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Honoring Marty Griffin’s 100 Years: A Lifetime Of Environmental Achievements

Portrait of a smiling older man outside in the sun, wearing an Audubon Canyon Ranch vest.
L. Martin (Marty) Griffin, M.D. is a pioneering environmentalist and conservationist in California who will be 100 in July. He helped to preserve significant sanctuaries along the coast of Marin County, including Richardson Bay, Bolinas Lagoon and Tomales Bay.

Jocelyn Knight Photography

May 2020 - L. Martin (Marty) Griffin, M.D. (born July 23, 1920) is a pioneering environmentalist and conservationist in California. Marty has been a leader in protecting and preserving unique ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them. Born with a love for the out-of-doors, Marty took courses in botany and zoology at UC Berkeley from 1938-42, when Professor Light (author of Light’s Manual) was chair of the Zoology Department. Then, at Stanford Medical School, Marty became skilled at diagnosis, which he has applied when assessing the impact of humans on the natural environment. He practiced medicine in Marin, where he prescribed walking in nature to his patients, and was called “the environmental physician” and “the nature doctor.” He led Marin Audubon Society and was a board member of Marin Municipal Water District. Later he worked for the State at Sonoma Developmental Center, and on the AIDS/Hepatitis Task Force. Throughout, he has woven together the vital importance of land use planning with public health and health of the environment.

Marty helped to preserve significant sanctuaries along the coast of Marin County, including Richardson Bay, Bolinas Lagoon and Tomales Bay. He did so by acquiring significant habitats including, but not limited to, Audubon Canyon Ranch, Cypress Grove, Hog Island, and several parcels surrounding Tomales Bay. He was a founder of Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) in 1961 as a bird sanctuary. This significant acquisition preceded the creation of Point Reyes National Seashore (1962) and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (1972). Many of the parcels that Marty acquired for preservation are embedded in the landscape of environmental conservation in Marin and Sonoma counties.

Beyond California, Marty participated in a scientific expedition led by The Nature Conservancy in 1968 that laid the groundwork for the inclusion of Kipahulu Valley into Haleakalā National Park (including the Seven Sacred Pools on the Maui coast), Hawaiian Islands.

Marty also focused on environmental education and advocacy. ACR has been a model of environmental education in the SF Bay Area and Marty was cofounder of the Environmental Forum of Marin. For more than 45 years, the Forum has spearheaded a program of educating-training environmental advocates, leaders and volunteers to preserve the natural environment of Marin.

Much of Marty’s career is chronicled in his book Saving the Marin–Sonoma Coast, which was the inspiration for the 2013 award winning documentary film by Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto called Rebels With a Cause.

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Last updated: June 8, 2020