For thousands of years the south end of Tomales Bay was a productive wetland regularly visited by egrets, herons, and shorebirds in search of habitat and food provided by the bay waters, mudflats and tidal marshes. As settlers moved West in the 1800s, they developed a variety of ranches and farms on the rich grasslands of what we call West Marin today and what was then, one of the premier dairy industries in northern California. Eventually the wetlands at the south end of Tomales Bay were diked, which helped to create additional pasture for milk production during the war effort. Other changes from the roads to the railroad slowly began to take their toll and sedimentation and pollution of the bay became noticable.
In the 1960s and 70s, people saw a need for change and began campaigns to save coastal lands from development, creating places like Point Reyes National Seashore. What they learned was that people not only wanted preservation, but restoration. A number of community groups spearheaded projects to improve the health of the Tomales Bay, with the largest and potentially most effective effort resulting in the Giacomini Restoration Project, which restored over 550 acres of dairy land back to the tidal wetlands and floodplain.
The restoration comprised over 50% of the wetlands on Tomales Bay and included the removal of levees, tidegates, culverts, agricultural infrastructure and invasive plants so that natural processes and functions could once again take hold. The Park Service provided environmental monitoring during the project to ensure that impacts from heavy equipment to valuable natural resources such as wetlands, riparian habitat, and special status species were minimized. In addition habitat was created to enhance the prospects for threatened and endangered species that historically thrived in these wetlands.
In only the second year after the last levee was removed and tidal waters again flowed into the area, the proliferation of wildlife surpassed even the most optimistic predictions. As we celebrate the 5th anniversary of the restoration, you can learn more about the site's hydrology, food webs, birdlife, water quality and more here. This area also serves as a natural study site for school groups through "Science at the Seashore," an exciting field science education program that also brings underserved youth to Point Reyes to explore science in parks.
Watch the 14-minute long Giacomini Wetlands Restored video at OpenRoad.TV
Point Reyes National Seashore Association and the National Park Service are working with National Geographic to organize a BioBlitz on March 28-29, 2014 in the GIacomini Weltands, learn more here and get involved in citizen science.
Your Contributions Make Our Work a Success
As the primary nonprofit cooperating association of the park, Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA) was instrumental in this project's success. Through a capital campaign and with support from our members, PRNSA was able to raise $6.2 million dollars for the restoration phase and collaborated with the National Park Service on managing all fiscal elements associated with the project. Funding to PRNSA for the restoration was provided by the generous giving of members, individual donors, and major grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, California Coastal Conservancy, California State Water Resources Control Board, Wildlife Conservation Board, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
PRNSA and its partners receive a 2009 Partners in Conservation Award for their work on the Giacomini Restoration Project. The award was one of 26 national awards given to individuals and organizations and presented at a ceremony at Interior Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to honor those who achieve natural resource goals in collaboration and partnership with others. The Partners in Conservation Awards demonstrate that our greatest conservation legacies often emerge when stakeholders, agencies, and citizens from a wide range of backgrounds come together to address shared challenges.