This month the whole country will be watching Saving the Bay, as filmmaker Ron Blatman’s four-part documentary series receives a national airing on PBS stations everywhere. I’m excited that everyone will learn the inspiring story of San Francisco Bay, and Save The Bay’s role in protecting and restoring our great natural treasure that nearly disappeared.
We were pleased to help Ron research and collect material for the film, but the stars made it easy. Save The Bay’s founders – the “three ladies” as they were known – and the Bay itself are fascinating, dynamic and photogenic. And we are proud of their story as it is our story. But Save The Bay’s history also has the power to inspire any individual or group with a bay, river, coastline or other precious resource to take action to protect it; so this local story deserves a national airing.
In fact, Save The Bay’s founders did inspire citizens to take similar action from Boston to Maryland, and Tampa to Seattle. These brushfire regional movements in the 1960s and 1970s created broad national support for creation of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the federal Clean Water Act, and more laws which have since helped protect San Francisco Bay and other estuaries.
A generation later, Save The Bay joined with ten other groups to create a national organization, Restore America’s Estuaries, which has worked for 15 years to grow federal resources and nationwide support for habitat restoration from Louisiana to Maine. I chaired the board of directors for this organization for the last two years, and it’s the best model of collaboration among peer organizations I’ve seen in my career.
Each of our bays is different ecologically and politically, but we’ve shared success stories and failure lessons to make all of our efforts more effective, and the national restoration conference we organize every two years draws 1,000 scientists, activists and agency officials to share best practices and build support.
Saving The Bay doesn’t just make us proud that our predecessors stood up against impossible odds to save San Francisco Bay. It reminds us that we, too, can overcome powerful forces and improve the Bay’s health for those who inherit it from us.
— David Lewis