Creek Restoration Invites Endangered Salmon Back Home

Sustainable Conservation meets with Green Gulch Farm Director Sara Tashker to review restoration plans that will benefit struggling fish populations and local water quality. (Pictured left to right: Erika Lovejoy, Associate Director of Restoration on Private Lands; Erik Schmidt, Senior Conservation Strategist; Sara Tashker, Green Gulch Farm Director; Katie Haldeman, Regulatory Research Analyst)

In years past, coho salmon entered the world and grew up in the cool waters of Marin County’s Green Gulch Creek before traveling downstream to meet the Pacific at Muir Beach. When a local landowner straightened and channelized the creek in the 1950s to make more room for his farmland, native fish lost their pathway back home. You see, while salmon spend most of their lives in the open ocean, they require access to their freshwater birthplace to spawn anew to complete the ancient life cycle of their species.

With salmon and steelhead populations in danger of extinction across California, Sustainable Conservation focuses on helping imperiled fish reunite with their native waters and find high-quality habitat when they get there. In 2013, thanks to our urging, the California Coastal Commission approved a region-wide program to speed the implementation of voluntary habitat restoration projects in coastal areas. In 2014, Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center took advantage of that program to kick off efforts to restore and enhance their namesake creek that flows alongside fields growing organic produce.

The Marin County project involves transforming the channelized creek into a functional stream that meanders and ultimately meets the ocean. Thousands of native plants have already been introduced to stabilize and shade the streambanks, while installations of massive redwood logs and rootwads provide sheltered resting and rearing areas for juvenile fish.

Sustainable Conservation is proud to have played a role in empowering Green Gulch Farm to more easily undertake restoration efforts that will create 1.5 acres of premium habitat for fish – including the Golden State’s beloved coho – and other wildlife.

Just a short distance from San Francisco and popular Muir Beach, the Green Gulch Creek project is a perfect example of how small-scale habitat restoration projects benefit local communities of fish and people alike. Farmers, Buddhist practitioners, and urban visitors share the peaceful valley below Highway 1 with this unique waterway. Soon, we hope to welcome salmon and steelhead back to their home here as well.

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Field Tour Shares Restoration Progress

On April 30, 2015, Sustainable Conservation hosted a field tour of the creek restoration project at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center. Thanks to a California Coastal Commission region-wide permitting approval we helped create, Green Gulch Creek is well on its way to welcoming endangered coho salmon and steelhead back to its waters. We were thrilled to observe and share the project’s progress in creating habitat, evidenced by the lush growth of alder saplings along the streambanks.

Photo of Erik Schmidt with son Rémy

Erik Schmidt
Senior Conservation Strategist

Erik is a devoted cyclist, clocking a daily 36-mile round trip on two wheels between his home in Corte Madera and Sustainable Conservation’s San Francisco office. Focusing on federal and state regulatory processes, Erik helps accelerate habitat restoration throughout California to the great benefit of imperiled species and water quality. Following in his dad’s footsteps, Erik’s six-year-old son, Rémy, helped plant alder trees across the newly restored portion of Green Gulch Creek during a volunteer work day at the farm in December 2014 – and completed his first triathlon before his seventh birthday.