A restoration journey

Jon Backus
Jon Backus joined Save The Bay’s restoration team in 2012. He plans to continue his career in habitat restoration as a graduate student.

On a foggy early morning in 2012, I stepped out of our big red Save The Bay truck into my first restoration site in East Palo Alto. Little did I know I was merely taking the first step on my long, rewarding journey with Save The Bay. As we set out tools, gloves and maps of the Bay, I eagerly assisted the experienced field staff in preparation to lead a large group of volunteers. But when it came to addressing the group for our introduction, I became timid of talking in front of such a large audience.

As I led more programs, my fear of public speaking diminished and as I talked to volunteers I increasingly grew so proud of Save The Bay’s grassroots beginning and the victories won to prevent irreversible damage to such a unique, but once undervalued ecosystem. The history and future of the San Francisco Bay is such an interesting and ever-changing story, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share this with our volunteers.

Though I often started work before the sun was up, leading programs always instilled in me hope for the state of the Bay. Public programs have volunteers ranging from students to families and friends, all waking up early on their Saturday morning to give back to the communities and the wildlife that depend on the Bay. That’s always a positive group of people to be around!

A tangible impact

There is nothing more satisfying than to finish a program with thousands of pounds of invasive species removed and hundreds of native plants installed. This is the reason why ecological restoration will always be my passion. Because it is tangible. You can see it. Seeing firsthand how the landscape can change and heal with our help is an incomparable feeling. In the face of so many environmental and world problems, habitat restoration provides an avenue away from apathy, towards real change through rewarding work.

Two years after that initial step into my first restoration site, I was promoted to the role of Restoration Program Manager. Now I was in the hot seat doing the behind the scenes work. Managing staff, coordinating our volunteer programs, designing site plans, and acting as interim nursery manager provided me with key knowledge of how a community-based restoration program all comes together.

Planting seeds for the future of restoration

My experience culminated in Save The Bay’s largest and most unique restoration project, the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project, in which we planted over 70,000 plants on a broad horizontal levee that combines provision of wildlife habitat, wastewater filtration and protection from sea level rise. As the Program Manager, I witnessed a true testament to our dedication and teamwork through the Oro Loma Project, and am so proud of what we accomplished.

After nearly five years of Saving the San Francisco Bay, I am now ready to take the next steps in my career as a restoration ecologist. So graduate school, here I come! Working for Save The Bay has been an invaluable experience and has given me the skills I need to continue to manage restoration projects and make a difference in our world. I am eager to apply my passion for restoration and my experience at Save the Bay to many restoration projects in the future.

Are you ready to get inspired? Sign up for a volunteer restoration program here.