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 premiere 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 begin campaigns to save coastal lands from development, creating places like Point Reyes National Seashore. What they learned is people not only needed 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 process 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 since the last levee was removed and tidal waters again flowed into the area, the proliferation of wildlife has surpassed even the most optimistic predictions. Read more...
As the primary nonprofit cooperating association of seashore, Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA) was instrumental in this project's success. Through a capital campaign, PRNSA was able to raise $6.2 million dollars for the restoration phase and collaborated with the National Park Service on managing the fiscal elements of 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. Read more...
Most of the construction has been completed, but the National Seashore and PRNSA intend to continue fundraising efforts to expand or continue active restoration efforts in the Giacomini Ranch and Olema Marsh. In addition, many areas subject to invasives removal in 2008 will require subsequent re-treatment in future years to ensure eradication, with active revegetation conducted when eradication is successful. Lastly, it is important not only to restore wetlands, but to document the success of restoration efforts in achieving project objectives. Through monitoring, the Seashore will follow evolution of the Giacomini Wetlands and determine how well they function relative to natural tidal marshes.
Download the "What’s Next for the Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project?" poster (122 KB PDF) for a more detailed description of monitoring and potential future restoration actions.
Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project: Restoration Summary
Come join us to learn how the wetland continues to evolve as it transforms from pasture back to marshland. This past year we partnered with the Park to bring you a series of field seminars that discussed how hydrology, wildlife, and vegetation have continued to change in the second year since the restoration.
Or, get involved with the restoration process through one of our volunteer workdays. Opportunities include planting native plants, and removal of invasive, non-native plants that either threaten the survival of plants that we planted during construction or the evolution of the former dairy ranch back to more natural conditions.
For additional information about the Field Seminars or the Volunteer Work Days, contact Amelia Ryan at (415) 464.5227 or by email.
The Giacomini Wetlands are not just a local treasure anymore. A visiting reporter from the New York Times returned to Point Reyes Station to find the former Giacomini Ranch greatly changed. Learn how the flooding and ebbing of the tides gave him a new perspective on time and life.
Time and Tide at Point Reyes, by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Your contributions have helped us support a number of park preservation and protection programs, as well as offer environmental education programs for children and adults, including scholarships that allow 650 children from underserved communities to enjoy their first experience exploring nature in a national park.
- Endangered Species & Wildlife
Protection: including helping
the spotted owl fight for survival in
our forests, and helping Western snowy plovers recover on park beaches. Check it out!
- Habitat Restoration: including
returning Coho salmon runs to several
coastal streams. Check it out!
- Education and Stewardship
Initiatives: including the affordable PRNSA
School Programs and adult Field Seminars
to help the community learn about protecting
Point Reyes and the environment. (See School Program, Summer Camp and Field Seminar Tabs)
- Historic Preservation:
continuing the legacy that Native Americans,
European explorers, lighthouse keepers,
and dairy ranchers all left here. Check it out!
Read more about how your contributions have helped PRNSA enhanced visitor experience, improved wildlife and plant habitats, and provided environmental education and recreational opportunties for your whole family to enjoy.