MARIN COUNTY, California– The Marin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a conservation order that would protect coho salmon habitat and end a 15-year legal battle over California’s most important watershed for the species endangered.
The Streams Conservation Area Ordinance would set development limits and improve riparian habitat and water quality for Central Coast coho and rainbow trout populations in the San Geronimo valley and the Lagunitas watershed. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network had sued the county for failing to adopt conservation measures deemed necessary as part of its own environmental analysis.
“It’s time for endangered coho salmon to get the protection they need to survive a warming planet,” said Peter J. Broderick, senior counsel at the Center. “I’m relieved that after many years of litigation, the county has finally agreed to do the right thing and pass these common sense measures before it’s too late.”
Legal challenges from conservation organizations resulted in a series of losses for the county. In April, a Marin County Superior Court judge ruled the county violated state environmental law by failing to mitigate the cumulative impacts to coho salmon and rainbow trout from riparian development. in the watershed, which was permitted under the 2007 county plan.
“We held on and are thrilled to finally have science-based regulations that will give endangered coho salmon a fighting chance in Marin,” said Todd Steiner, conservationist and executive director of SPAWN. “This population is critical to the survival of the species throughout central California.”
Development and habitat loss are the primary threats to declining salmon populations, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act. The San Geronimo Valley is home to approximately half of the entire Lagunitas Watershed coho population, one of the largest Central Coast coho populations remaining in California.
The new ordinance will ensure there will be “no net loss of habitat” in the last undammed headwaters of the Lagunitas watershed, which crosses state and national park lands before flowing into the Pacific Ocean in Tomales Bay.
The Center and SPAWN are represented by attorneys from Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic and the law offices of Michael W. Graf.