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No More Headaches for Fish with These Wines

In the Russian River Valley, our first Habitat Focus Area under the NOAA Habitat Blueprint, there are heavy demands for—and competing uses of—water. Agriculture, including vineyards, needs the water for farming. But, when farmers pull water from streams to water their crops, the streams dry up, stranding and killing fish. Balancing the needs of both farmers and fish is possible, but requires good science and innovative management.

One of the management tools we use is the Fish Friendly Farming program. Since 2002, NOAA has participated in the program, which encourages farming practices that protect fish like endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout. The goal is to improve management practices and physical conditions on farms and vineyards to benefit fish.

Farmers enrolled in the program take classes and develop Farm Conservation Plans for their properties. These plans inventory and evaluate natural resources and practices on the entire property – including water use—and lay out strategies for implementing conservation projects. Once the plan is completed, the property and plan undergo a review to get certified. NOAA serves on the Technical Advisory Committee that reviews these plans and certifies properties, and provides technical guidance on farming practices and projects.

Initially, the focus of the program was vineyards and orchards, but that has expanded to farms and even ranches in five counties. More than 200 properties are enrolled, encompassing more than 100,000 acres of land. Hundreds of projects have been identified, and more than 75 have already been conducted, addressing invasive plant removal, creek stabilization, and erosion control.

Posted April 8, 2013