Positively Promoting a Healthier Region
The Salmon-Safe label has earned accolades from around the country for developing an incentive that encourages Northwest landowners to take responsibility for how their management practices impact their local watersheds.
Salmon Safe, a nonprofit organization, originated in Portland, Ore. in 1997. The organization oversees a third-party certification system to recognize landowners like farms, wineries and urban properties for practicing land management strategies that protect healthy habitat for salmon – and by extension, preserve the natural ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest.
In 2004, the local nonprofit Stewardship Partners, which works to improve the quality of Washington watersheds, brought the Salmon-Safe program to Washington state. In the four years since, this branch of Salmon-Safe has expanded to include 50 farms and 25 vineyards.
The certification has inspired several of them to make major changes to their practices, says Stewardship Partners Executive Director David Burger. One example is the Wilcox Farm, located along the the Nisqually River, which became the largest family owned farm to earn Salmon Safe's stamp of approval. The farm, known primarily for its eggs, converted to organic methods and completed significant restoration of the riverbank as part of its certification process. And the changes made a lasting impression: the Wilcox Farm went on to partner with Stewardship Partners, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Nisqually River Council the Nisqually Land Trust and Seattle firm Jones & Jones in an innovative watershed conservation project that recently garnered an award from the Cascade Land Conservancy.
The Salmon-Safe label helps guide consumers to products that promote the health of their region, and in so doing, help stir up their awareness of their specific location in the natural world, and their ties to other species. "People want to know how they can help salmon," says Burger, "because salmon are the icon of the Northwest."
Why it's worldchanging:
Organic labels tell you when a product is free from pesticides, and "locally grown" says you're supporting local farms and minimized transportation impacts – all of which are important. But by directly linking the food we eat to the preservation of biodiversity specific to our region, the Salmon Safe program calls attention to the interconnected relationships of people, food, land and wildlife in a way that other food certifications don't. And the incentive nature of the program, which motivates landowners to make stewardship decisions on their own, is another bonus. In Burger's words, "You can take measures that aren't just regulatory to achieve your goals and engage private landowners to take part in conservation."
This post is part of the series, "Seattle to the World: 100 Best Innovations from the Emerald City."