U.S. California Field Project 1: Richardson Bay
This California Marine Conservation Agreement (MCA) field project provides an example of a private organization working with the local community to protect a bay from development by acquiring fee-simple ownership and less-than fee-simple leases to uplands and adjacent intertidal and subtidal lands.
Audubon's Richardson Bay Sanctuary
See the summary for ocean and coastal management in California.
For 50 years, National Audubon and Audubon California have leased approximately 900 acres of intertidal and subtidal land in Richardson Bay from the Town of Belvedere, the City of Tiburon, and the County of Marin. Together with 11 acres of adjacent uplands, this large tract of leased land in San Francisco Bay constitutes Audubon's Richardson Bay Sanctuary. The original leases, which saved the land from being filled for a marina development and hundreds of home sites,1 were the result of cooperation among local citizens, Audubon, and the local governments. Audubon and the county gave $25,000 each for the fee-title purchase of the parcels by the local governments and the Town of Belvedere issued bonds to match the combined sum. The local governments then leased the land to Audubon for the establishment of the wildlife sanctuary. The 50-year leases were renewed in 2005 for $50 each.
To provide migratory waterfowl an important feeding area as they travel along the Pacific Flyway, the entire 900 acres of inter-tidal and sub-tidal lands are closed to all boating from October 1 through March 31. Even research activities are restricted during this period. While fishermen have been respectful of the closure, kayakers, recreational boaters, and water-skiers sometimes violate it. Working with community partners, Audubon seeks to educate boaters and inform violators of the closure.
The ability of Audubon to restrict boating access was called into question during renegotiation of the lease with Marin County. Because of a suit pending from jet-ski manufacturers, the county required that the provision in the previous lease giving Audubon the power to exclude conflicting uses, be dropped. Audubon’s legal counsel provided a brief supporting the county’s power to restrict incompatible uses, and county staff indicated they would consider proposing a restrictive ordinance should encroachment interfere with the sanctuary.
Within the sanctuary, Audubon is experimenting with different techniques of eelgrass and native oyster restoration. This work is interwoven with a significant community outreach program in which partners help construct eelgrass tanks and grow oysters. Audubon is currently seeking to incorporate the Richardson Bay Sanctuary into the National Estuarine Research Reserve system.
Audubon also owns three other parcels in San Francisco Bay that contain intertidal and subtidal lands:
- Corte Madera Marsh: This site was purchased by Marin Audubon Society (MAS) on a tax default sale in 1999. It is approximately one acre and consists of uplands and tidal marshes of San Clemente Creek.
- Triangle Marsh: This 31-acre property, acquired in 1999, consists of ancient tidal marsh (habitat for the endangered California Clapper Rail), intertidal baylands (habitat for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds), and uplands.
- Atherton Avenue Bayland: This 84-acre former tidal marsh was purchased in 2000.
|Date||1957. Renewed 2005.|
|Resource||Bay bottom (inter-tidal, sub-tidal)|
|Location||Richardson Bay, California|
|Use||Wildlife sanctuary. Recently began oyster and eelgrass restoration.|
|Duration||50 years, recently renewed|
|Lessors||County of Marin (2), Town of Belvedere, City of Tiburon|
|Date||1957 through 2000|
|Land type||Upland, tidal marsh, and intertidal baylands|
|Location||Adjoining Richardson Bay|
|Use||Education center and access|
As leaseholders, Audubon feels there are three keys to success at Richardson Bay:
- All proposed actions are science-based.
- Economic and commercial interests are addressed.
- Regular attention is given to effective communication with decision-makers and influential parties in the community.
|Lease Payment||$50/lease/50-year period|
|Restoration||Approximately $200,000 per year|
|Education and Outreach||Approximately $250,000 per year.|
- California Coastal Conservancy
- J. M. Long Foundation
- Marin Community Foundation (Marin Baylands Fund)
- Marin County Open Space District
- Marin County Wildlife and Fisheries Advisory Committee
- National Estuarine Research Reserve Fellowships
- North American Wetlands Conservation Council
- San Francisco Bay Keeper
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Francisco Bay Program
National Audubon Society
New York, NY 10003
- San Francisco State University
- National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
- The National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Town of Tiburon
1505 Tiburon Boulevard
Tiburon, CA 94920
City of Belvedere
450 San Rafael Avenue
Belvedere, CA 94920
County of Marin
3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 329
San Rafael, CA 94903
- City of Belvedere Lease (download .pdf, 4,616k)
- County of Marin Lease (download .pdf, 8,919k)
- Richardson Bay Conservation Action Plan (download .pdf, 53k)
1 “In 1957, [Marty] Griffin was tapped by Caroline Livermore, the wealthy, high-society woman who had formed the Marin Audubon Society to help prevent the landfill and marina development proposed for Richardson Bay off Tiburon.” “One Jump Ahead,” MetroActive Books. Web site viewed 4/10/2007. From the February 19-25, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent, Metro Publishing Inc.