The Northern Coast of California is one of the best-known places on Earth, and it has been everyone's good fortune that the coastline north of San Francisco's Golden Gate has been spared from overdevelopment. Steepness and isolation have often discouraged the bulldozers and graders, but you can also trace the roots of the conservation and environmental movement to the struggles over the past century to protect the pristine nature of this coastline. About twelve miles north of San Francisco--nestled between the small towns of Bolinas and Stinson Beach--is Bolinas Lagoon, a three and a half mile-long saltwater estuary that is regarded as not only one of the most beautiful but also environmentally significant landmarks in the world. It is one of only two sites on the west coast of America to be named a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands--a global, intergovernmental treaty on the conservation of natural resources. For thousands of years, flocks of migratory birds traveling the Pacific Flyway have stopped here for food and water. On a paddle around the lagoon, bat rays and leopard sharks swim under the hull. Harbor seals rest on the island in the middle of the lagoon. Pelicans fly overhead, and herons and egrets wade near the shore. Bolinas Lagoon is full of life today, but there are grave concerns that it may not continue for much longer. The shape of the lagoon is undeniably changing. The water is becoming shallower and marsh vegetation at the edges of the lagoon is encroaching. A fierce debate has raged since the early 1990s about the causes of these changes to the lagoon--what it means, and what if anything should be done to stop them.
Phil Williams, Wetlands Management Consultant:
Very rarely do you find a place like Bolinas Lagoon. There isn't a marina there. It hasn't been filled with uh, development. And that's what makes this debate over the future of the lagoon so poignant, I think, is that if we can't make the right decisions on Bolinas Lagoon, which is one of the last places that we-that is really in a good--in good shape, what does it hold for the rest of the world?
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.