In its second streamside property, SPAWN finds double benefits


Turtle Island Restoration Network, the mother organization for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, has purchased its second property in the San Geronimo Valley. The group already owned a two-bedroom house on a two-acre lot in Lagunitas, and last fall it bought a second property, a four-acre lot with a three-bedroom house in Forest Knolls, for $1 million. Last week the group announced the purchase of the property, where an intern and one staff member moved last month. The property has a double purpose, the group’s executive director, Todd Steiner, said: it not only provides staff housing, but also access to a headwater tributary of Lagunitas Creek that in recent years has seen a high density of coho salmon nests. The group plans to protect the section of creek, and also to restore some of the habitat that has been damaged there. Mr. Steiner said that during the health crisis he was grateful to have the additional housing for workforce. Typically, the group has up to four interns, who receive free housing, but most interns were told not to come this spring. “Not until it’s safe,” Mr. Steiner said. “But we are glad to be able to provide housing and create lower density now with two properties for people who are here.” Once the organization can move forward with conservation projects again, the plans for the new property include taking out a retaining wall, stabilizing the streambank and widening the portion of the creek that runs through the four acres to create protective alcoves for the endangered fish. TIRN will also remove several unpermitted structures, including a garage. For now, though, everything is on hold. The nonprofit has paused many of its projects during the pandemic, including in Jewell and at the former San Geronimo Valley Golf Course. The latter project was slated to start in the summer; Mr. Steiner said the group will reassess in a month or two to see if it can proceed amid the sheltering guidelines in place. Locally, the biggest coronavirus-related loss for the group so far has been that neither his researchers, nor those from the National Park Service or Marin Municipal Water District, were able to take their annual surveys of the coho salmon smolts leaving local streams to go out to sea. Those numbers help conservationists understand population trends and the survival rate of the cohort that will return to spawn a couple of years from now.