Notes from the Field | Jumpstarting Restoration at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve

Hydroseeding
We recently hydroseeded 4.25 acres along this levee at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. Click the image to see aerial photos of the process captured by Cris Benton (pictured above).

The Habitat Restoration Team has been talking a lot lately about hydroseeding, thanks to our latest project at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. Hydroseeding is a technique where plant seeds are mixed with a slurry of water, tackifier (treatment to make it stick to the ground), some fertilizer and fine mulch, and then all of the slurry is shot out of a truck using a fire hose. In the restoration world, hydroseeding is commonly used to help jumpstart the establishment of native plants, particularly native grasses.

We were very lucky to have Cris Benton come out and take pictures of the work. He gave us a bird’s eye view of hydroseeding – literally. You can see his images here. 

As you can see from the photos, Save The Bay is hydroseeding our new 4.25-acre project site at the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. We are partnering with the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on their project at Eden Landing to create transition zone habitat at the edge of a former salt pond – which has been recently restored to tidal marsh. Last week we installed hydroseed to 4.25 acres along the levee between Ponds E9 and E14 at the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. We used a combination of native grasses and plants that are typically found near the bay and that are tolerant to saline conditions.

This winter Save The Bay staff and volunteers will plant over 10,000 seedlings on 2.5 acres of this site to augment the hydroseeding. We hope to finish planting the rest of the site next winter. Creating transition zone habitat next to a developing marsh will help provide cover for animals finding their way to the developing marsh, such as the salt marsh harvest mouse and the California clapper rail and other small mammals and birds.

We are excited to add this new, large project to our list of habitat restoration sites around the Bay. Altogether, we will be installing over 45,000 plants at all of our sites this winter. Planting season is upon us – and we will need your help. Come out on one of our winter planting programs and help us restore important habitat at the edge of San Francisco Bay!

 

Funding Wetland Restoration—A Scientist’s Perspective

We all have our own personal connection to the Bay. As a wetland restoration ecologist, there is nothing more personally inspiring than standing at the edge of a restored tidal marsh where pickleweed and other native marsh plants have spread over an area formerly clogged with invasive weeds and trash.

Photo: Rick Lewis
Photo: Rick Lewis

Having spent the last eight years working on wetland restoration in San Francisco Bay, for me, this work is personal, as it is for most of my colleagues. More than seven million people live here in the Bay Area and enjoy the benefits of being able live, hike, bike, and commute around the Bay.

But, as the Habitat Restoration Director for Save The Bay I am frequently surprised by the number of people who do not realize that we have to write grants and solicit funding to do our work. Funds for restoration projects come from federal and private regional sources, as well as foundations and institutions. However, these sources only meet a portion of the need and are not always consistently available. That’s why Federal EPA funding is so important, and San Francisco Bay needs more.

Consider this: Last year EPA spent $300 million on the Great Lakes, $60 million on Chesapeake Bay, and Puget Sound received $30 million. But Congress directed just $6 million from EPA to San Francisco Bay—the largest and most important estuary on the West Coast.

My fellow scientists and I know first-hand that healthy wetlands are essential to a healthy Bay. We’ve already lost 90% of our original wetlands and we agree that the Bay needs a minimum of 100,000 acres of healthy, restored wetlands. In addition to views, open space, and habitat for birds and other wildlife, wetlands perform many functions that most of us don’t see and can easily take for granted: They improve water quality by trapping polluted runoff, sequester carbon and help counter global warming, protect our communities from flooding, and provide economic benefits.

Scientists, non-profit groups, government, and private organizations are grappling with the need for more wetlands and working hard every day to perform the crucial restoration work that will ensure we continue to enjoy these benefits that the Bay uniquely provides. The Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals report published in 1999 provided a scientific blueprint. The latest science indicates that climate change will present additional, unforeseen challenges to Bay Area land managers and scientists. We must restore as many wetlands as possible quickly. For that we need foresight, planning, and more federal funding.

Dozens of current and future projects including The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, Hamilton Field, Sears Point, and Cullinan Ranch (to name only a few) rely on more funding to be completed. These projects all contribute to the vitality and health of the Bay. The San Francisco Bay Restoration Act (HR 843) introduced by Jackie Speier (with companion legislation introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Senate) would create a 5-year program to fund crucial Bay restoration work. I urge you to encourage Congress to invest in San Francisco Bay and pass the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act to help fill the funding gap and ensure that the critical work of restoring and preserving our wetlands continues. Take action now.

 

 

China Camp State Park: A San Francisco Bay Treasure

China Camp tour
Save The Bay supporters tour China Camp with Donna Ball and Doug Serrill.

Last weekend Save The Bay’s Nursery Manager, Doug Serrill and I had the opportunity to take advantage of the warm spring weather and hike two of the many trails at China Camp State Park with a number of Save The Bay Board members, guests, family, and friends.   Group participants included long-time supporters and founding members of Save The Bay, new Save The Bay members, and long-time conservationists who have worked hard over their lifetime to preserve and protect important wetlands around San Francisco Bay.

China Camp has a rich history as a Coast Miwok hunting ground, Chinese shrimping village, and more recently as a State Park.  Our group of 40 guests and staff arrived early in the morning eager to hike and learn about the area.   We divided into two groups and each group had the chance to learn about the ecology of tidal marshes and to see one of the few remaining relict marshes of San Francisco Bay, while the other group learned about native grasses and oak woodlands and got to view the spring wildflowers on the hill slopes above the marsh.   Being outdoors on a beautiful Saturday morning was incredible, but more importantly it was an amazing opportunity to share the morning with people who have a common passion for the work of Save The Bay and for protecting and preserving wetlands and valuable places like China Camp that make San Francisco Bay such a wonderful place to live.

There were a surprising number of people in our group who had never been to China Camp.   If you too have never been there, be sure to find time soon to visit this State Park gem with 1,500 acres of hiking, biking, and picnicking opportunities situated at the edge of San Pablo Bay.  China Camp is currently operated by Friends of China Camp who work with the California State Parks to ensure that China Camp is available to everyone 365 days a year.  If you would like to know more, visit www.friendsofchinacamp.org.

Notes from the Field | Waiting for Rain

Nursery MLK
Our native plant nurseries are filled to the brim with native seedlings waiting for planting season to begin.

I spent most of my life in Washington State before moving to the Bay area 7 years ago and I am used to the stormy winter weather of the Pacific Northwest. The people who know me best are aware that I love winter in the Bay area because I miss the rain and gray skies that have been so much a part of my life, and that I look forward to the first really big storm of the year with great anticipation and excitement.

This is also a time of year for great anticipation and excitement at Save The Bay. The Habitat Restoration Team has spent much of the spring, summer, and fall seasons collecting local native plant seeds, propagating plants, and carefully nurturing seedlings in our two native plant nurseries under the guidance of our Nursery Manager Doug Serrill. With the help of thousands of volunteers we currently have over 30,000 plants ready to go in the ground as soon as the first raindrops start falling in earnest. We have carefully watered our plantings throughout the year in our nursery and by installing the plants in tandem with the rains we give them the best opportunity to establish and grow and minimize the stress due to transplanting. With an adequate water supply during transplanting and during the first winter, the plants develop roots that are better able to survive the warm summers that are characteristic of our Bay area Mediterranean climate.

Our restoration staff and dedicated volunteers have diligently prepared our planting sites by removing non-native and invasive plant species, and our Senior Scientist, Laura Wainer has developed a planting strategy for each of our restoration sites to maximize native plant cover and diversity and to create valuable transition zone habitat at the edge of salt marshes around San Francisco Bay.

Planting at SFQ
Don’t miss out on the joys of winter — come plant with us!

In other words – we are ready to go! Planting season at Save The Bay officially begins when the first significant storms of the year start rolling into the Bay area. This is my first planting season as the Habitat Restoration Director at Save The Bay, and I can’t wait to share in the excitement of installing the first plants of the season into the ground. Don’t be left out of the fun and excitement. With rains predicted for the coming weekend our planting season is upon us. We have 30,000 plants to install over the next 3-4 months. Come join us for a planting event and together we can celebrate the start of the rainy season!

 

Notes from the Field: Introducing Donna Ball, Habitat Restoration Director

Donna Ball
Meet Donna Ball, Save The Bay’s new Habitat Restoration Director.

I am excited to have this opportunity to introduce myself as the new Habitat Restoration Director for Save The Bay.  I have followed and supported the work of Save The Bay since moving to the Bay area and feel very fortunate to be joining an incredible staff of passionate, energetic, dedicated people who are committed to protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay.

I am joining Save The Bay with over 10 years of experience working as a salt marsh ecologist in estuaries on the West Coast, and have worked on numerous marsh restoration projects in San Francisco Bay, Elkhorn Slough, and Humboldt Bay.   I have also worked in a variety of habitats in the Bay area in my last 7 years as a restoration ecologist for H. T. Harvey & Associates before coming to Save The Bay, but salt marshes are by far my favorite.

I love almost any outdoor activity, but am very much at home in a pair of knee boots mucking about in the mud or along the edge of a marsh.   San Francisco Bay is ringed by a unique combination of marshes and wetlands and provides an opportunity to enjoy a variety of wildlife and habitats.  I find it amazing that I live where I can leave the heavily-populated urban environment and traffic-filled highways and within a short period of time be near large expanses of marsh where I can hike, bike, birdwatch, or just be still in a peaceful, restorative environment.

During my first week of work here at Save The Bay, I was privileged to participate in Ring Around the Bay; an event co-sponsored by REI and Save The Bay with restoration projects literally ringing the bay.  I spent the day with over 40 hard-working, enthusiastic volunteers laying sheet mulch and removing invasive species from a marsh at Palo Alto Baylands.  Even amidst the sounds of hard work and laughter I could still feel the sense of peace and relaxation of the mind that a day in or near the salt marsh always brings me.   I’m so grateful that these places exist and I am excited to be joining a community of dedicated volunteers, students, and Save The Bay staff who show up week after week as part of a 50+ year tradition of protecting and restoring wetlands that ring our Bay.

As I settle into my position of Habitat Restoration Director, I will be joining many of these events in the coming months to orient myself and find ways to contribute to all of the various projects here at Save The Bay.  I greatly look forward to meeting many of you who regularly show up to help on these projects.   If you haven’t ever participated in a Save The Bay event I would like to encourage you to join us for a day of hard work, fun, and sense of accomplishment.

See you in the marsh!