Trump’s planned EPA cuts: Zero dollars for Bay Area program

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The San Francisco Bay is emerging as a huge target for the Trump Administration as it plans to slash spending at the Environmental Protection Agency: A preliminary budget this week shows President Donald Trump plans to eliminate a $4.8 million federal program to protect the bay.

The document, obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, outlines major cuts to estuaries around the country, as the administration aims to carve 3,000 jobs and $2 billion, or 25 percent of the current budget, from the EPA’s 2018 budget.

Environmentalists across the country have been bracing for Trump’s long-promised budget ax, and the president has threatened to cut federal funding in California as the state aggressively opposes many of the White House’s immigration and other policies.

The $4.8 million for the EPA’s San Francisco Bay Program — established by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2008 — helps fund a variety of projects, including restoring wetlands and watersheds, reducing polluted runoff, and improving shoreline protection in San Francisco Bay.

“We need more money from the federal government, not less,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, restoring and celebrating San Francisco Bay.

Michele Huitric, an EPA spokeswoman in San Francisco, said the agency wasn’t commenting on the proposed cuts. Gov. Jerry Brown’s office also had no comment.

The Bay Area’s budget is already far below that of other estuary regions like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound — $73 million and $28 million respectively. “The bay starts off at a big disadvantage in federal funding even though we have the highest demonstrated need,” Lewis said.

Rufus Jeffris, vice president of communications for the Bay Area Council, said in an email that this would be “a huge hit for our region, given that the proposed cuts are coming (less than a year) after local Measure AA won 70 percent approval.”

Measure AA is a $12-per-year parcel tax in all nine Bay Area counties that aims to generate $500 million over 20 years for critical tidal marsh restoration projects around San Francisco Bay.

“The Bay Area is the only region in the U.S. that has raised its own dollars to match federal investments in these programs, and now they’ve just walked away from the table,” Jeffris wrote.

Other estuaries may also suffer from these proposed budget cuts — the plan calls for Puget Sound funding to be cut from $28 million to $2 million; the Great Lakes, $300 million to $10 million; and Chesapeake Bay, $73 million to $5 million.

Environmental policy experts at the Heartland Institute — a free-market think tank in Arlington Heights, Illinois — are pleased with the proposed budget, which might rein in an agency that “costs the nation’s taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars a year,” according to the institute’s president, Joseph Bast.

“EPA’s budget was much too big in 1991, when it was $6 billion, the same as is now proposed by the Trump administration,” Bast said in a news release. “EPA was much too large in 1984, when it had 11,420 staff members, approximately the same number as the Trump administration now wants it to have.”

H. Sterling Burnett, an environment and energy policy research fellow at the institute, said, “The budget doesn’t target California per se, rather the EPA as a whole.”

“It’s long overdue – maybe if they have significantly reduced budgets, they might focus on their core mission,” said Burnett. He characterized this mission as being focused solely on laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

The proposed cuts would also eliminate funding for a wide range of air and water programs, and cut spending for programs that control water pollution and protect low-income communities from environmental and health hazards.

Lewis said it’s important to remember that this is “essentially a leaked draft that only might be a part of a Trump budget. We don’t know if it will actually be proposed or what might happen.” Approving new budgets requires congressional approval, and with 46 Democrats and two independents in the Senate, it might be expected that some of the proposed cuts would lessen in severity.

In all, Save The Bay’s Lewis wasn’t surprised at the developments. “These deep budget cuts don’t make sense for public health or the environment, but are exactly what we expected.”

“It’s exactly the outrageous attack on the environment that we expected from the president and the people he’s surrounded himself with,” Lewis said.

Norman LaForce, legal chair for the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed with Lewis’ assessment of President Trump. “He has no interest in helping California in any way. The next four years are just going to be an environmental hell in the United States.

This article featuring David Lewis was originally published in the San Jose Mercury News on 3/3/2017. 

Wetland Restoration is working. Here’s how.

From our friends at San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, these videos show how wetland restoration is working throughout the Bay Area. 

Check out the videos and take action to support wetland restoration projects near you.

Wetland Restoration is Working, Video Short # 1 – Heron’s Head Park

Wetland Restoration is Working, Video Short # 2 – San Pablo Bay

Welcome Silas, our new Restoration Project Specialist

Silas Ellison (far right)
Silas Ellison (far right) joins Save The Bay’s restoration team as a Restoration Project Specialist after a career driven by conservation and education efforts in the Bay Area.

The imminent threat to biodiversity here in the Bay Area has driven my career in conservation, and it’s what makes me so excited to join the restoration team at Save The Bay as their new Restoration Project Specialist.

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My work to establish new populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog is one of the many roads that have led me to further my conservation career here at Save The Bay.

I feel so lucky to be part of this effort to restore critical habitat for the 100+ threatened and endangered species that call the Bay Area home.  Together with our dedicated volunteers and supporters, I know that we can restore the 100,000 acres of tidal marsh that experts believe the Bay needs to support a fully-functioning ecosystem.

Biodiversity on our planet is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis.  Extinctions are occurring faster than at any point in the past 65 million years—amphibians, for example, are disappearing 1,000 times faster than the historical average.  Extinctions have become so common and so widespread that a new consensus is emerging among scientists:  we are in the middle of the world’s sixth mass extinction.

I saw these effects firsthand when I was studying disease ecology and amphibian declines in the Vance Thomas Vredenburg Lab at San Francisco State University.  As a graduate student and lab manager, I collaborated with a team of government agencies and academic institutions to establish new populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, which has been devastated by invasive species and infectious disease (approximately 96 percent of these frog populations have been completely wiped out!).  I also used advanced molecular technology to study the community dynamics of bacteria and other microbes that live on the frogs’ skin.  I am fascinated by the interactions in an ecosystem that range across scales, connecting the tiniest of micro-organisms and their hosts to large-scale forces like tides that shape entire landscapes.

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Over the past several years, I’ve also had the opportunity to help protect several different habitat types around the Bay Area that include Presidio in SF and Mount Diablo State Park.

I am very excited to help our community to make these kinds of connections through our public and educational volunteer programs.

Earlier in my career, I worked as a middle school math and science teacher at a low-performing, under-resourced school in East Palo Alto.  Seeing students’ eyes light up as they learned about the natural world was truly an inspiration, and it’s one of the experiences that made me decide to pursue a career in conservation.  I am especially delighted that some of our primary restoration sites, like the Palo Alto Baylands and Bair Island, are located so close to East Palo Alto. This position provides me with an exciting opportunity to re-engage with these students in the area, and to help connect communities to the thriving Bay ecosystem right outside their doorsteps.

It has been so fun and energizing to work with so many people at our public volunteer programs over the past three months, and I look forward to meeting many more amazing volunteers at upcoming work days.  I strongly encourage anyone who has not yet had a chance to volunteer with Save The Bay this season, to come help plant the 35,000 native seedlings that we are planning to install before the end of the rainy season!  Together we can restore the Bay’s tidal marshes, fight against the sixth mass extinction, and preserve the incredible biodiversity of our beloved San Francisco Bay.

Monitoring Marshes to Managing their Restoration: Welcome Katy Zaremba

Katy Zaremba has joined Save The Bay as our new Habitat Restoration Program Manager. She is pictured here at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve Whales Tail South Marsh in Winter 2012.
Katy Zaremba has joined Save The Bay as the new Habitat Restoration Program Manager. She is pictured here at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve Whales Tail South Marsh in Winter 2012.

My introduction to estuarine and wetland conservation began in high school while slithering on my belly through cordgrass marshes on the mudflats, counting fiddler crabs while participating in an environmental education program on the Chesapeake Bay.

It was there that I gained an appreciation for estuarine environments, and learned the ecological value of estuarine and wetland habitats, and the need for conservation and stewardship of these unique habitats.

I am so pleased to have the opportunity to join Save The Bay as their new Restoration Program Manager. It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of environmental conservation heroines Esther Gulick, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Kay Kerr who created a lasting legacy for San Francisco Bay. I believe that my new position with Save The Bay perfectly marries my early career experience in environmental education and environmental advocacy, with my years of professional work as an estuarine ecologist, conservation biologist and wetland restoration practitioner on the San Francisco Bay.

Katy is pictured here during an outreach program on extent of Bay Invasion in 2004
Katy is pictured here during an outreach program on the extent of Bay Invasion in 2004.

The focus of my early career was in coastal and marine ecology, environmental education and volunteer coordination. After some years working on the coast and in the Bay as an educator, I decided to further my own education and pursue my interests in wetland and estuarine ecology and habitat conservation in graduate school.

When deciding on the focus of my graduate school studies, the San Francisco Estuary had been declared as one of the most invaded estuaries in the nation. Invasive non-native species in the Bay were a growing threat to the health of the Bay ecosystem. Given my passion for protecting the coastal and estuarine ecosystems that I cherished, my keen interest to expand on my knowledge and my life goal to actively contribute to the cause of conserving and restoring the San Francisco Bay, I developed a graduate school research project that involved monitoring the spread and control of invasive non-native cordgrass (Spartina spp.) into a newly-opened restoration site.

My graduate research project evolved into a career as the Monitoring Program Manager and eventually the Restoration Program Manager with the Invasive Spartina Project.  I started a field-based monitoring program, surveying the extent of San Francisco Bay and the outer coast marshes for five species of non-native cordgrass. The monitoring program introduced me to an incredible network of marshes around the Bay.  I surveyed by foot, by bike, by kayak and boat. I learned how to access shoreline and coordinated with land owners and introduced them to the threat of invasive cordgrass.

Katy enjoys contributing and volunteering right here in her own backyard, or watershed, and working with local conservationists.

My years surveying the Bay provided me with many unique experiences and adventures. I surveyed the expansive strip marshes and mudflats of San Pablo Bay National Wildlife. I got to know how to best access the marshes around the Bay, making the most of the miles of shoreline trails provided by numerous landowners including East Bay Regional Parks where I surveyed miles of shoreline from Pt. Pinole to Hayward. It was always a highlight when I surveyed by kayak. I was fully cognizant of the special opportunity I had to kayak the sloughs in and around Bair and Greco Islands. Even driving access was an adventure as I learned to navigate driving the levees in and around the evolving Eden Landing Ecological Reserve and South Bay Salt Pond Complex.

In the process of surveying the Bay, developing the ISP Monitoring and Restoration Programs, I worked and collaborated with remarkable community of land owners, managers, stakeholders, researchers, environmental advocates and regulators. I built an incredible network of colleagues and friends, all of whom were committed to the cause of protecting and restoring the health of the San Francisco Bay Estuary. I take great pride in having the opportunity to work with such an incredibly committed community of conservationists here in the Bay Area.

I’ve always enjoyed contributing and volunteering in my own backyard, or watershed, working with local conservationists. With the intention of working locally to acquire, protect and restore local ecologically significant wetland habitat, I joined the Board of the Bowen Island Conservancy while living in British Columbia, and then Marin Audubon Society when I returned to the Bay Area.

As the Save The Bay Restoration Program Manager I am so pleased to be able to continue to collaborate and work with existing partners, wetland restoration practitioners, and to join the committed team of Bay and wetland stewards, environmental educators, advocates and policy makers at Save The Bay.

Scott Pruitt is terrible news for the Bay

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President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an ardent foe of environmental protection who has attacked the laws that protect our water, air and land. In short—he poses a big threat to the Bay.

Trump selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the federal agency that protects public health and the environment. It’s a frightening choice. Pruitt led attacks against the EPA’s regulations and challenged the legitimacy of the agency itself through lawsuits.  He is unapologetically anti-science and anti-environment, with close ties to the very corporations and industries he would be regulating.

For years Pruitt has attacked the EPA and the Clean Water Act – the cornerstone of pollution prevention and wetlands protection here in the Bay and throughout the nation. He has fought EPA action against climate change, and sued to dismantle crucial laws and regulations that protect all of us.

Pruitt was one of the first to sue the Obama administration to block EPA from protecting the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans, and attacked the rules that prevent development in “waters of the U.S.,” which protect Bay wetlands against filling. He led other state attorney generals in trying to block restoration of Chesapeake Bay by filing an amicus brief on supporting draconian litigation, even though that Bay is more than 1,000 miles from Oklahoma.

He also crusaded against the EPA’s standards for reducing soot and smog pollution, its protections against toxic pollutants from power plants, and its authority to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas.

Pruitt proudly touts himself as a fan of fossil fuels.  And he supported fracking throughout Oklahoma with minimal regulation to protect groundwater.

I have no doubt that he would lead the Trump Administration’s effort to defund the EPA and cripple its enforcement against polluters. So to save the Bay, we must fight to stop Scott Pruitt’s nomination, and we need your help now.

For the Bay we love, the air we breathe and the water we drink, we call on the U.S. Senate to oppose Scott Pruitt’s nomination.

With the help of our thousands of members and supporters, Save The Bay will:

  • Demand that the U.S. Senate oppose Scott Pruitt’s nomination. We need help from our supporters to mobilize California’s Senators and others throughout the nation to block Scott Pruitt from becoming EPA Administrator.
  • Support our elected officials here in California to pursue strong state protections for the Bay, to counter the Trump Administration’s anti-environment policies.
  • Continue our leadership to protect and improve our environment, right here in the Bay Area. In the Trump era, effective local organizing and action is more important than ever.

We will stand up and fight for the health of our Bay and our environment. But we can’t do this important work without help from our supporters.

I’ve seen anti-environment Presidents before. They come to Washington, DC, and try to destroy protections for water, air and land that are essential for public health, wildlife, and the planet.  It takes strong, coordinated advocacy from people and organizations at the local, state and federal level to block them, and Save The Bay will join that effort with our colleagues and environmental champions in government.

We’ve also proven how much we can accomplish for the Bay without relying on the federal government for help.  New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has observed:

“If you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head — the country looks so much better from the bottom up. What you see are towns and regions not waiting for Washington, D.C., but coming together themselves to fix infrastructure, education and governance.”

The Bay Area is a shining example of that, and Save The Bay has been a leading force for regional progress:

  • We worked for over a decade to create a new Bay Area funding source to accelerate Bay marsh restoration, building a broad coalition that ultimately won 70% voter support for the Measure AA parcel tax in the nine counties this June.
  • We endorsed nine successful local bond and tax measures for transportation, housing and infrastructure that can help the Bay Area grow sustainably, to be healthy and resilient.
  • We’re convening mayors and city staff from all nine counties to promote green infrastructure that adapts our communities to climate change, reduces Bay pollution and improves natural resources.

In Save The Bay’s 2020 Strategic Plan we set ambitious goals for improving the Bay and the Bay Area, and most of that is within our power as a region and a state.

We will combat the Trump Administration’s anti-environment agenda, and we will continue to make more progress—for the planet, and right here at home for San Francisco Bay.


Please consider supporting Save The Bay as we fight Scott Pruitt’s nomination and Donald Trump’s dangerous attacks on our environment.