Notes from the Field | Ramping Up Restoration

Eden Landing
Save The Bay staff scoping new Eden E9/E14 restoration site.

I’m of the opinion that ambitious goals are a good thing, especially when they come with a realistic, coordinated plan for attainment. Save The Bay has come a long way since its start 52 years ago, yet we still maintain many of our grassroots values and principles.  In addition to continuing to advocate against reckless shoreline development and Bay fill, we’re dedicating significant effort to restoring wetlands.  This year we’ve set our most ambitious native species planting goal ever: 40,000 plants.

In more than one Notes From The Field blog post I’ve talked about how volunteers from the community can make a difference through Save The Bay’s Community-based Restoration program.  The Bay Area has seen decades of wetland loss due to urban development, agriculture, and industrial salt production, but in recent years we’ve actually regained wetlands around the Bay.  This reversal is certainly due in part to the policy and restoration work of Save The Bay and our thousands of dedicated volunteers. We and our many partners are working to restore 100,000 acres of wetlands around the Bay to keep it healthy for future generations of people and wildlife. To date, there are roughly 45,000 acres of restored and historic wetlands in the Bay Area, so we’re nearly halfway there.

Restoring 55,000 acres of wetlands will be no easy feat. It will require lots of time, energy, money, and cooperation among state and federal agencies, various NGOS, and the public. We’re excited about a new restoration project that could serve as a scalable model for future large projects to help our region reach the 100,000 acre goal. The project is in a remote area of Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in historic salt ponds E9/E14. Working in partnership with the California  Department of Fish and Wildlife and the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, we’ll be restoring our largest area of transition zone (the area of the marsh between water and land that provides wildlife habitat during high tides) ever. To accomplish this goal we’ll be using our tried and true manual planting method in addition to hydroseeding the entire transition zone, a process that involves spraying a liquid seed mix on the ground (essentially applying a layer of organic papier-mâché).   We’ll carefully document our activities and protocols used so that other organizations and agencies can replicate this process.

The future of Bay restoration is looking bright, but like most impactful projects, success is contingent upon the availability of funding. Of the 55,000 acres of wetlands that still need to be restored, 31,000 acres are already publically owned, and await funding. The remaining 24,000 still need to be acquired Save The Bay is working with a broad coalition of local organizations and agencies to support the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority. This is the first regional entity of its kind to focus exclusively on raising and allocating new funds for Bay restoration, public access, and flood control.  Stay tuned…

Notes from the Field | Summer Starts in the Marsh!

As the 2012-2013 school year comes to a close, and we welcome summer, Save The Bay’s habitat restoration team temporarily says goodbye to many of the school groups that worked with us this year.

As I reflect on the students’ huge contribution to restoring the Bay shoreline, and all the hard work, I am incredibly proud to have the opportunity to work with such a committed group of students and teachers.

The numbers speak for themselves: jess_blog_photo

  • This school year we worked with 1,516 students and 308 teachers and chaperones
  • Students contributed 7,281 hours of restoration effort
  • Students planted an impressive 3,842 native plants and removed 14,457 pounds of invasive species along the Bay shoreline at a number of sites
  • Students helped us transplant 704 plants in our nursery

While engaging in direct, hands-on restoration of the Bay shoreline, students discover different aspects of the San Francisco Bay through soil sampling, species identification, and a variety of other fun activities.

Students and teachers reflect on their experiences during the 2012-2013 school year:

“It is a fun, productive way to make a connection to your watershed while improving it for the future. Students are stewards!”
5th grade teacher

“One of my favorite trips- excellent science in action!”
6th grade teacher

“Students are engaged and having fun, and they enjoy doing work that is beneficial to the environment.”
10th grade teacher

“This is a must do! Wonderful hands on experience”
9th grade teacher

“Thank you for being an amazing instructor! I learned so much with you!”
6th grade student

“The field trip was really fun and informative. I loved the weeding and the trash pickup. ”
6th grade student

“I learned never to litter or else the stream would end up nasty!!!”
6th grade student

Even though the school year is over, there are still plenty of opportunities for Bay Area youth to get out on the Bay. We welcome summer students from camps and enrichment programs throughout the Bay Area. If you’re interested in joining us for a marsh adventure this summer, contact restoration education specialist Jess Madding at

Pamper Mother Nature this Mother’s Day

Mother and daughter planting native seedlings
Show your love for Mother Nature this Mother’s Day.
Photo Credit: Dan Sullivan

For most of you, this week’s to do list includes buying chocolate, flowers, and cards for the mothers in your life.  After all, mothers deserve a special day of recognition for everything they do for us.  But what about Mother Nature?

Mother Nature provides a myriad of incredible benefits that we all enjoy and usually take for granted (sound familiar moms?).  Scientists remind us that Mother Nature regulates climate, purifies water, grows food, and provides energy without asking for much in return.  And just like our own moms, Mother Nature’s beauty is truly unparalleled.

If you are a mom, or if you know a mom, you know what it takes to provide for just one family.  Mother Nature supports an estimated 8.7 million species!  The San Francisco Bay alone supports more than 400 species of wildlife.

So while you are showing your Mom some love this week, show Mother Nature some love too:  live green and volunteer to protect and restore our own amazing bit of Mother Nature, the San Francisco Bay.

TAKE ACTION:  Sign up to volunteer to restore our wetlands or volunteer to help us spread the word!

Guest Post | Planting the Future

Planting the Future
Students help restore San Francisco Bay during a planting program with Save The Bay.

Jose Gonzalez recently experienced one of Save The Bay’s Restoration Education Programs. These observations were originally posted on his blog, Green Chicano.

A cool San Francisco Bay morning is warming up on a marshy shore of the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline, part of the East Bay Regional Park District.

A couple of joggers and walkers are on the trail as birds flutter about in the bushes and gulls and geese fly overhead.

Soon enough I hear some voices in the distance, distinguishable to me in much the same way birders can tune in to specific bird calls. “It’s a class of 4th or 5th graders”, I thought to myself.

Led by their teacher, they come up the trail and are greeted by staff from Save The Bay, a regional organization committed to the protection of the San Francisco Bay.

The students are here to do some habitat restoration, but first it is time for introductions and some warm up activities.

Looking at the group of 5th graders, the majority of them are Latino—I can hear their various comments to each other in Spanish though they understand and readily respond to questions in English about marsh habitats, sharks, and food webs.

This is the future”, I think to myself, highlighted by three key demographic statements. Since 2010, the majority of school children in California schools are Latino. Furthermore, undergraduate applications to the University of California system were dominated by Latinos for the first time while this year may close with Latinos being the largest single ethnic group in the state.

As the saying goes, “the future is now.”

After some introductions and a “marsh march”, the students make their way to a section marked by flags. A Save The Bay staff member demonstrates the process for planting native plant species.

The kids are eager, still full of energy even after playing an active game to calm and focus them.

But they take to the task with much enthusiasm. Most of the boys run off to several sections while many of the girls calmly and methodically replicate the process of planting: dig the hole, tap the plant out of its casing, line it with the ground, add dirt, add mulch, add water and yell “plant check” for validation of a job well done. Then it is on to planting the next sapling.

The work the students are doing is important for several reasons.

First of all, restoring marshes provides direct habitat to many species that rely on the bay wetlands as a home and migration stops. In restoring the marshes, it also helps bay communities with potential flooding, not to mention the enhanced recreational aspects of having access to beautiful parkland and functioning habitats for wildlife. All of this in the face of marshes at risk from climate change.

But the process also helps connect the students directly with the land and outdoors in proactive ways. And it is heartening to see a group of Latino students so actively engaged.

Earlier in the day I struck up a conversation in Spanish with a parent volunteer. “All but one of them knows Spanish” she said. “And the teachers, though not Latino, know Spanish as well.”

It’s interesting because I think they thought they were going to pick up trash, but I like that they can come out here and learn about this place.”

I thought about that comment later on as the kids were antsy to start planting and one girl asked if she could just pick up trash—a helpful task, but it is good that kids get to engage with the environment hand- on beyond just litter cleanup, and to engage with it beyond as a lecture or presentation piece. I am reminded of how the writer Richard Louv put it: let them climb trees.

I introduced myself to several students. I noticed that in speaking Spanish to them, their demeanor would change at times—hard to exactly say but it seemed a bit more respectful—con respeto”. Throughout the morning I noticed some of the boys I checked in with would look around to see if I was watching. I would give them a nod, con respeto.

As I left I asked one student what was something that stuck with him about the activities. He responded “how we filled up part of the bay to make houses for people”.

And what do you thing about that?” I asked.

Well, people need houses, but animals too.”

The saplings the kids were planting are the future for a healthy marsh habitat—sorely needed homes for the animals. But so too are these kids the sorely needed future—a future that is here now taking care of the natural environment, engaging in its conservation—con respeto.

Jose Gonzalez is an educator with classroom and outdoor experience across all age levels, from elementary to college. Currently he is a Butler-Koshland Fellow with Radio Bilingue and serves as an adjunct faculty member with the National Hispanic University in their Teacher Education Department. He is interested in the intersection of Latinos and environmental conservation issues. Follow him on Twitter @green_chicano @JoseBilingue, see his postings at and


Back to School: A Day in the Field

Students planting along the MLK Shoreline
The students work to repopulate native plants along the MLK Shoreline.

Last month I attended one of our Restoration Education Programs, where our restoration team partnered with a local school to take 6th graders out to the Bay for a day of hands-on learning. After everyone had arrived and circled up a thought formed in my brain (and I know I wasn’t alone in this) – it was early and cold, didn’t everyone want to just go inside?

But, as the sun made its appearance and my coffee kicked in, the thought faded. The restoration staff had set up a scavenger hunt with facts about plants, the shoreline, and local wildlife. The kids were really excited about finding these nuggets of wisdom and they all wanted to read the facts out loud, but only a lucky few got the privilege. We wound our way down to the planting site and, after an early lunch, got to the event of the afternoon — planting! I was impressed to see the kids get straight to it without complaining and with gusto. Each student was asked to plant 10 seedlings, and most were determined to meet that goal — taking buckets of mulch and water, and prepared seedlings to the flagged spots.

I meandered about helping kids lay down the mulch and giving out compliments on their newly planted natives. I planted a few of my own baby plants in the ground and eventually the time came to clean up. Slowly everything was put back in its place and the students and restoration crew circled up to say goodbye. This particular class had been taught to do “appreciations” at the end of the school day and they were all eager to thank the crew.

At least once a week, our restoration crew takes kids out to the Bay to show them what it is we are trying to protect. And if all days go like this day did, hundreds of seedlings get planted and a number of happy students get to have a hand in restoring the Bay.

We are currently booking school programs for April and May. Learn more here.