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The Creation of the Environmental Forum of Marin, by L. Martin Griffin, MD., M.P.H., May 5, 1993
On this 20th anniversary of the Founding of the Environmental Forum of Marin, I’d like to remind the Forum of how it was created by Audubon Canyon Ranch and why.
The 13 years of 1961-1973 were of great peril for the twin bays, Bolinas and Tomales of west Marin. All the seemingly unstoppable forces of uncontrolled growth came together: freeways, master plans, harbor districts and marinas, water pipeline from the Russian River, bay and ocean sewage outfalls. Behind it all was the underfunded Pt. Reyes National Seashore which brought to west Marin powerful syndicates of land speculators with political connections in Washington D. C. and Santa Rosa.
Speculators bought the southern Bolinas Ridge; Land Investors Research, based in Ross encircled Sonoma State University with 13 ranch purchases and toppled 9000 acres of sheep and dairy ranches along Tomales Bay. They bought Pierce Point, the most critical ranch in the Seashore. They were helped by the Marin Supervisors who zoned the Bolinas Basin for 100,000 people and later Tomales Bay for 300,000.
In 1961 as President of Marin Audubon Society, I saw the danger of a freeway, obtained the option to buy the 507-acre Canyon Ranch, alerted Wm. S. Picher, and persuaded the board to buy it. We enlisted four Audubon Chapters and formed Audubon Canyon. Ranch. We purchased other ranches and parcels around Bolinas Lagoon, including the option on Kent Island. I took a year off to lead the joint fund drive. We put the Harbor District out of business in 1969. The Bolinas Basin was safe.
That year I persuaded ACR to turn north to help save Tomales Bay. I was again appointed land acquisition chairman. We bought strategic tidelands, uplands, Hog and Duck Islands, the Delta of Walker Creek and were given the gift of Cypress Grove. Each purchase had a purpose to stop filling or a subdivision. We were just one step ahead of the developers. We used other tools –agricultural zoning, wildlife habitat, zero discharges, erosion and geologic hazards. Stan Picher helped fund and I chaired the advisory committee of the Tomales Bay Environmental Study, coordinating the work of 13 scientists, including Clerin Zumwalt, on soils, to form a framework of environmental sanity (protection) that has lasted 20 years. I wrote my thesis for the UC School of Public Health on the Environmental Health of Tomales Bay and enlisted my professors.
Stan Picher, Clerin Zumwalt and I were soon worn out. We were running from agency to agency, to planning and supervisors’ hearings, rallying our troops who were fearful of speaking in public. We needed skilled help.
In this setting, the Environmental Forum of Marin was born in 1972 at a meeting of ACR directors Stan Picher, Clerin Zumwalt, Howard B. Allen, Mary Belle Van Voorhies and myself.
Our purpose differed sharply from our docent training in nature interpretation and sought to train a cadre of volunteers to be effective and influential workers and speakers in the field of environmental planning and quality. This was the first experiment of its kind in the US. It was an idea whose time had come.
It was one of the most significant actions of our lives. We applied to the Junior League of San Francisco, and they voted to fund the Forum starting September 1972. The rest is history. ACR interviewed and contracted with Rembert Kingsley, Director of Natural Science Education Resources, to organize and supervise the course. Her staff eventually consisted of biologists Virginia Havel, Cathy Cuneo, Phyllis Faber, Ray Peterson, Nona Dennis, Mary Jane Baker, Dave and Maggie Cavagnero and others.
In 1972 I ran for director of the Marin Municipal Water District with Pam Lloyd from the first class as my campaign chairman, successor and later director of the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Many other graduates and instructors have had effective environmental careers. Altogether, 400 women and men have been trained.
Encompassing more than 70,000 acres of rocky headlands, forested ridges, wide open sandy beaches, rolling grasslands and rich estuaries, Point Reyes National Seashore offers visitors an experience like no other. Situated on a peninsula, the park is geologically separated from the rest of Marin County and almost all of the continental United States by a rift zone of the San Andreas Fault, about half of which is sunk below sea level and forms Tomales Bay. The fact that the peninsula is on a different tectonic plate than the east shore of Tomales Bay produces a difference in soils and therefore to some extent a noticeable difference in vegetation.
These features allow the park to host over 1,500 species of plants and animals including over 45% of the North American avian species and almost 18% of California’s plant species. Thirty-eight threatened and endangered species exist wihtin the Seashore. The park itself is a national living treasure of natural and human history intertwined throughout the ages.
West Marin Environmental Action Committee
Many of the photographs appearing in this website are from Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast and are credited in the book. Several photographs are from Dr. Griffin’s personal archives. Others have appeared in various publications and have been used with permission. We have made every effort to give credit where due, but in those cases of oversight, please let us know and we will amend this list.
The trio of Snowy Egrets photograph appearing on the Audubon Canyon Ranch page, © Len Blumin
The Iiwi bird photo at the top of the Maui’s Kipahulu rain forest page, © Rick Warner, PhD.
Photos on A Professor’s Use of the Book page, © Nick Sebastian
Parts of the Boy Scout Page text are from Paul Covel’s Beacons Along the Naturalist Trail