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SPAWN Receives 2nd Environmental Award in as Many Months

Point Reyes Station (June 26, 2008): SPAWN’s staff biologists, Paola Bouley and Todd Steiner receive the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin’s Peter Behr Memorial Award.

Paola Bouley commented, “This strong show of support, from now two of Marin’s leading environmental groups, helps send a strong message to the County Board of Supervisors that we are not alone in calling for only the strongest, long-term vision for restoring one of CA’s largest-remaining, although critically endangered wild runs of coho salmon.”

Almost exactly two months earlier on April 25, SPAWN received the MARIN CONSERVATION LEAGUE’S 2008 TED WELLMAN AWARD “for many years of advocacy and work to benefit the water quality of Marin’s watersheds and streams that benefit both fish habitat and the community at large.”

Todd Steiner addressed the crowd saying, “If we are to save the coho, and the wild Marin we love, we need to re-invigorate the passion and effectiveness of the original pioneers of the MCL. We need to work for the victories we dream of, and not get caught in the thinking of those who would tell us our dreams are ” not realistic.”

So dream back the coho to all the streams of Marin, where those streams run strong and clean, and where our children can play in them without fear of contracting water-borne illnesses. And then fight for your dreams. Then we will be sure that we will leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren that the founders of the Marin Conservation League would be proud of.”

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Complete text of speeches:

Speech Given at EAC Annual Awards Dinner by Paola Bouley, Friday June 27, 2008.

Thank you! This achievement would not have been possible without the support of EAC and Fred and the Board and members like yourselves. And of course not without the support of core SPAWN campaigners (all volunteers) as well as fellow activists, friends, neighbors, scientists all who fought hard on this campaign throughout. And of course, not without the vision and leadership of Todd Steiner, SPAWN’s founder and Executive Director.

We all act daily knowing that it would be a very dark and painful time if these totem coho salmon were to cease to return, as we saw happen on Redwood Creek in the Muir Woods watershed this past winter. The stakes seem higher now and ever before.

This campaign has been a years-long fight over the fate of Marin’s Stream Conservation Area in this watershed, or in plain speak, the riparian ecosystem which is that buffer zone of unique forest that graces the edges of our streams and provides critical habitat for the endangered salmon which we are all working so hard to restore.

If ecosystems could be listed as “endangered” CA’s riparian systems would be listed. We’ve already lost 90% of this habitat across the state. And, if you were observing and working along the streams in the Valley regularly, you would begin to seriously doubt that in 10- or 20 years a functioning riparian ecosystem and the coho salmon would exist here at all. The existing culture of land-use and County development policies are simply unsustainable.

For a little perspective on why the San Geronimo Valley is such an important area to focus on. Last winter 30% of all coho salmon found in Central CA occurred in <one-tenth of 1% of the total corresponding watershed area, and that was in the San Geronimo Valley. So never has it been clearer that our individual actions as landowners and stewards, and most especially the policies and actions of the County of Marin, in these headwater reaches will determine the fate of Lagunitas coho and likely that of the entire Central CA evolutionary significant unit.

The Stream Conservation Area deserves to be a sheltering, self-replenishing, lush zone of vegetation, not a parking lot, waste disposal site or road. It is our goal to prevent negligence and lack of political will from allowing the destruction of this critical habitat to take place, which is why all the work now ahead will be singly focused on ensuring that protection and restoration of critical headwater reaches in the San Geronimo Valley is achieved through a science-based process that will lift the burden of extinction from the back of these magnificent fish.

Speech Given at MCL Annual Awards Dinner _Todd Steiner _Friday April 25, 2008

On behalf of SPAWN’s thousands of volunteers, members, and staff, I humbly accept this award. I also accept this award on behalf of the magnificent coho salmon that are struggling to survive in Marin.

It is especially rewarding to receive this honor from the Marin Conservation League, with its long history of bold vision and action that helped create the environmental legacy we all love and enjoy today.

As many of you know, for years SPAWN has been alarmed by continued development in the critical habitat of the endangered coho, which is mostly occurring one house at a time. Each time a new house is proposed, the County of Marin has determined that there is “no significant impact” and has allowed development to proceed.

Of course, if we look at each new house individually, it is easy to reach a conclusion of “no significant impact.”

For years we have insisted that the county of Marin look beyond the impact of each new house–and analyze the additive impact of new development that comes on top of past, current and future potential development impact. In fact, California environmental law requires that they do so, but the county has chosen to ignore us, and the law until now.

After more than six years, the county of Marin has finally agreed to do this study in the San Geronimo Valley, the most important habitat for California coho salmon, and that is still under threat. In addition, the county has agreed to a 2 yr moratorium on development inside the 100-foot stream buffer area, while that study is completed.

And this could not have come at a more critical time. This past year has been of great consequence for Marin’s coho and salmon throughout California. As many of you already know, coho spawning numbers were way down, –w/a 70% decline from 3 years ago.

With reduced numbers throughout the region, the importance of the san Geronimo valley, where spawn has concentrated its energy, has become even more obvious. In fact, the 9-square mile san Geronimo valley watershed only represents 1/10 of 1% of the watershed areas where central California’s coho are found — yet approximately 30% of all the wild coho that spawned this year in central California occurred in this tiny valley.

The public pressure to conduct this vitally important study while “taking a time out for coho” was accomplished thru the collective work of a coalition of environmental organizations and advocates, including of course, the Marin Conservation League and many of you sitting here in the audience. For that, spawn and the coho of Marin thank you greatly. Of course this is no time to rest on our laurels.

If we are to save the coho, and the wild Marin we love, we need to re-invigorate the passion and effectiveness of the original pioneers of the MCL. We need to work for the victories we dream of, and not get caught in the thinking of those who would tell us our dreams are ” not realistic.”

So dream back the coho to all the streams of Marin, where those streams run strong and clean, and where our children can play in them without fear of contracting water-borne illnesses. And then fight for your dreams. Then we will be sure that we will leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren that the founders of the Marin Conservation League would be proud of.

Happy Earth Day!