Transfer of Former Naval Base to National Wildlife Refuge is Celebrated

Skaags Island

“It’s a missing piece of the puzzle for the North Bay.”

That’s how San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge manager Don Brubaker described the recent addition to the refuge of the former naval base at Skaggs Island, in Sonoma County, CA.

Finalized on March 31, 2011, and celebrated at an on-site event in June, the transfer of the land from the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service adds 3,300 acres to the North San Francisco Bay refuge, increasing its size by more than a quarter. It also adds much-needed haven in the area for birds and other wildlife.

“Thanks to the great teamwork between the Navy and the Service, and the support and cooperation of a lot of partners, we were able to make it happen,” added Brubaker.

Attendees at the June 28, 2011 celebration of the transfer included U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Acting Director, Rowan Gould; Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roger M. Natsuhara; and U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA). Congresswoman Woolsey was a key advocate for the protection and restoration of Skaggs Island, introducing legislation in 2008 that enabled the transfer between the two federal agencies. The Navy, meanwhile, spent several million dollars on an extensive environmental cleanup and the demolition of more than 100 buildings at the site, which served as a naval communications base from 1942 to 1993.

The San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was created in 1974 to protect migratory birds, wetland habitat and endangered species like the salt marsh harvest mouse and California clapper rail. The refuge and San Pablo Bay support the largest wintering population of canvasbacks on the West Coast. 

Now, the flag of the San Pablo Bay NWR flies over Skaggs Island. As Rep. Woolsey observed in remarks that stirred the crowd at the June celebration, “For so many years this land protected this country. Now, this country will protect this land.” 

By Doug Cordell