Grantee reporting shows how members of a California board that is supposed to protect the environment benefited from its own deals

With a grant from the Fund, veteran reporter Peter Byrne probed how taxpayer funds for conservation in Marin County, California, have supported the growth of agricultural businesses that degrade the lands, even inside a national park. The latest story in an ongoing the Pacific Sun-North Bay Bohemian investigative series details how commercial interests with local political clout have monopolized monies intended for conservation in West Marin and at Point Reyes National Seashore. Byrne’s reporting is based on financial records obtained from the county and from the Marin Resource Conservation District, a state-created entity whose appointed board members are required to be landowners. When Byrne sought records, the district initially provided him with summary spreadsheets about grants made to board members. But when he asked for more details, the district claimed that the agency would not be able to provide those documents until after the June 7 election on renewing the sales tax that helps pay for the grants. This delay leaves voters without important data that could help inform their choices.