The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.

Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Masters Field Project

Department or Program Affiliation

Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Wang, Grace A.

Second Advisor

Hollenhorst, Steven J.

Third Advisor

Grah, Oliver


Native salmon runs in the South Fork Nooksack River watershed have dramatically declined from historical levels, primarily due to the degradation of their habitat and a persistent decline in water quality and quantity. Research suggests that commercial logging—the dominant land use in the watershed—has been a primary driver of these watershed impairments. Community-driven forest stewardship offers an alternative approach to forest management that can help restore watershed health while simultaneously producing high-quality wood products and supporting local jobs in the woods. Stakeholder groups have joined Whatcom County and the Nooksack Tribe to develop a community forest on Stewart Mountain, just east of Bellingham; however, it remains uncertain how the forest should be managed and which entity should eventually own the land.

This graduate research project includes an inventory of all community forests throughout the Pacific Northwest and an examination of their approaches to governance, ownership, and forest management. Three case studies were selected based on their unique approach to community forestry, and each was studied in greater detail through an extensive review of background documents and in-depth interviews with key partners involved with the projects. This research informed a series of recommendations regarding which ownership and governance models are most conducive to the proposed Stewart Mountain Community Forest (SMCF).

This graduate research project consists of two parts—one focused on community forestry in the Pacific Northwest and the other focused on tribal water rights and the water rights adjudication process that has been initiated in the Nooksack watershed. The Nooksack adjudication has the potential to spur collaborative and innovative solutions—such as community forestry—that produce meaningful conservation gains for fish and greater water certainty for farmers in the years ahead. As I argue in both papers, if successfully implemented, community-driven forest stewardship in the Mt. Baker Foothills holds great potential to address many of the Nooksack basin’s water challenges, while also bolstering the resilience of the watershed to future climate impacts.




Pacific salmon, forest management, climate resilience, climate adaptation, watershed restoration, community forestry, tribal water rights, water rights adjudication


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Watershed restoration--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Watershed; Salmon stock management--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Watershed; Community forests--Northwest, Pacific; Logging--Environmental aspects--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Watershed; Salmon--Effect of logging on--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Watershed

Geographic Coverage

Nooksack River Watershed (Wash.); Northwest, Pacific




masters theses




Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.

Water Rights Adjudication in the Nooksack Watershed – Harris 2022 (FINAL).pdf (1803 kB)
Water Rights Adjudication in the Nooksack Watershed