Weekly Roundup | April 26, 2013

newspaperCheck out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay.

CNN 4/22/13
7 stunning U.S. spots for wildlife
Naturalist Beth Pratt has been exploring and celebrating wildlife since she was a child, whether discovering the great whales of Cape Cod with her parents or creating a special luxury habitat for her backyard frogs. As a young girl she gazed with longing at photos of grizzly bears and wolves, and vowed to see the charismatic mega-fauna of the West. She realized her dream in her 20-year career in environmental leadership has included work at Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks. She’s the director of the National Wildlife Federation’s California office, living just outside Yosemite.
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Palo Alto Online 4/20/13
Locals celebrate Earth Day at Palo Alto Baylands
At 9 and 8 years old, Alex Carvalho and Julian De Sa can articulate the significance of Earth Day and how it isn’t the only day people should care about the planet.”You have to be extra nice to the Earth,” Carvalho said. “You should be nice to the Earth every day, but extra nice on Earth Day.” Carvalho and de Sa rode their bikes from East Palo Alto to the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve for Baylands Earth Day on Saturday afternoon. The event, which included activities that range from games to invasive species clean-up, was coordinated by the City of Palo Alo and several organizations, including the Palo Alto Open Space Nature Preserve.
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KTVU 4/24/13
PACIFICA: Plastic bag ban goes into effect in coastal town
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CBS SF Bay Area 4/22/13
12 San Mateo County Cities Enact Plastic Bag Bans On Earth Day 
A dozen San Mateo County cities celebrated Earth Day on Monday by implementing plastic bag bans. Grocery stores, retail shops and pharmacies in 12 Peninsula cities and unincorporated areas throughout San Mateo County will no longer use plastic bags as of today, county Director of Environmental Health Dean Peterson said.“The Bay is getting a very important present for Earth Day,” Peterson said.
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San Jose Mercury News 4/23/13
New Bair Island bridge opens way to almost fully restored wetlands
Thirty years after Redwood City voters saved Bair Island from being transformed into a massive residential development, officials and some of the project’s early opponents gathered Monday to celebrate the opening of a pedestrian bridge into the almost restored 3,000-acre wetlands site.”It was such a thrill,” Sandra Cooperman said after strolling over the new bridge onto the island, which until then had been off-limits to the public since 2007. She was one of the residents who organized a ballot referendum in 1982 that blocked the city council’s approval of the controversial development.
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San Jose Mercury News 4/20/13
Sleek new trail opens through heart of San Jose, connecting downtown to San Francisco Bay for bikes and hikers
A new thoroughfare to help travelers get across San Jose more easily opened on Saturday with celebrations and crowds of people. But there were no cars, trucks or motorcycles. The route was a trail. After a year of construction, a 6.7-mile section of the Guadalupe River Trail was officially unveiled, running along the Guadalupe River’s levees from the Interstate 880 overcrossing near Mineta San Jose International Airport north to Alviso on the edge of San Francisco Bay. The trail had existed before, but only as a dusty, uninviting gravel access road. Paved with smooth asphalt, the trail is now 12 feet wide with signs, a center stripe and five commemorative plazas along the way. The plazas highlight everything from the discovery of the skull of a 14,000-year-old Columbian mammoth along the river in 2005 to the Hetch Hetchy water system to the history of Alviso.
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The Oakland Tribune 4/24/13
Don’t weaken the successful Endangered Species Act 
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, America’s landmark law to prevent the extinction of our most at-risk plants and animals. In the Bay Area, we can appreciate the protections this farsighted act has provided for our native wildlife and how preserving their habitat contributes to our quality of life. Just last month, local agencies began the environmental review process for a series of fish passage projects that will allow steelhead trout to return to more than 10 miles of historic spawning and rearing habitats in upper Alameda Creek — for the first time in half a century. This regionally significant stream restoration has been driven by Endangered Species Act protections for steelhead trout, as have similar efforts to restore steelhead and iconic coho salmon in other Bay Area streams such as Codornices Creek, Suisun Creek, Napa River, Lagunitas Creek, San Francisquito Creek and the Guadalupe River.
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San Jose Mercury News 4/26/13
Cupertino quarry agrees to restore and improve Permanente Creek
Cupertino’s Lehigh Southwest Cement Company has agreed to cut discharges of toxic water pollutants into Permanente Creek, which runs through Los Altos and Mountain View the bay.
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Notes from the Field | Planting Experiments at Byxbee Park

Save The Bay’s habitat restoration team has been working to re-vegetate transition zones along the Bay’s tidal salt marshes for close to 15 years. We primarily focus on planting the inter-tidal upland ecotone in order to create refuge for endangered California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. This zone has been severely impacted around the Bay shoreline, leaving minimal natural ecotones intact.

At Bxybee Park at the Palo Alto Baylands, the ecotone separates the marshlands and land-fill mounds. This area is crucial to support wildlife, especially during high tides events. This was evident just last week as 9.5 foot tide flooded the park and spilled waters onto the trails and roads. Save The Bay is restoring this ecotone with native plants, which will create upland refuge for wildlife during storms.

Last year Save The Bay attempted to restore this zone by installing over 3000 native plants, including 12 species. Our monitoring records showed that after 1 year of planting at Bxybee park very few species survived.

Byxbee low survivorship
After 1 year of planting at Byxbee park, very few species survived.

Based on these results, we decided to implement a new process and strategy. We pulled together our resources, pondered many reasons for our failed attempt and created an experimental design to enhance planting conditions. Since the rain fall from 2011 was late and minimal, we included a treatment to mimic last year’s planting plan. We want to test whether that lack of rain and late rains were the key contributing factors to our plants mortality.

Byxbee scarifying
One treatment we implemented is called “Scarifying”. This treatment scraps the surface soil about 3 inches deep reducing compaction, allowing aeration and enabling water retention. This will also help our volunteers to plant in more malleable conditions.
Compost
For treatment 3 we reached out to Zanker Disposal and Recycling for compost. Four trucks delivered fresh, nutrient rich compost to the site.
Planning with partners
We carefully discussed the plan with our partners  to execute the design properly.
Staff spread compost
Save The Bay staff assisted in moving compost to the edges.
Help from Palo Alto Baylands rangers
We had incredibly useful help from the Palo Alto Baylands Rangers and their machines which allowed the compost to be spread, evenly and in a timely manner.

We used colored plot markers to identify the different treatment areas that were composted, scarred, not treated and both scarred and composted. This will guide us in our planting installation as we have already begun to install more than 4,000 native plants to this site, this season.

Our goal is not only to be re-vegetate the area to provide critical habitat to endangered species, we also want to learn best management strategies to apply at other sites around the Bay. When working with highly saline and very compacted soils we must make adjustments in order to create viable growing conditions. Stay tuned to our monitoring results and please join our planting programs at Bxybee Park to participate in this experiment.

— Laura Wainer, Senior Scientist/Restoration Projects Manager

Notes from the Field | An Endangered Species for Dinner?

California clapper rail
During the Gold Rush, locals dined on the now-endangered California clapper rail. Photo: Rick Lewis

Thanksgiving is a time for offering thanks, extending generosity, and spending time with family. It is also a time for celebration and feasting. We overflow our plates with buttery mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and of course, roasted turkey, but what was on the menu around the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1800s? You might be surprised.

In 1848, a carpenter from New Jersey found gold in the American River near Coloma, California – approximately 20 miles northeast of Sacramento. As more people  arrived in San Francisco with hopes of striking it rich, the Bay Area’s population exploded.  During this time, the natural resources of Northern California were quickly depleted – thousands of acres of forests were cut down for development, waterways were contaminated with waste, and fish and other animals were over-harvested.

Among the most significantly impacted animals was the California clapper rail – a medium-sized, grayish brown, flightless bird that lives exclusively in the marshes surrounding San Francisco Bay. Once in the tens of thousands, the California clapper rail’s abundance, ease of capture, and taste that resembled chicken, made it a staple in the diet of miners, and a regular dish on menus throughout the SF Bay region.  By 1990, primarily due to decades of over-hunting and the loss of over 90% of marshland habitat to urban development, salt production, and agriculture, the clapper rail population had plummeted to less than 500 birds.

Once an abundant and popular menu item, the California clapper rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus) is now listed as an endangered species. Thankfully, due to the collaborative efforts of Save The Bay and our local restoration partners  to protect and restore our remaining wetlands, the rail is slowly making a recovery. With the continued support of thousands of student and public volunteers each year, Save The Bay has been restoring critical habitat, with a goal to re-establish 100,000 acres of wetlands for a healthy and sustainable Bay.

Now that is truly something to be thankful for!

Want to help Save The Bay restore vital habitat for the California clapper rail? Volunteer with us.