Facing Down the Threat of Phytophthora

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While Save The Bay is known primarily for policy and advocacy work, our restoration and education programs have grown immensely in the past twenty years. In addition to restoring the Bay’s wetland ecosystem by planting transition zone species, we also grow all of the plants ourselves in our native plant nurseries at the MLK Jr. Shoreline in Oakland and the Palo Alto Baylands in the Peninsula.

Each year we typically grow and install 35,000 plants into the ground. And last year we actually surpassed our annual totals by planting 100,000 native seedlings to complete several large-scale restoration projects, including the Horizontal Levee Project at the Oro Loma Sanitary District!

When I first joined the team as the Nursery and Habitat Restoration Fellow at the beginning of 2017, I knew planting native species and teaching students about Bay ecology would be a large part of my job. But, I never thought I’d learn as much as I did about plant disease.

One of the biggest threats native plant nurseries face today is the spread of plant pathogens, partially as a result of increased global trade and transportation. Right now in the Bay Area, the invasive pathogen that is on everyone’s radar is a genus called Phytophthora.

There are currently over 150 different documented species of Phytophthora worldwide, some of which are lethal to many native plant communities in our state. This water mold, or oomycete, causes a plant’s roots to rot which kills the entire organism.

One well-known example is Phytophthora ramorum, or more commonly referred to as Sudden Oak Death, has killed over three million oak trees in California. Another more recently identified species is Phytophthora tentaculata, which was first spotted in California in 2012 on a sticky monkey-flower (Diplacus aurantiacus). Although more research needs to be done, researchers don’t know all of the plants that P. tentaculata can live on, it is highly likely that many California native plants can act as its host.

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Unfortunately, the cost of eradicating Phytophthora once it has spread into wildlands is very high and the process is extremely difficult. But, if left untreated and uncontrolled, Phytophthora activity could increase and cause even more harm to native plant communities throughout California. In other words, transmitting Phytophthora to a restoration site would be a worst case scenario. That’s why prevention is key.

In addition to following a set of best management practices recommended by plant pathologists, Save The Bay is now leading a movement to tackle Phytophthora prevention head-on, using innovative and scientific techniques including:

  • reconfiguring our nurseries and updating porous surfaces so everything can be sanitized
  • requiring all nursery visitors to spray the bottoms of their shoes with an isopropyl alcohol solution to avoid tracking in contaminated dirt
  • mobilizing volunteers to help clean the pots used to grow and transplant our native species during community restoration events.

To further reduce the risk of plant-killing pathogens from invading our nurseries, we searched for a clean, uncontaminated soil source to use (ideally before the start of the 2017 planting season). During our search, we quickly realized that a Phytophthora-free soil currently doesn’t exist in the market. So, we decided to start making our own!

Soil BBQ

Together alongside Save The Bay’s Nursery Manager Jessie Olson, we worked together to invent a solution that would allow us to heat large quantities of moist soil at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes with steam — an environment that would kill any present water mold.

33314422745_800736afbe_oUsing a design pioneered by The Watershed Nursery as a guideline, we rigged together parts from a propane barbecue, steel trash can, and other heavy duty materials to create a soil treatment system. You know the cooling process is complete when you smell that fresh and organic compost smell!

Constructing a closed heat treatment system like this, let alone three, is a huge milestone that many nurseries in the region have not yet reached. Although it required some trial and error to assemble and operate (who knew you could cut copper pipe with a PVC pipe cutter?), this was an exciting cutting-edge project for me to be part of.

Best of all, starting this season we will be able to propagate all of our new seedlings in our clean soil! Or put another way, in laymen terms, Save The Bay now has the cleanest dirt in the Bay Area!

Bay Be Blue – Bringing the Bay to Life

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When you are the Chief Development Officer of a non-profit organization, you are always looking for special ways to bring the mission of your organization to life and inspire support from a diverse community of individuals.  Five months ago, our team had the wild and wonderful idea to charter a boat and bring hundreds of Bay supporters out on the water – together with Save The Bay experts – to experience the Bay’s majesty up close.

On Saturday, April 22nd (Earth Day!) our vision came to life. Blue, an inaugural Bay cruise to benefit Save The Bay, was an extraordinary event that brought together individuals of all ages and backgrounds, uniting them in their love and appreciation for the Bay.  Don’t just take my word for it: check out the beautiful photos of the evening captured by Bay photographer Mike Oria for a taste of the immersive experience had by all who attended.

Our Blue guests came from all over the Bay Area. There are many reasons why local residents care about San Francisco Bay, and whether we realize it or not, the Bay is a part of all of our lives, every day.

For scientists, like the Chair of Save The Bay’s Board of Directors Dr. Sam Luoma, the Bay is a wild ecosystem that is teeming with plant and animal life. It’s a place of fragility and beauty that needs protecting for future generations.

Some of our guests care about San Francisco Bay because they are responsible for conceiving of and implementing the policy framework that supports a resilient Bay. Thank you to Supervisor Dave Pine, Chair of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, for joining us at Blue and representing elected officials who work vigilantly to uphold pro-Bay policies and legislation.

For gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts, like Mary Hufty and Karen Gilhuly from the Garden Clubs of America, the Bay shoreline is where they tune out the pressures of daily life by partnering with Save The Bay to plant native plants and clean up trash. Blue was a chance to celebrate their love of the place they dedicate so much time to restoring.

For the Bay Area business community, the Bay serves as a stunning backdrop for world class companies, and we were delighted to welcome guests from Facebook, Salesforce, and eBay to name a few.

For sports fans, the Bay provides the nation’s best backdrop during a hometown San Francisco Giants baseball game. I am so grateful to the Giants for sponsoring Blue, just one of many ways they contribute to improving local Bay Area communities.

OR, maybe you’re like me – drawn to this magnificent estuary for reasons you can’t quite explain but you know are innate and powerful.  Many studies suggest that spending time by water has positive effects on health and well-being (and who couldn’t use a little stress relief these days?).

Whatever your motivation is for getting involved with Save The Bay, I am truly grateful to the community of individuals who joined us at our very first Blue event. Our sell-out crowd was a stirring tribute to San Francisco Bay: our greatest natural treasure and the heart of what makes our region so special.  Thank you to our supporters for making the inaugural Blue event a tremendous success.  See you next year!

Remembering State Assemblyman Jack Knox

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From left to right: Senator Marks of San Francisco, Senator Petris of Oakland, State Assemblyman Knox.

Another giant in the movement to save San Francisco Bay from destruction has passed away. Former State Assemblyman John T. (“Jack”) Knox died at the age of 92 on April 4, after a long illness.  Knox represented Richmond and West Contra Costa County in the Assembly for 20 years, starting in 1960, and served as Assembly Speaker Pro Tem.

He was a key leader in passing the McAteer-Petris Act to establish the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) as a permanent agency to regulate development in the Bay and on its shoreline. He also led the creation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 1970, requiring all projects in the state to undergo a rigorous evaluation of environmental impacts and alternatives before approval.

Save The Bay recognized Knox’s substantial contributions to the health of the San Francisco Bay with our Founding Member Award in 2008. Knox was a long-time member of Save The Bay’s Advisory Council and regularly attended our annual Founding Members Tea.

Knox was a smart attorney and became an accomplished legislator, which colleagues attributed to his personality as much as his knowledge: “Amid the understandable demonization caused by our new, toxic White House, let us pause and acknowledge a great public official,” said former Assemblyman William Bagley about Knox last week. “During my own 14 years in the Assembly and thereafter, I never heard him disparage anyone, not even outrageous colleagues.”

The East Bay Times noted in its obituary for Knox:

“Knox’s win with the McAteer-Petris Act was groundbreaking at a local and international level, and continues to have a profound impact on the Bay today.  As the first coastal zone management agency, the BCDC became the model for most others in the world, and since its inception has fostered a net gain in the size of the Bay through tidal marsh restoration.  The new public shoreline access mandated by BCDC agency permits have increased the six miles of access in 1969 to over 300 miles today, providing Bay residents throughout the Bay area with opportunities to connect with the Bay, and become its stewards.”

At a speech in 1988, Save The Bay co-founder Esther Gulick recalled an example of Knox’s leadership in the crucial year of 1969. The original BCDC commission had delivered its report to the legislature with recommendations for managing the Bay. If the legislature didn’t act to make the Commission permanent, it was scheduled to go out of business. After the original BCDC leader, Senator McAteer died of a heart attack in 1967, and the successor leader, powerful Senator George Miller, Sr., also suffered a fatal heart attack in early 1969, Knox introduced and shepherded the same McAteer-Petris bill in the Assembly.

“One committee meeting that will never be forgotten was the hearing on John Knox’s Bill #AB 2057. KQED telecast this hearing to the Bay Area. The meeting room was packed and the large room next to it where one could hear, but not see what was going on, was also filled. People stood out in the hall. The lawyer for [developer] Westbay spoke passionately against the bill. Finally, John Knox asked him if he had read it. He said no.”

On its final vote in the legislature, the bill passed by one vote and BCDC became permanent upon the signature of Governor Ronald Reagan on August 7, 1969.

Among Knox’s many legacies is the beautiful Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline Park in Point Richmond. Knox was also a World War II veteran, whose Army service included a posting in Nome, Alaska. He is survived by his wife, Jean, children John, Charlotte and Mary, and seven grandchildren.

Read more about Jack Knox’s life and legacy here: 

http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article144659879.html

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/04/05/john-t-knox-longtime-contra-costa-assemblyman-dies/

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/John-T-Jack-Knox-former-Bay-Area-11059517.php

5 Things You Can Do For the Bay This Earth Day

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Saving San Francisco Bay and our planet can feel daunting. We know how you feel, but inspiration is always around the corner (and in this blog!). Earth Day is this Saturday, April 22, and to celebrate we’ve put together 5 easy, worthwhile things you can do for our planet and our Bay.

1. Participate in the March for Science and People’s Climate March

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Resist, stand up and put on your walking shoes!  Have a poster making gathering with your friends and march alongside thousands of scientists and eco-warriors at the March for Science on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, and the People’s Climate March on Saturday, April 29.  We’d love to see your rally cries, so don’t forget to include the hashtag #savesfbay in your social media posts!

2. Be a year-round Bay saver

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Want to make a lasting commitment to our local environment AND get a cool Save The Bay t-shirt in time for the People’s Climate March? Become a Bay Sustainer today and support our work each month! Bay Sustainers are some of our most important donors. Your reliable monthly donation gives us the stability to plan for the future and ability to tackle urgent challenges to our local environment.

3. Volunteer with Save The Bay

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Put on your hat, grab your gardening gloves, and prepare for a marvelous day with Save The Bay’s restoration team.  Sign up to volunteer at one of our wetland restoration events and help restore our shoreline. Healthy Bay wetlands not only improve the Bay’s water quality, but they also protect Bay Area communities from rising seas.

4. Inspire others – share your SF Bay photos on social media using #MyBayPhoto

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From images of King Tides and trash in our waterways to pictures of people walking on the Bay Trail and soaking in the Bay views, we know first-hand that your Bay photos have the power to move and motivate people to create a cleaner, healthier San Francisco Bay. Help us spread the word! Next time you take a photo of the Bay, please share it with us on social media by tagging
#MyBayPhoto.

5. Tell-a-Friend about STB and help expand our conservation conscious community

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We depend on the Bay as much as the Bay depends on us to stay informed, ask questions, and take actions that help keep it thriving for years to come. Tell 5 friends about our work and ask them to subscribe to our emails. Sharing is caring!

Your support is one of reasons we have a beautiful Bay. Together we can make it cleaner and healthier for nature and people, keeping it vibrant long into the future. So, thank you in advance for your get-up-and-go and do-good determination.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Earth Day!

An Earth Day Present for Scott Pruitt

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Back in February America’s newest EPA
Administrator Scott Pruitt famously said on CNBC’s Squawk Box,

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate
is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement
about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that [carbon dioxide]
is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

This statement is not only alarming, but it also discredits the climate research conducted by the nation’s top organizations including the EPA, NASA, and NOAA, all of which agree that carbon dioxide emissions are a key driver of climate change.

It was painfully clear that Pruitt forgot to do his science homework and was desperately in need of some help. So, we decided purchase a copy of Global Warming for Dummies and even asked hundreds of Save The Bay supporters to sign the book.

Thanks to you we’re now ready to ship a copy to Washington D.C. just in time for Earth Day so Pruitt can study up and faithfully execute his core duty as EPA Administrator: make America green again.

We hope you enjoy your present, Scott!