Benefiting Wildlife on Land and Water - Columbia Land Trust
Land management practices help Pacific Salmon thrive

Two Columbia Land Trust sites, Cranes’ Landing, located west of Vancouver, Washington and Columbia Stock Ranch, located north of St. Helens, Oregon, both received Salmon-Safe certification at the end of 2022! Founded by river and native fish conservation organization Pacific Rivers in the 1990’s, Salmon-Safe is now an independent nonprofit whose mission is to transform land management practices so Pacific salmon can thrive in West Coast watersheds. The nonprofit works with landowners to reduce watershed impacts through site-specific certification, led by an independent team of scientists.

Sandhill cranes grazing at Cranes’ Landing by Beth Marlin Lichter

At Cranes’ Landing, the Land Trust farms about 400 acres of foraging and loafing habitat for thousands of migrating sandhill cranes that visit the site each year between October and April. After an assessment, our team was pleased to learn that our land management strategies were already aligned with the best practices required for Salmon-Safe certification. For example, we avoid overworking the soil by mowing, tilling, and rotating crops like wheat, corn, oats, alfalfa, and sunflowers, which require less water to grow. Berms that we installed and planted with native trees and shrubs prevent erosion and provide habitat for native pollinators and other wildlife, increasing the site’s biodiversity.

“The Land Trust has been stewarding Cranes’ Landing to benefit cranes and other wildlife for seven years, and working with the Salmon-Safe team was an affirmation that our stewardship practices also care for the downstream watershed,” said Natural Area Manager Sanoe Keliinoi.

Native shrubs, including spirea and Oregon grape, in the foreground, along with a cottonwood tree, increase biodiversity, while sunflowers, spring wheat, and corn grow in the field behind.

“We are thrilled that Columbia Land Trust has committed to Salmon-Safe certification practices across the Cranes’ Landing and Columbia Stock Ranch parcels,” said Brian Muegge, Salmon-Safe Certification Specialist. “At Cranes’ Landing, our conversations with the Land Trust stewardship team focused on farming practices that further enhance water quality, water quantity and landscape-level biodiversity. At Columbia Stock Ranch, in addition to applying Salmon-Safe practices to protect watershed health, the Land Trust is continuing their efforts to bolster threatened Columbian whitetailed deer habitat.”

Salmon-Safe’s work began with Wilamette Valley farms, but over the years has developed certification programs that address negative watershed impacts across the urban-agricultural continuum.

“Columbia Land Trust is leading the way among land trusts in applying Salmon-Safe’s certification tools to expand and promote watershed-friendly and climate resilient agriculture,” said Muegge.

The Pacific Northwest is one of the last remaining wild salmon strongholds in the continental United States and Salmon-Safe is working to inspire landowners to improve land management practices so that Pacific salmon can thrive. Cranes’ Landing and Columbia Stock Ranch are now among 95,000 acres of Salmon-Safe certified lands throughout the West.

Read more in our Spring 2023 Fieldbook.