The 2013 effort to show support for stronger, science-based protections for coho critical habitat in Marin County is again supported by leading scientists Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Peter Moyle, and Dr. John McCosker!

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April 2013

Wild coho salmon populations in California have undergone a ninety-percent decline since the 1940s. The causes of this decline, such as urbanization, dams, and logging operations are well known and documented. Central California Coast (CCC) coho salmon were listed by the US government as Threatened in 1997 and uplisted to Endangered status in 2005 The State of California listed the population north of San Francisco as endangered in 2002.  In short, coho salmon are in danger of extinction throughout coastal California.  Because of this, the Lagunitas Creek watershed is exceptionally important for its survival; it is one of the few watersheds that still supports a self-sustaining population of this iconic fish.

The Lagunitas Creek Watershed is listed as “critical habitat” for coho under the Endangered Species Act.  As scientists concerned with the health and recovery of salmonid populations throughout California, we support increased habitat protections for coho in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed, which makes up approximately 10-20% of the total current population of CCC coho salmon.

Lands in the lower reaches of the Lagunitas Creek watershed are relatively well protected (and include State Parks, National Parks and Recreation Areas, and County and Water District property) and maintain habitat values important to coho and other native species. But, 30-50 percent of spawning in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed occurs in the undammed headwaters of the tiny (10 square mile) San Geronimo Valley. Out-migration research has documented that as much of 1/3 of Lagunitas Creek coho rear in these headwater reaches annually.

Marin County’s San Geronimo Valley Existing Conditions Report (2009), prepared by Stillwater Sciences1 as part of a Salmon Enhancement Plan, documented the percentage of impervious surface for seven reaches of Geronimo Creek at 7.3-20.8 per percent, with four of the reaches exceeding 15 percent.  Furthermore, this study conducted detailed analysis on 17 parcels and demonstrated the limited amount of riparian habitat currently extant in this watershed:  ten parcels had no intact riparian habitat, four had a width of less than 22 feet, and the remaining three had a width of 30, 36 and 92 feet (summarized in Table A2.2 of the report).  This data demonstrates the relatively high level of urbanization that already threatens the survival of coho here.

The San Geronimo Valley continues to urbanize with new housing development trending toward larger houses, and development on existing parcels expanding with building additions and additional loss of riparian habitat. This affects coho salmon survival because the juveniles need cold clear streams with lots of riparian trees and in-stream woody debris for cover and minimal disturbance.  Loss of current and potential riparian habitat and floodplains to development poses significant additional threats to the survival of coho here.

We appreciate that Marin County Supervisors are now considering a new Stream Conservation Ordinance.  While the Marin County General Plan calls for no net loss of habitat, the current draft ordinance fails to come close to meeting this goal.


1.             Any development within 100-foot setback from creeks should be strongly discouraged.  New development in this buffer that is allowed should require mitigation if new structures or activities reduce the potential for rehabilitation of riparian habitat, even if it is currently disturbed by lawns, patios, etc.  A 2:1 or higher mitigation ratio is recommended to improve on current conditions that already include a significant loss of riparian habitat.

2.             Ephemeral Tributaries to Salmon Streams should be protected with a 100-foot setback.            Presently, the draft ordinance only provides for the 100-foot setback if 100 feet of “continuous” riparian vegetation is present, basically exempting a large percentage of important habitat, thus decreasing stream habitat for juvenile coho.  We see no scientific basis for limiting protection only to ephemeral streams with  “100 feet of continuous riparian vegetation.” A functioning network of ephemeral streams mitigates flooding and forms the headwaters without which mainstems could not support salmon.

We realize that these requested ordinances will inconvenience landowners, but without them, development in the Geronimo Valley will likely lead to extirpation of coho salmon from the watershed, making the recovery of coho salmon in the Lagunitas Creek watershed increasingly problematical.  The result will be further decline of coho salmon in California.  The recovery of coho salmon as a viable species in California will only happen as the result of many small positive actions on many streams, especially by landowners who have chosen to live in coho watersheds. The proposed ordinances will provide significant help to one of the most important coho populations left.  We would like to see Marin County be a leader in coho salmon conservation, rather than just one more example of local government failing to protect local resources.

Sincerely yours,

(Partial sign-on list below)
Peter Moyle PhD, Professor University of California at Davis*
John McCosker PhD
Sylvia Earle PhD

Alex Hearn PhD, Director of Conservation Science TIRN
Chris Pincetich PhD, Outreach & Education Manager TIRN
Leo Salas PhD, Quantitative Ecologist PRBO Conservation Science*
Tierney Thys PhD, Director Ocean Sunfish Research & Tagging Program*
Bruce Baldwin PhD, Professor & Curator UC Berkeley*
Bruce MacFarlane PhD, Supervisory Research Fisheries Biologist [retired] UC Santa Cruz*
Eric Chapman BS, Staff Research Associate UC Davis*
Judith Innes PhD, Professor Emerita UC Berkeley*
Cynthia LeDoux-Bloom PhD, Fisheries Scientist
Pedro Luis Janela Pinto MSc/PhD Candidate UC Berkeley*
Myfanwy Johnston PhD Candidate UC Davis*
Matt Stoecker Principal Biologist Stoecker Ecological, UCSB*
Jacob Katz PhD, Director Salmon/Steelhead Initiatives CalTrout*
David DeSante PhD, President Institute for Bird Populations*
Michelle LaRue PhD, Research Fellow University Minnesota*
Gary Grossman PhD, Professor Animal Ecology University of Georgia Athens*
Judith Weiss PhD, Professor Biological Sciences Rutgers University*
Pasan Samarasin PhD Candidate University of Toronto*
Michael Park MS Conservation Medicine Tufts University*
Gary Rennie Analyst, Office of Ecosystem Protection US EPA, New England*
John Mola Graduate Student Humboldt State University*
Geoff Patton PhD, Marine Biologist/Toxicologist
Melanie Truan PhD, Staff Research Associate Museum of Wildlife, UC Davis*
Preston Brown Intern, Invasive Fish Eradication SPAWN
Michael Swift PhD, Biology Dept. St. Olaf College, MN*
Eric Huber MS, PhD Candidate UC Berkeley*
John Cooper PhD Cooper Environmental Research*
Shaye Wolf PhD, Science Director Climate Law Institute, Center for Biological Diversity*
Ruslan Grigoriev Field Hydrologist Virginia Tech University*
Patrick Lizon Watershed Field Coordinator VA Dept. Conservation & Recreation*
Courtney Collins Graduate student Georgia University, Odum School of Ecology*
Joseph Cech, Jr PhD, Professor Emeritus UC Davis*
John Szczepanski PhD, Chief Fish Biologist Coastal Vision LLC*
William Szelistowski PhD, Associate Professor of Biology Marine Science Eckerd College*
Richard Bailey PhD, Executive Director The Lake Merritt Institute*
Jamilynn Poletto PhD Candidate UC Davis*
Brian Waters MS, Fisheries Scientist Former President CALNEVA*
Todd Steiner MS, Executive Director TIRN
Adina Merenlender Cooperative Extension Specialist UC Berkeley*
Vincent Resh PhD Professor, Dept. Env. Sci. Policy & Man. UC Berkeley*
Emily Moran PhD, postdoctoral researcher ETH Zurich*
Sarah Frias Torres PhD, Research Collaborator Smithsonian Marine Station, Florida*
Kimberly Bolyard PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. Biology Bridgewater College, Virginia*
Nicholas Rosenstock PhD Researcher Lund University*
Cheryl Kassed PhD, MSPH, Vice President Maryland Alliance for Greenway Improvement and Conservation*
Ted Grantham PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher UC Davis*
William Webb PhD, Adjunct Professor De Anza College*
Jerry Smith PhD, Ass. Professor Biology San Jose State University*
Ellen Hines PhD, Professor of Geography Tiburon Center SFSU*
Peter Pyle Biologist Institute for Bird Populations, Point Reyes Station*
James Adams PhD, [Former] Director Ecological Services, PG&E*
Greg Cunningham PhD, Associate Professor St. John Fisher College*
David Inouye PhD, Professor University of Maryland*
Tim Duane PhD, Professor Env Sciences UC Santa Cruz*
Kerry Nichols PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher Stanford University*
Paola Bouley MSc, PhD Candidate
Reuven Walder MSc
Meredith Elliott Senior Scientist PRBO Conservation Science*
Annie Lalancette PhD Candidate Concordia University*
Lucas Siegfried MS, PhD Student UC Davis*
Julie Day Fishery Biologist Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission*
Zeb Hogan PhD, Ass. Res. Prof U. Nevada, Reno*
Ayesha Gray PhD,Restoration/Estuarine Ecologist Earth Design Consultants, Inc. *
Laurel Collins PhD, Geomorphologist Watershed Sciences*
Norm Stacey PhD Professor Emeritus University of Alberta*
Jonathan Baskin PhD Professor Emeritus Cal State Polyt. Uni. Pomona*
Gianluca Polgar PhD U. Brunei, Dept. Biology*
Robert Rees Rofen PhD, Director Aquatic Research Institute*
Thomas Ihde PhD, Fisheries Modeler Versar, Inc*
Camm Swift PhD, Emeritus, Section of Fishes LA County Nat Hist Museum*
AM Sajina PhD Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Kokata, India*
Susan Levenson Watershed Awareness Coordinator Friends of San Leandro Creek*
Jon Rosenfield Conservation Biologist The Bay Institute*
Kevin Padian PhD, Professor & Curator UC Berkeley*
Morgan Bond PhD, School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences U. Washington*
George Brooks PhD, Prof. Integrative Biology UC Berkeley*
Zahid Sharif Mirza Scientist, Fisheries Research & Training Institute, Lahore, Pakistan*
Yin-Ki Tam PhD Candidate National Taiwan of Ocean University, and Technician of Coastal Marine Laboratory, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology*
Omkar Byadgi PhD Scholar National Pingtung University of Science and Technology*
Michelle Duong MS University of Queensland*
Raj Naresh Gopal Senior Executive National Fisheries Development Board, Hyderabad, India*
Denise Wilson MS, Botany Curator BLM*
Chien-Hsiung Wang Professor National Taiwan University*
William Resetarits, Jr Professor of Biological Sciences Texas Tech University*
Virginia White Associate Professor Riverside City College*
Dan Hasselman PhD, Research Scientist UC Santa Cruz*
Patrick Martin PhD, Associate Prof. Ecology Colorado State University*
Steven Oberbauer PhD, Professor Florida International University*
Jim Aborn Environmental Specialist UC Davis*
Jeff Vanderpham PhD Vanderpham Consulting*
Donatella del Piero PhD, Dept. Life Sciences University of Trieste, Italy*
Pranaya Kumar Parida PhD, Assistant Professor Fisheries Resources Management, College of Fisheries, Punjab, India*
Johannes Holmen Environmental adviser Multiconsult (private consulting company); also affiliated with the University of Oslo*
Tamara A. Newcomer PhD Candidate in Environmental Science University of Maryland*
Bronwyn Bleakley PhD, Assistant Professor Stonehill College*
Adam Schwindt MS, PhD Candidate Colorado State University*
Allison Mastalerz Graduate Student Biology Department, University of Cincinnati*
C. B. Halpern PhD Research Professor University of Washington*
Andres Santana
M.Sc. Environmental Management and Restoration Organization for Tropical Studies*
Noel Wingers Marine Biologist, MS Candidate Loma Linda University*
Marcel Bigue Marine Program Director WildAid*
Laura Wright
Project Manager
Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program Nova Southeastern University*
Scott Veirs PhD, President Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School*
Sarah E. Moffitt PhD Candidate University of California at Davis *
Christine May PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept. Biology James Madison University*
John A Musick Prof. Emeritus Va Inst. Mar Sci. *
Ethan Mora PhD Candidate UC Davis*
Dan Swezey PhD Candidate Bodega Marine Laboratory*
Inez Devlin-Kelly Professor & Levan Scholar Bakersfield College, Dept. Biological Sciences*
Peter Schulze PhD, Professor of Biol. & Env. Sci. Austin College, Sherman, TX*
Lance Morgan PhD, President & CEO Marine Conservation Institute, CA*
Daniel Barshis PhD, Assistant Project Scientist UC Santa Cruz*
John Kelly PhD, Director of Conservation Science Audubon Canyon Ranch*
Jennifer Jones BS, BA, Botanist
Jacob Levenson Marine Biologist, Director of Outreach Conserve. IO*
Carol Leonard MS Coastal Wildlife Club, Inc*
Susana Cardenas PhD Candidate UC Davis*
Steven Beissinger PhD, Prof. Conservation Biology UC Berkeley*
Emily Miller PhD Candidate UC Davis*
Robert Johnson Jr Scientist
Gabriel Singer PhD Candidate UC Davis*
Karissa Kingery Research Assistant U. Washington*
Laura Chariton MA Riparian Policy and Restoration Hutchins Institute*
Gail Seymour Senior Environmental Scientist, Supervisor CA Dept. Fish & Wildlife*
K N Ninan PhD, Chairperson Center for Economics, Environment & Society, Bangalore, India*
David Newborn PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept. Agricultural & Resource Economics University of Maryland*
Deborah A Sivas MS Ecology, JD, Luke W. Cole Professor of Environmental Law Stanford University*
Emily Peffer PhD Candidate UC Davis*
Lewis AK Barnett Graduate Student, NMFS/Sea Grant Population Dynamics Fellow UC Davis*
Colleen Lenihan PhD –
Katie Holzer PhD Candidate in Ecology UC Davis*
Andrea Schreier PhD UC Davis*
Rob Lusardi Graduate student researcher UC Davis*
* Affiliation listed for identification purposes only.