(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2008) Twenty-five vineyards representing 925 acres or 56 percent of vineyard acreage in the Walla Walla Basin in Washington state, as well as the 110-acre Walla Walla Community College (WWCC), are newly certified “Salmon-Safe” for their land practices that help accelerate salmon’s recovery. The designation means that landowners go above and beyond regulations to adopt significant and specific measures that restore in-stream habitat, conserve water, protect streamside habitat and wetlands on site, reduce erosion and sedimentation, and reduce or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides.Certification is awarded only after comprehensive on-site assessments by independent inspectors based on Salmon-Safe’s rigorous standards. Salmon-Safe is a leading regional eco-label that in 11 years has certified more than 60,000 acres of farm and urban lands in Oregon and Washington, including one-third of Oregon’s vineyard acreage, as well as the headquarters campuses of Nike, Washington State Department of Ecology, and Kettle Foods.“The magnitude of the participation underscores the Walla Walla valley’s leadership in adopting and committing to sustainable practices that benefit people and land, and help salmon spawn and thrive,” said Dan Kent, Salmon-Safe managing director. “The certifications and assessments also mark a major expansion of Salmon-Safe east of the Cascades, a region critical to salmon recovery efforts.”
“Great wine goes hand in hand with great respect for land, water and communities. We are committed to these values and Salmon-Safe is a vital management tool for us,” said Jean-Francois Pellet, president of VINEA: The Winegrowers Sustainable Trust. Also partnering on the assessments is the Oregon wine industry’s Low Input Viticulture & Enology (LIVE) program, which conducted the site inspections.
Walla Walla Community College received certification for its campus located along Titus Creek. The site provides potential migration and side channel rearing habitat for juvenile steelhead and Chinook salmon. “The college is making every effort to implement sustainable practices in everything we do, so we’re very pleased to apply the latest watershed concepts right here in our own backyard,” said Steven VanAusdle, Ph.D., WWCC President.
To qualify for Salmon-Safe certification, Walla Walla Community College has met rigorous conservation requirements including commitments to further restore stream and wetland habitats on campus, reducing stormwater runoff from developed parts of the campus, reductions in pesticide and fertilizer use, further water conservation, and Salmon-Safe design and construction management for planned future campus expansion and development.
The certified vineyards are: àMaurice Vineyard, Cockburn Vineyard, Dad’s Highway 11, Double River Estate Vineyard, Figgins Estate, Frenchtown Vineyard, Heather Hill, Les Collines Vineyard, Loess Vineyard, Margarets Vineyard, McClellan Estate Vineyard, Mill Creek Upland Vineyard, Mill Creek Vineyard, Octave Vineyard, Pepper Bridge Winery Estate, Seven Hills Vineyard, Seven Hills Vineyard West, Va Piano Vineyards, Wailser Vineyard, Waters-Upper Vineyard, Waters-Wondra Vineyard, White Space Vineyard, Winesap Vineyard, Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard and XL Vineyard.
Because of Salmon-Safe’s rigorous whole farm requirement, the impact of certification extends beyond these vineyards as landowners growing other crops were required to certify all their operations in order to qualify for Salmon-Safe designation, leading to wider beneficial impacts on salmon habitat and water quality.
Pesticides that run off agricultural land and mix in rivers and streams combine to have a greater than expected toxic effect on the salmon nervous system, according to researcher Nathaniel Scholz, PhD, a zoologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle. In November 2007, a lawsuit was filed in federal by fishing and environmental groups seeking to force the federal government to uphold five-year-old rules aimed to keep toxic agricultural pesticides from endangering salmon and steelhead.
For more information on endangered salmon, see articles from the Spring 2002 and Summer 1999 issues of Pesticides and You.