Editor’s note: This is your weekly installment of images from Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton’s Lexicon of Sustainability. We’ll be running one image every Friday this winter, so stay tuned. If you have your own sustainability terms, you can add them yourself to the Lexicon of Sustainability.

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Any discussion about the sustainability of salmon is no longer limited to analyzing the numbers of fish pulled from the sea. Each winter, salmon return to rivers and creeks in the Pacific Northwest to spawn, but if these waterways are impacted by surburban spawl or pollution from agricultural runoff (as shown here), their numbers are dramatically reduced. In some cases, salmon simply don’t return to spawn at all.

Founded by river and native fish protection organization Pacific Rivers Council, Salmon-Safe is an environmental certification organization based in Oregon that works to inspire habitat conservation.

Salmon-Safe certification encourages the adoption of ecologically sustainable agricultural practices that protect water quality and spawning grounds by focusing on riparian area management;  water use management; erosion and sediment control; integrated pest management; animal management; and biodiversity conservation.

The Buchanan family has managed Tyee Wine Cellars for five generations dating back to 1885, with over 80 acres of riparian habitat on the property. (Back in the 1950s, David’s father wouldn’t allow the Soil Conservation Service to straighten the creeks and remove the riparian trees).

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As one of the first farms certified by Salmon-Safe almost 15 years ago, David adheres to a number of fish friendly principles:

  1. Maintain a cover crop under the vines year-round to sequester carbon, keep the vines in balance and prevent erosion.
  2. Dry farm the vineyard, using irrigation only for frost protection in early spring.
  3. Protect nearby creeks with native riparian buffers 60 to 400 feet in width that enhance habitat for native fish, birds, and wildlife. (David has planted over 4,000 native Oregon oak, Oregon ash, western red cedar, and Willamette Valley ponderosa pine.)
  4.  Apply only minimal amounts of organically acceptable spray to the grapes when needed.
  5. Use non-lethal scare tactics to discourage birds and wildlife from eating the grapes during harvest.

Large trees, root wads, and wood left in the stream provide shelter (and shade to fish and rearing habitat for young fish). The wood slowly breaks down over the years to supply food to aquatic insects which in turn provides food for crayfish, fish, and other aquatic organisms. Wood left in the stream also helps create positive water flow changes and meandering in streams.

On creek banks, riparian buffers (including trees and shrubs) provide shade and bank stability to keep the creek cool and keep sediment from silting up the stream. Clean, clear cold water is best for salmon and trout.