Lessons learned and other inspirations
By Allison Roberts
Have you heard of Salmon-Safe? Like many certifications, it's a program that encourages adoption of practices that are good for the environment. Salmon, like the canary for mine workers, provide an early warning system for a watershed’s health. If salmon are thriving in a river or stream, the surrounding land is typically considered productive and healthy. That's why the focus for Salmon Safe is to transform land management practices so Pacific salmon can thrive. It is working in key agricultural and urban watersheds on the West Coast and many organizations - universities, land developers, parks systems, marinas, airports, and even breweries are starting to pay attention by committing to salmon safe practices.
Who started Salmon Safe and why is it important?
Founded by Pacific Rivers Council in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon, Salmon-Safe is a voluntary program run by a nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon and is a leading eco label with more than 95,000 acres of farm and urban lands certified in Oregon, Washington, California, and British Columbia. You might even see the Salmon-Safe logo at your local supermarket or natural food store. Certification is voluntary and requires the entity bearing the label to adopt fish- and wildlife-friendly design and management practices. The Salmon-Safe label provides credibility, visibility and marketing opportunities for qualifying entities that apply for and achieve the certification. For Puget Sound, Stewardship Partners is the entity bringing Salmon Safe to our area.
Why should we care?
When we drive our cars or pour something other than water down a storm drain, it doesn't just go away. It may be out of sight, but it's not gone. When it comes to water (and anything within nature) all things are connected. That substance eventually makes it into a stream. That stream eventually flows to the sea. In that sea, fish and other creatures encounter it. If it's toxic, it causes harm. Salmon are particularly vulnerable to toxins in the water in which they swim. Salmon exposed to stormwater die within hours to a day of exposure to polluted stormwater. It's found that the pollutants in the water are disrupting the fish on a genetic level. Copper in the water destroys their sense of smell. They gasp for air and become disoriented. Our wild salmon are in real trouble and Salmon Safe is one way to take action and use best practices that protect the environment upon which we all - including salmon - depend.
What's the culprit?
Pollution in stormwater is a major culprit in the decline of salmon. The Pacific Northwest is known for its rain and when it falls on roadways, it picks up all kinds of contaminants. Also, rain that falls on galvanized roofing can become polluted with toxins like zinc which are especially harmful to salmon. Rain that falls on farmland or parking lots also picks up contaminants. Salmon Safe is much like Low-Impact Development (LID) in that it incorporates practices where stormwater - like that running off a roof and into a downspout - is treated before it has a chance to reach streams, rivers, or lakes.
Who is adopting Salmon Safe practices?
Education campuses like University of Washington are adopting Salmon Safe. Corporate campuses are adopting it too, such as Intel and Nike. Park systems like that operated by the City of Eugene are Salmon Safe. Seattle's Children's Hospital is the first hospital to be Salmon Safe. It demonstrates their commitment to the health of nearby Lake Washington. Even breweries are adopting a Salmon Safe ethos, Canadian outdoor gear company MEC is Salmon Safe. Golf courses can be Salmon Safe too and probably should be because of their impact and use of water. Similarly, beer, wine, and spirits producers in the Pacific Northwest are major users of water and many are leading the charge to protect salmon too. Farmers in eastern Washington are starting to implement Salmon Safe as well.
The Salmon-Safe certification requires development of a comprehensive stormwater management plan, better documentation of landscape management practices, the incorporation of plants that filter contaminants, construction practices that properly detain stormwater, and conservation strategies such as reductions in irrigation. Salmon Safe practices also include integrated pest management (IPM), efficient water use, and soil conservation.
Salmon Safe is a third-party, peer-reviewed accreditation and certification program that utilizes professional inspectors with experience in both habitat conservation and sustainable agriculture. Inspired? Your organization can become Salmon Safe too and lead the way, build your environmental brand, and do right by your community and the world. Salmon will thank you too!
Kulshan Services works with governments, non-profits, and businesses to create opportunities for addressing ecosystem management and restoration, climate change, and sustainability challenges. We possess in-depth environmental, facilitation, sustainability, and technical and field service experience and skill sets.