precious resource of water and its natural flow through the provincial watersheds. Our natural capital, particularly access to enough clean water, is fundamental to both the health and economic prosperity of British Columbians. As with human health, keeping our ecosystems healthy is far more economical than curing them or, worse, losing them altogether.

BC’s wild Pacific Salmon run from rugged mountain streams to spectacular coastal waters, and poignantly reflect our spirit of strength, resilience and survival. Salmon feed us, inspire us, and provide the nutrients that our forests and wild animals depend on for life. Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program sought to inspire individuals, organizations and government agencies to “Think Salmon,” i.e. to contribute to the best possible conditions and environment for British Columbia’s Pacific salmon. What is good for salmon is good for us. If we all play a part in helping salmon to thrive, we protect beautiful BC for future generations.


British Columbia watersheds face critical challenges brought about by climate change and development pressure, including rising water temperatures, water shortages and declining salmon stocks. Government plans such Living Water Smart and the Climate Adaption Strategy set the direction for addressing these challenges.  However, government alone cannot implement these plans with its traditional tools of regulation and enforcement. First, this approach is prohibitively expensive, especially in these tough economic times. Second, the centralized approach is not suited to the complexity and uncertainty of the situation.

Living Rivers was established by the government of British Columbia to create a legacy for the province based on healthy watersheds, sustainable ecosystems and thriving communities. The Living Rivers Advisory Group has used the $21 million fund to support innovative programs in the Fraser Basin, in the Georgia Basin and Vancouver Island and in the Skeena River watershed. Recognizing the need to change how people work together, these Living Rivers programs address the health and sustainability of water by fostering collaboration and an attitude of stewardship within communities.

The Living Rivers approach can provide leaner plan implementation that integrates policy with community concerns and local knowledge. With this approach, government is a partner that sets priorities and provides basic funds for communities to strategize about those priorities. This engages communities to apply the priorities in their local context and to participate in whatever ways make sense, including co-funding and outreach to other partners.


In 2006, Living Rivers funded a plan for the Fraser Basin, co-managed by Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fraser Basin Council, to inspire changes in human behaviour for the benefit of salmon and watersheds.  The $10 million from Living Rivers motivated Fisheries and Oceans Canada to contribute an additional $5 million in cash and $5 million in services, and the Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program (FSWP) was launched. In its six years of operation, FSWP distributed $13.6 million to over 300 projects. Based on data for 2007 through 2009, every project dollar from Living Rivers has been matched by $3.30 from the federal contribution together with other sources estimated by project leaders.

Equally important but not as easily quantified, FSWP projects have facilitated new relationships and capacity among the watershed stakeholders throughout the basin. This provincial-federal partnership takes a unique approach of enabling communities to identify and address the issues for their water and watersheds. The approach has been a powerful catalyst for money and participation throughout the Fraser Basin, delivering projects with less bureacracy and expense than would otherwise be possible.