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Sell Your Home To Save Salmon? Marin County Environmentalists Spawn Surprising Plan For Coho Survival

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Coho Salmon

A coho salmon being tagged and released. (Chris Wilson/ Getty Images)

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FAIRFAX (CBS SF) — An environmental group has a unusual plan to help protect endangered coho salmon -– buy up homes along a Marin County creek, then remodel and resell them, with some new features, and one major piece of real estate missing — the land rights.

The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) says a group of homes along the San Geronimo Creek near Fairfax are too close to the water. The creek is located within the Lagunitas Creek Watershed, home to the largest-remaining wild run of coho salmon in the central part of the state, according to SPAWN.

SPAWN Executive Director Todd Steiner said his group wants to establish a non-profit land trust to buy the homes, remodel them, restore the banks along the creek, and resell them below market rates.

The catch is that the new owners would only hold title to the building, not the land itself. “The land stays in the nonprofit and is protected,” said Steiner. “The house belongs to the person who buys it.

The homes would be outfitted with features to reduce or eliminate any impact on the creek and a natural buffer would be added between the home and the creek.

“We’re trying to protect the most important run of coho salmon left in California,” said Steiner, who noted the plan would address both the threatened salmon and the county’s affordable housing needs.

Critics of the plan call it too expensive and may not have any impact on the North Bay coho salmon population.

San Geronimo Valley Stewards board member Peggy Stewart told KPIX 5 it would be better to spend the estimated tens of millions the plan calls for on owner-assisted grants for coho habitat restoration.

Spawn said that in order to get their idea off the ground, they will need at least $1 million in seed money.

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