From northern California through Washington State, builders and developers are working hard to gain certification and recognition through programs such as LEED, Built Green and Energy Star for designing and creating environmentally responsible projects.
This is great progress, and not too surprising given our region’s commitment to protecting and enhancing our precious natural resources. It comes as no surprise, then, that a program relatively new to Washington State designed to protect salmon habitat is gaining momentum as builders, developers and property owners and managers look outside the walls of their buildings to address critical habitat issues throughout the region.
Salmon Safe, a private, non-profit organization based in Portland, is taking root in the Puget Sound region. Founded in 1996 by the Pacific Rivers Council, Salmon Safe has introduced a certification process for development practices that protect Pacific Northwest salmon watersheds.
In the beginning, Salmon Safe focused on certifying fish-friendly farmlands in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Today, more than 60,000 acres of farm and urban lands stretching from Marin County, Calif. to the Canadian border in Washington have been certified “Salmon Safe.”
During 2008, several large campuses have received Salmon-Safe certification, including The Washington State Department of Ecology headquarters, the University of Washington’s Bothell campus and the Cascadia Community College campus, and Port of Seattle Parks. Following the completion of the Salmon-Safe assessment, a certain waterfront sculpture park in Seattle is also expected to join this list.
At Belt Collins Northwest, we are working with Salmon Safe in developing their checklist for planned communities. Our first Salmon Safe project was the new Seattle-area PCC Markets in Edmonds. Another project underway in our office is Brookville Gardens, which will be a public park with open spaces and trails, providing the community with access to nature. The lead consultant for the park is BCRA.
Businesses and properties that receive the Salmon-Safe certification will be able to put the Salmon-Safe logo on their properties and products, such as wine, foods and beverages.
Over the last decade, Salmon Safe has worked with grape growers and farmers to protect salmon habitat, utilizing methods such as planting cover crops and trees along river banks to reduce runoff and applying natural methods to control weeds and pests.
More recently, Salmon Safe established the nation’s first and only peer-reviewed certification program linking corporate or university land management practices with the protection of urban watersheds. Whether the site is a corporate campus with streams or wetlands, an urban office park or public space, or a university campus, certification requires management practices that reduce storm water runoff and non-point source pollution, helping to protect Pacific Northwest salmon watersheds.
According to Salmon Safe’s managing director, Dan Kent, “Salmon-Safe certification provides important benefits to landowners. These include validation of environmental performance, possible innovation credit under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, public credibility, and enhanced operational efficiency and cost savings,” He explained. “It also sends a signal to state and federal regulators that a landowner has taken a leadership position when it comes to meeting regulatory mandates to restore Puget Sound or protect imperiled native salmon.” Salmon Safe also works with all certified sites to maximize media attention and public relations opportunities.
Here in the Northwest, commercial development continues to expand our urban boundaries. At the same time, we’re seeing record growth for vineyards, and there’s a tremendous movement towards locally produced agricultural products – everything from award-winning wines, to fresh, organic produce, to free range meats, to epicurean dairy products, like locally made cheeses. With all of this growth, Salmon Safe provides a mechanism for farmers and developers alike to ensure they are managing their property in a way that will help protect the habitat of salmon and other imperiled species.
Salmon-Safe certification can cost a company anywhere from around $300 to $15,000 depending on the type and size of the business, and Salmon-Safe businesses have their practices reviewed annually to maintain certification. Dan Kent and folks from Belt Collins will be speaking on this topic at the Built Green Conference on March 6 in Seattle.