San Francisco Green Film Festival 2014

We’re excited to partner with the San Francisco Green Film Festival to co-present the film, Watermark, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco on Sunday, June 1 2014 at 7:45 pm. The film is a visually stunning work that weaves together diverse global stories that show our relationship with water. The filmmakers’ message resonates within the San Francisco Bay Area in this time of severe drought, as it shows our dependence on and fight to control our most precious resource.

San Francisco Bay is an integral part of the Northern California’s watershed. The health of the Bay depends on the health of the overall water system which flows from the mountains west through the California Delta and out to the Bay.

You can check out the Green Film Festival’s other offerings and buy tickets here.

The festival runs from May 29-June 4 with robust programming for all who care about the environment and their place in it. The Green Film Festival was launched in 2011 to present new films and events that spotlight the worlds’ most urgent environmental issues and most innovative solutions. We hope to see you there.

Captain Maggie & the Porpoises

If you’ve ever enjoyed the short ferry ride between Tiburon and Angel Island, it’s likely your boat was captained by Maggie McDonogh, a fourth generation ferry boat captain and owner/operator of the last remaining family-owned ferry service in California.

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Click to view video

Every day Maggie dons her sunhat and prepares to ferry tourists, school children, day-tripping locals, and National Park employees back and forth between Tiburon and Angel Island. She’s been doing this all her life and she’s seen the Bay through many changes.

She learned the business from her dad who took it over from his dad, who took it over from his dad. And it looks like her children will follow in her wake as well. Son Sam is the deckhand and her daughter and other younger son are also on board whenever possible.

Recently, my colleague Tessa and I had an opportunity to hang out by the captain’s chair with Maggie during one of her regular trips to the island. As she steered the boat, she told us stories of her family in Marin, the Bay as it was and is, and the characters and wildlife she’s met along the way.

Because Maggie is out on the Bay every day, she notices changes before almost anyone else does. She was one of the first people who saw that porpoises had returned to the Bay. She shares her story in this video.

We asked her if she thought the Bay was healthier than it used to be. She told us that her grandfather “Sammy the Skiffman” used to take vacationers out on fishing expeditions on the Bay for 25 cents (including tackle and bait). Today Maggie doesn’t see the number and size of fish that she once saw, but in some ways, she says, “the Bay is healthier than I’ve ever seen…but we have to be vigilant, and do the best we can. It’s a delicate balance.”

For Maggie that means interacting with riders in a way that prompts them to appreciate the majesty and wonder of the Bay, while helping them to see its fragility. The porpoises have helped her in that mission because they capture people’s imaginations. “The porpoises give us an in with people. It’s an opportunity to inspire them…right in that moment,” she tells us.

She loves what she does and is proud that she has kept the family business going. She told us about children she’s ferried who come back as teens and asking for summer jobs, or return as adults with their own children. Noting that all the other ferry operators are larger corporations, she told us, “We’re it. I’m still here. I get to make people happy for a living…I’m so privileged I get to do this.”

Free Range Dogs on the Bay

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Tobey enjoying a glorious day at Crissy Field

As much fun as it is to stroll the neighborhood with your best four-legged friend, some human guardians like to take long, unattached walks with their dogs. And most dogs appreciate the opportunity to frolic, sniff, and run off leash.

Though much of the Bay shoreline is sensitive habitat that’s home to endangered and threatened species, there are several gorgeous, expansive places around the Bay (many are former landfills) that welcome well-behaved dogs and their humans off leash.

When Save The Bay was founded, less than six miles of shoreline was accessible to the public. Now more than 300 miles connect residents to parks and open space along the shoreline. Dogs and their owners share these great places with birders, bikers, families, and others so it’s up to all of us to work together to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the shoreline.  Fido wants you to observe the following responsible dog guardian tips so he’ll continue to be welcome on the Bay.

1.    If an area has a sign that tells you to leash your dog, there’s probably sensitive wildlife nearby, so please comply.
2.    Pet waste can impact water quality (and it’s no fun to step in!) Pick up after your pet.
3.    Bring lots of treats to make sure your dog comes when called.
4.    Dogs love to chase wildlife but it’s not so much fun for the pursued. Leash up if you see wildlife nearby.

Crissy Field: A former airfield, this San Francisco jewel is the place for dogs who love to run in the surf. It boasts gorgeous views of the Golden Gate and is a favorite of Tobey, our Executive Director’s retriever.

Carquinez Strait: Try the easy Carquinez Loop trail for the views. Along the shoreline you can see the industrial remnants of a grain port and brickworks. If you have the time, you might want to visit the nearby town of Port Costa for a little taste of small town life in the midst of the bustling Bay Area.

Albany Bulb:  A former dump for the city of Albany, this park provides plenty of room to roam, a beach for swimming, as well as interesting found art sculptures for the humans to enjoy.

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Bodhi and Penny getting ready for a dip

Cesar Chavez Park at Shoreline Regional Park: Located near the Berkeley Marina and adjacent to Sylvia McLaughlin State Park (recently renamed from Eastshore State Park), the large, grassy, off-leash area boasts fabulous views of the Bay and the San Francisco skyline. Cesar Chavez Park is a favorite of my dog Flynn. Make sure you keep your dog leashed along the shoreline as this park is home to burrowing owls and other wildlife.

Pt. Isabel: If your dog is a swimmer, this is one of the rare places along the water where it’s ok for dogs to run free. Bonus points for the self-serve dog wash on site. Bodhi and Penny, companions to Save The Bay’s Major Gifts Manager, Joo Eun Lee, can’t wait to jump right in.

Miller Knox Regional Shoreline: The undeveloped areas of this park offer trails open to off-leash dogs and great views of the water, Mt. Tam, and the San Francisco skyline. Some areas of the park are on leash only.

Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline: Another former dump, this park near San Leandro and the Oakland Airport offers a large grassy off-leash area as well as a lovely shoreline walk where your dog must be leashed.

Guest Post | Bay Area: What Could Have Been

We are excited to share this guest blog post by Victoria Bogdan about her new project Bay Area: What Could Have Been, which will tell the visual story of what the Bay Area would look like without the environmental heroes who fought to preserve some of our most precious, iconic open spaces. 

Anyone who hikes the hills of the San Francisco Bay Area can see a panorama of environmental history. From atop most tall vantage points, one can look in every direction and see land and waters that were fought for and saved.BogdanV photo

In other words, the large stretches of green space and sparkling Bay waters that make this such an incredible place to live weren’t always guaranteed as open and protected. The stories of many of our favorite places are hidden or forgotten. They’re the stories of what isn’t there.

Huey Johnson, of Resource Renewal Institute is a living conservation legend and the person who first introduced me to Save the Bay’s co-founder, Sylvia McLaughlin. He’s the person who first shared the idea of these missing stories with me. He gave me Dr. Marty Griffin’s Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast, which tells the stories behind many of these battles. After reading this book, my perspective on the Bay Area was never the same.

There are countless stories of large development projects that nearly changed the Bay Area landscape for good: the lagoon at Bolinas that didn’t get turned into high rises and hotels. The nuclear power plant that doesn’t sit at Bodega Head. The 30,000 person town that isn’t our view across from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay that didn’t get reduced to a canal, and many, many others.

There are also films, including Rebels with a Cause, and books like New Guardians of the Golden Gate, in which advocates tell the story of our region. There are history projects like Forces of Nature, as well as individual renderings of the doomed developments, many of which were done by the architects or proposing agencies at the time.

Even with all this history, one piece was missing for me. I wanted to see what the view from the top of a Bay Area hill would look like had all of the projects from the 1950s-70s actually happened. I wanted to see, put together in one place, what isn’t there.

In all of my searches at the Anne T. Kent California Room, and in books, no such view existed. I had no choice: if I wanted to see this complete picture, I would have to do it myself.

I found a talented illustrator and spent a year researching and gathering stories. Now I’m ready to launch The Bay Area: What Could Have Been into the world– or the fundraising piece, anyway. My illustrator and I need to raise money to pay him, to print copies of what we create so that we can donate them to the local environmental groups that continue to steward our lands and waters, and to create a project website to make What Could Have Been accessible to the public.

With any luck and some goodwill, we’ll present our gift to Bay Area environmental history before the end of the year. I can’t wait to see the result, and I hope others use it as a teaching tool and reminder of the important advocacy and activism stories that sometimes lead to what we don’t see.

Victoria Bogdan is a fundraising consultant working with environmental nonprofits around the Bay Area, including Yosemite Conservancy, Pepperwood Preserve, Fair Trade USA, Resource Renewal Institute, and Earth Day Quebec. She worked with the California chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where hiking with botanists, biologists, and other -ists strengthened her love of the environment and dedication to working on its behalf. She lives in Oakland, is a co-founder of Nerds for Nature, and can’t wait to hike again in the rainforest.
Twitter: @victoria_bogdan

King Tides Foreshadow Rising Seas

A man rides his bike slowly along the flooded bike path at Bothin Marsh, Marin, CA. The flooding is the result of the King Tides this past week.

Due to the slow but steady nature of ocean expansion, sea level rise has a tendency to be dismissed as a far-off predicament, not as an immediate threat. But with seas expected to rise 16 inches in the Bay Area by 2050, flooding 180,000 acres of coastline, the issue is now at our doorstep. Literally.

Last Thursday, sea levels peaked at over 10 feet in some places in the Bay Area during the highest King Tides event of 2012. The tides last week offered us a glimpse into the future of the California coastline: closing roads, flooding parking lots, and threatening to overwhelm levees from Marin to Santa Clara Counties.

A quarterly occurrence that reaches far back in history, the ultra-high King Tides are the result of a strong gravitational pull exerted by the Sun and the Moon – not climate change. But scientists say they offer important insight of how rising sea levels will impact coastal regions in years to come.

The combination of rapidly melting ice sheets and the thermal expansion of the ocean as it absorbs atmospheric and land-generated heat places sea level rise on an unstoppable trajectory that could raise the sea 16 feet in 300 years. Since experts agree that the reversal of rising seas is not possible, the risk for low-lying coastal areas will only increase. In the Bay Area, 81 schools, 11 fire stations, 9 police stations, and 42 healthcare facilities will be underwater or exposed to high flood events by 2100, when seas are expected to rise by 55-inches. Additionally, an estimated 270,000 people in the Bay will be at risk if no adaptive measures are taken – a 98 percent increase of those who are currently at risk.

Our approach to sea level rise must not mimic our approach to one-time natural disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes, in which we can recover and rebuild. Instead, the permanence of sea rise calls for a focus on adaption. It is more important than ever to propose plans to avoid the potential disaster of rising waters. One of the best solutions? Tidal marshland.

Tidal marsh and wetland habitat act as sponges during high tides, storm surges, and river flooding. They work to attenuate wave action that contributes to erosion. Since 40 percent of California’s land drains to the San Francisco Bay – contributing to longer-lasting flood events – wetlands have the substantial and crucial task of soaking up water from both land and sea.

Action now to protect and restore the Bay’s wetlands is essential and will help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Many Bay Area residents are becoming part of the solution by volunteering their time to restore these protective marshes. Sign-up to volunteer with Save The Bay’s winter planting season!