Behind the Scenes of Bay Day: Looking Back and Gearing Up!

As a Marin County native, I can’t help but appreciate rolling hills, towering redwoods, and vibrant wildflowers. I grew up hiking Mount Tamalpais, and I’ve always loved reaching its peak and looking out at San Francisco Bay.

With these memories in mind, I started a full-time job at Save The Bay last summer after graduating college with an Environmental Studies degree. I was excited to find out that Save The Bay had created an official, region-wide holiday dedicated to celebrating San Francisco Bay, its people and wildlife. I was even more thrilled to learn that I would be heavily involved in planning… Bay Day!

As the weeks flew by, I found it rewarding to translate my college coursework into on-the-ground advocacy for SF Bay. I reached out to local businesses and organizations to spread the word about Bay Day. I packed boxes, loaded trucks, and organized materials to ensure our Bay-saving team was ready to go for the big day.

All that work paid off when October rolled around. On Bay Day 2017, I was so inspired to watch families learn together about the issues affecting our Bay. I was and still am proud that our dedicated staff, volunteers, community partners, and sponsors hosted more than 70 activities across nine Bay Area counties.

This Bay Day, we’re inspiring the Bay Hero in everyone and will recognize Bay Heroes who protect our Bay in extraordinary ways. We will also encourage Bay Area residents to register to VOTE to make their voice heard at the ballot box this November. And, it wouldn’t be Bay Day without an opportunity to DIG IN at one of our restoration events.

Check out our full events calendar and mark your calendars for Saturday, October 6. I hope you will join us in celebrating our beautiful Bay!

Quiet Confidence: Why Beckie Zisser Thrives Talking Politics

Beckie takes her boys to Big Basin Redwoods State Park

“Being a quiet, shy person, I hated swim meets as a kid – found them really nerve-racking. But once I was in the water, I knew exactly what I was doing. I loved it.”

Beckie Zisser knows well: she isn’t like most lobbyists.

And that’s precisely why Beckie strikes a chord with politicians. “I’m not naturally extroverted, but I always have that drive underneath to compete.” When it comes to water issues, Beckie’s never afraid to enter the ring. In fact, she’s taken on this fight for most of her career.

Beckie’s childhood in Seattle shaped much of the story. “I lived at the top of a hill, and you could see water on both sides. There were lakes around me, mountains. Being outside was an extremely important part of my upbringing.”

Beckie enjoys a family hike at Mount Rainier

As a kid, Beckie went camping with friends and family; she played soccer and swam for her club team. And, when Seattle’s downpours overwhelmed? She honed her skills at crossword puzzles. Beckie still loves “word games of all kinds,” though she’s recently pivoted toward Settlers of Catan. “I like building cities and getting all my resources, and my husband and I get pretty competitive about it.”

Then, Beckie takes what she’s learned back to work. “I do find pitching to legislators is like playing a game. You have to put the pieces together, find which ones will appeal to a person.” True to her roots, Beckie does her homework for these meetings outside.

“The best lobbying preparation is participating in a staff planting day [with Save The Bay]. I love having a real sense of the work that needs to be done — getting on the ground and seeing the kinds of projects we’re trying to promote. Then, when I’m talking to legislators, I can really picture the wetlands in my head.”

During those conversations, Beckie finds elected officials are typically disarmed by her calm demeanor. “I have a different temperament from a lot of lobbyists – non-confrontational, quietly confident. So, when I ask for something, it’s harder for politicians to say: ‘no.’”

Beckie’s glad for that. After all, our Climate Change and Restoration Policy Program Manager sometimes struggles to sleep worrying about… climate change. “When people ask: ‘What keeps you up at night?’ It’s climate change. I have two little kids, and I’m so worried about what legacy I’m leaving them.’”

Family trip to the Marin Headlands

As someone who uses exercise to “wind down,” Beckie finds that “the slow pace of legislative work can be extremely frustrating.” Still, she works tirelessly to secure funding for projects that will restore and protect San Francisco Bay. Beckie stresses: “It’s such an important task because the clock is ticking. The longer we wait to restore the Bay and adapt to sea level rise, the greater cost we’ll all pay down the road.”

In pushing for new policy initiatives on behalf of Save The Bay, Beckie always keeps her two young children in mind.  “My older son now has some idea of what I do. I tell him I ‘help nature.’ He understands our Prius is ‘better for nature’ than other cars, for example. And when we drive over the Bay, he knows that ‘Mama’ is working to keep it clean and healthy.”

And when Beckie thinks of her favorite views around San Francisco Bay — from Tilden Park to the Marin Headlands to Crissy Field — she reminds herself to keep teaching her boys about our region’s natural beauty. “I want them to spend as much time as possible seeing nature. I want them to have nature built into their character from a young age, just like I did growing up.”

For more on Beckie’s fight for Bay funding on a state level, you can read her 2018 Legislative Agenda here.

 

Planting Seeds to Save our Bay: Welcoming Rebecca Wynd

I know I am not alone in feeling a deep bond to the diverse landscapes of the Bay Area. I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood living in the Bay Area and exploring everywhere from the redwoods and grasslands to the marshes and sand dunes. Those moments have driven me to give back to the land that has given so much to me.

I am overjoyed to be joining Save the Bay as its Nursery Specialist. I was introduced to Save the Bay this past summer, when I participated in the fellowship program as the Nursery and Habitat Restoration Fellow. I felt inspired by the three women who started Save the Bay in 1961, and by the resourceful people I worked with on the habitat restoration team, who give their all every day.

Luckily, working closely with plants wasn’t new to me. I spent years gardening in several urban farms throughout Berkeley and Oakland. For two years, I managed an educational farm that is part of a summer camp in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

When I returned from the mountains I had the opportunity to work with the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy as a habitat restoration technician — work that I realized is quite similar to gardening! It was rewarding to get to know the landscapes I grew up with in an entirely new way, through the lenses of the endangered and endemic species whose habitats were threatened by human development. I felt so aligned with habitat restoration work, as it offered a truly reciprocal relationship with the landscape.

I also assisted at the Presidio Native Plant Nursery, which grows plants for restoration projects throughout the Presidio Trust. I relished the detail-oriented nature of this work and admired the tiny scale at which nursery initiatives operate. Planting small seeds and watching them sprout is my version of magic, and I feel lucky to facilitate this process every day!

Native plant nurseries are essential components of habitat restoration. Since the areas in which we work have been degraded so heavily, the natural balance that allows native plants to grow and flourish in an ecosystem is not yet in place. Nurseries are safe spaces for native plants to become strong before they are planted at a restoration site.

As the nursery specialist I am humbled to be able to grow over 30,000 plants a year for our restoration projects in tidal wetlands throughout the Bay Area. This number will continue to grow, as our projects expand in the coming years. With 90% of natural tidal wetlands in the Bay Area lost, habitat restoration is a critical step towards healing tidal wetlands. They serve an irreplaceable role in climate change mitigation, and in protecting them, we protect numerous species, including the endangered Ridgeway’s Rail and Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse that call the Bay Area home.

I am especially looking forward to our public nursery programs, where I have the privilege of sharing our fun and rewarding work with all of you!

Listening as the Clock Ticks: Mitchell Oster on Political Organizing

Traveling by water taxi: Mitchell takes a scenic ride to San Francisco!

“There’s an old adage that, around election time, voters behave stupidly. That’s wrong. Voters are treated like they’re stupid. It’s not the same thing.”

Mitchell Oster doesn’t mince words. In fact, as Save The Bay’s new Regional Political Organizer, he finds there’s much to be gained by avoiding them altogether.

“The most important thing you can give of yourself [as an organizer] is the openness to listen to the other person. An exchange of ideas is how you unlock an unexpected opportunity.”

Interestingly, Mitchell made this connection in public schools – not political circles. Save The Bay’s newest Policy staffer spent six years working as a paraprofessional. Mitchell says his experience in a special education setting taught him that “different people come with different gifts. You have to be willing to meet them where they are.”

One summer, he decided to spend his free time volunteering for a “young candidate’s” campaign. Mitchell worked tirelessly calling voters, planning events, and entering data. The candidate lost.

From his defeat, Mitchell learned something powerful: “even when you lose, you can still bring people together around a cause.” The candidate’s field offices covered an expansive area, but the political hopeful still “drove to every one with a six-pack and pizza and spoke to all of the reps” on election night.

Mitchell brought this model of empowerment to his role as Field Organizer for Measure AA, and ultimately, to Save The Bay. “I’m building the number of people who support us. I’m working to maximize the positive impact we can all make on our Bay.”

As a Californian who loves the outdoors, Mitchell wants to make sure nobody takes San Francisco Bay’s beauty for granted. “Part of what I want to do [at Save The Bay] is raise an alarm to people who do care but perhaps don’t know how much there is left to be done – or how to do it effectively.”

Mitchell is sounding that alarm right now – on several fronts – with state and local elections coming up in both June and November 2018. A top priority? Empowering Save The Bay’s wide range of supporters to win additional state money for wetlands restoration. But Mitchell is also helping his Policy colleagues fundamentally expand their scope. He’s fighting for sustainable development measures that center on housing and transportation. The vision: pass equitable laws, ones that protect the environment while benefiting our diverse community.

Even as these elections grow closer and closer, Mitchell remains unfazed by the ticking clock. Our Regional Political Organizer thrives under pressure, and finds: “in a strange way, the urgency and stress is calming. There’s certainly an adrenaline rush. Getting into the cycle is when things start to feel normal.”

Why Allison Chan Protects the Heart of our Home

Angel Island, one of my favorite scenic escapes by the Bay

I moved to the Bay Area almost ten years ago. I was drawn to the region’s stunning beauty, diverse communities, and delicious food. Each year brings special life experiences for my family; we have countless memories of being together by the Bay. The Bay is the heart of my home. It’s why I’ve chosen to set up roots and raise my daughter here.

But the Bay doesn’t just connect my family; it connects us all.

The Bay defines our geography, bridging the gap between quiet neighborhoods and bustling downtowns. When the pace of city life becomes too frenetic, the Bay offers scenic escapes. It’s integral to our daily lives and vital to our local economy. Because the Bay gives me so much, I do all I can to give back. I work tirelessly with Save The Bay’s policy team to protect the Bay – not just for my family, but for future generations.

Your support makes everything we do possible.

What’s at stake? Each time it rains, litter, PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins are carried into local creeks and the Bay, threatening Bay wildlife and habitat. However, advocacy work and powerful partnerships helped us score significant wins this year to keep trash out of the Bay.

Through a collaboration with Oakland Community Organizations and statewide agencies, we:

  • Exposed the environmental consequences of widespread illegal dumping in Oakland
  • Pushed City Council members to fund solutions for public health and environmental hazards
  • Rallied to support SB 231 (Hertzberg), a pivotal bill that enables cities to raise money for their own water supply and stormwater infrastructure projects

Going forward, Save The Bay plans to ensure that Bay Area cities meet a 2022 deadline to eliminate trash from storm drain systems. We will also promote sustainable urban growth practices and preserve access to the Bay for diverse communities across our region.

Our success is your success. Together, we can make the Bay as clean and healthy as possible.

Thank you for your support and for caring about this big, beautiful Bay as much as I do.