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Stream Conservation Ordinance Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Olema, CA– In a decision applauded by the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), the Marin County Board of Supervisors rejected a proposed version of a court-ordered Stream Conservation Area Ordinance for the County on June 18. SPAWN strongly supports stream area conservation rules based on sound scientific data. However, the draft ordinance fell well short of this standard, while also failing to provide effective habitat protection for critically endangered Central California Coho Salmon and steelhead trout.

“The Supervisors’ decision not to adopt the proposed draft of this Ordinance is the result we were looking for,” said Andy Harris, Managing Director of SPAWN.”Our staff and our thousands of supporters are extremely gratified that Supervisors saw the fundamental flaws in a draft that failed to protect critical habitat, did not provide meaningful mitigation requirements to offset development and lacked effective enforcement mechanisms.”

In comments leading to the Board’s decision, SPAWN had sought an ordinance based on sound scientific data and strong public policy that provides incentives, and rewards residents for taking proper steps to conserve and restore habitat.

SPAWN’s comments advised the Board that an effective ordinance should include mechanisms for conservation easements and landowner education and assistance programs, and clearly identifies what is allowed and what is not.

The proposed ordinance, while clearly representing a great deal of extensive effort and detailed thought by the Planning Commission staff, was a combination of insufficient protections for fish, unnecessary burdens on homeowners, and almost completely lacking in scientific basis. During the public comments period of yesterday’s Supervisors’ hearing, virtually all parties made the same plea: reject this version of the ordinance.

Moving forward, SPAWN continues to seek a workable ordinance that meets federal recommendations for coho salmon population recovery.

“We won’t play politics with the survival of a species,” Harris continued. But that said, “We look forward to working with Supervisors and other responsible stakeholders in order to create an effective ordinance. Nonetheless, we will continue to use all the tools available to advocate uncompromisingly for policies that are based on science, give coho a fighting chance at survival, and not easy political accommodation.”

As noted in an Op-Ed published by the Marin IJ on June 16, SPAWN’s  singular goal remains the restoration of critically endangered coho salmon to sustainable population levels.  “Forty years from now, our children and grandchildren should be able say, `It wasn’t easy, but the past generation did the right thing — and that’s why we can still enjoy watching coho salmon spawn in West Marin, as their kind has done for eons.”

SPAWN, the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (www.SpawnUSA.org),  works to protect endangered coho salmon, steelhead and the creeks in Marin County, California’s Lagunitas Creek Watershed through education, restoration, advocacy, strategic litigation, research and monitoring.  SPAWN is an initiative of Turtle Island Restoration Network (www.TIRN.net), which is headquartered in Marin County, CA.  Turtle Island has over 60,000 supporters and on-line activists.