Compilation and Summary by Laura Lovett

Mt. Tam from Azalea Hill by Ann Elliott

In Marin, we are lucky to have a significant peak (actually a ridge with three peaks) as our backyard. Efforts by early conservationists and organizations like Marin Conservation League enabled Mount Tamalpais (affectionately called Mt. Tam) to be protected from development. Since then, we have been struggling to find the best ways to protect it while also enjoying it. The earliest newsletters of California Native Plant Society Marin Chapter introduced several issues that are to this day still in discussion.


Genista monspessulana

Genista monspessulana – French broom – by Vernon Smith

1966|MAR: All good wishes and many happy returns to Mr. C. M. Goethe, most faithful of conservationists; at his request CNPS will go out after the escaped foreigner Broom (Cytisus), a malefactor which seeds too well, hogs the land, and dislocates our whole ecology.

1978: Marin Chapter started a newsletter called The Broomhandle to focus attention on the broom infestation. Three issues were published.

FEB: Chapter members led a major workshop on broom eradication with Mt. Tam agencies and non-profits. Noted that broom eradication is a “tremendous task.”

“The Weed Wrench, a new tool I invented specifically for broom removal, is available for rent from Corbett’s Hardware [or on loan from Marin CNPS]. I realize I am open to accusations of ulterior motives, but my interest in controlling broom preceded, and brought about, this invention. I don’t advocate broom control to sell tools, I sell tools to control broom. In the end, I don’t care how you get rid of it!” Escaped Exotics chair Tom Ness

1996|NOV: Become a Broom Buster and help make Mt Tam “Broom Free by 2003.” MMWD’s ecologists and rangers will train and “deputize” you as an official Broom Buster when you participate!

Alas, the goal of being broom-free is receding over the horizon. French broom (Genista monspessulana), Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), and Spanish broom (Spartium junceum) have infested over 1,400 acres of the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. The battle continues, but we fear the broom is winning.

What Grows There

Spring Medley – by Vernon Smith

1979|FEB: “You too can identify the spring wildflowers that grow outside your fence! You too can amaze your friends and family with botanical names! Join Wilma’s Wednesday Plant Identification, Marching and Debating Society starting in March and going out every week through May. Beg (from your best friend or partner), borrow (from your local library), or buy (from your local bookstore or from the Marin chapter) a copy of J. T. Howell’s Marin Flora, hang a 10x lens around your neck, get out your rain gear and your marching shoes and mark the dates on the calendar for 9 am to 1 pm. No one too young, too old, too weak, too strong, too smart, too ignorant to take part. Beginners get special attention. So come exercise your brain and your body and enjoy the company of fellow Posey Pokers.” Wilma Follette

1984|MAY: The May 10th hike with Terri Thomas up at the Air Force Site [East Peak] was productive. They found 4 rare and endangered plants. Helen Muirhead said the buildings are supposed to be removed. However, Mrs. T [Terwilliger] is after the buildings for outdoor ed.

1993|SEP: Wilma Follette, Doreen Smith and Bob Allen are continuing their work on mapping special areas of concern for the use of MMWD. They have 28 special places such as the serpentine spring on Liberty Gulch Rd. Bob Allen is listing all the rare plants at the sites they indicate on the maps.

1996|NOV: Doreen Smith has received a request from State Parks to mark maps to indicate rare and endangered plants in 7 locations in case of catastrophic wildfires which necessitate the use of bulldozers. Doreen will inform them of the difficulty of establishing lines in these seven locations.

Five decades of traversing and recording what grows on Mt. Tam has given us a more complete picture of this biodiversity hotspot. Doreen Smith took up this important task when Wilma Follette “retired” from leading her Tuesday Taxonomy Treks. David Greenberger, Robert Steers, and others continue the effort.

Mount Tamalpais Watershed Lands

Erosion near top of Azalea Hill by Ann Elliott

1986|DEC: Wilma Follette, Bob Allen and Phyllis Faber attended the meeting of the Watershed Committee of the MMWD Board. Wilma encountered a blank wall when she tried to inspire some concern for rare plants on Mt. Tam.

1988|MAR: Phyllis called Steve Petterle of MMWD Land Management Division [regarding a survey of Water District lands]. He will choose a botanist for the survey who Marin CNPS feels is most qualified. Salem [Rice] reported that he thinks MMWD Directors aren’t likely to burn the south face of the mountain again.

MMWD has undertaken to do a study locating, mapping, and assessing the 22 rare plant populations listed on their 20,000 acre domain. At their request, a board committee furnished a list of qualified botanists for them to select from. Our board has voted $2,000 toward the costs of the MMWD study.

MAY: Wilma, Salem, and Bob attended the district meeting at which the scoping study was discussed. Rare plants are getting a lot of attention now. The inventory is underway with the two botanists suggested by CNPS working together.

Marin Chapter of CNPS has been collaborating effectively with Marin Water (formerly Marin Municipal Water District or MMWD) for many decades now. Watershed and resource managers Mike Swezy, Janet Klein, and their successors have worked to establish comprehensive roadmaps for the care of the Mt. Tam Watershed, such as the District’s Biodiversity, Fire, and Fuels Integrated Plan.


Bike on Mt Tam

1990: Crisis on Mt Tam! Matt Davis and his friends did not build their trails for 21-gear, all-terrain bicycles. They were seeking neither speed nor cheap thrills, but had something else in mind—natural surroundings; a place to get away from the modern, mechanized world; peace and quiet. To preserve the trail experience in the face of increasing numbers of users and the proliferation of hi-tech vehicles that can negotiate rough terrain, we need rules. Attend the Bay Area Trails Council meeting in San Rafael to hear about changes proposed for Mt. Tam bike access.

1991|NOV: “We wish to comment on the staff report on Status of Bicycle Use on MMWD Watershed Property and Responses to Bicycle Trails Council and Trails Preservation Council Policy Proposals. The prized out-of-doors qualities of the mountain, it’s quiet beauty, its succor to the soul, it’s fascinating flora are being more and more threatened by increased use. Overuse destroys these values. The Board needs to remember this fact in assessing and acting upon the staff’s recommendations.” Portion of a letter from President Fraser Muirhead to the MMWD Board.

Bicycle use is still on the front burner as Marin Water considers allowing e-bikes on trails as well as fire roads in the Mt. Tam Watershed. Increasing bicycle and e-bike use will have negative effects on biological resources, geology/soils, hydrology/water quality, other recreators, air quality, and cultural resources due to overuse, noise, and the introduction of weeds and toxic substances.

Feral Pigs

Family of wild hogs – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

1983: During the past 4 or 5 months, the Marin Municipal Water District staff has been successful in eliminating 22 feral pigs from watershed lands. In addition to watershed lands, the pigs have been sighted in other areas, such as the Air Force base on Mt. Tam, along the Bolinas Ridge, in the state park at the Mountain Theater, and past Pan Toll all the way down to Audubon Canyon Ranch. Dr. R.H. Bartlett, considered the nation’s foremost authority on pigs, noted the explosive increase in numbers of pigs in CA since 1970. It is estimated there are probably over 80 pigs in the watershed area.

APR: Bern Shanks, newly hired land manager for MMWD reports that Fish & Game has revoked the MMWD pig shooting permit.

MAY: Sue Hossfeld received a letter from Mr. Hunter which stated that the pig shooting permit for MMWD was only suspended. The pig trapping program will go forward.

OCT: The pig trapping program has been quite successful but needs to be continued.

1986|DEC: The good news is that Senator Milton Marks is writing legislation about pigs. There is hope that the Fish & Game Dept. will have to change their pig hunting policy.

1991|SEP: Phyllis Faber reports that the Pig Bill has been eviscerated; Santa Cruz County has dropped out. Bill was asking for pig tags for hunting. The population is down due to the drought.

Good news! The pig problem appears to have been eventually resolved. Perhaps the mountain lions helped us out?
If you, too, would like to see Mt. Tam flourish in the decades to come, we would be happy to have you join our efforts! It will take all of us working together to keep it healthy. Sign up for our e-newsletter to get notification of upcoming events, letter writing campaigns, and advocacy needed.