Save The Bay & Facebook: Bringing the Bay Area Closer Together

Facebook Interns Restoring Wetlands
Facebook Interns Service Day at Bair Island

San Francisco Bay is home to more than 7 million people and is the largest, most valuable estuary on the West Coast. Facebook’s headquarters is located right on the Bay’s beautiful shoreline, and the company has shown its commitment to protecting local habitat and ecosystems —from the innovative 9-acre green roof at its Menlo Park campus to its broader efforts in the Bay Area.

By sponsoring Bay Day 2017, Facebook is helping people all around the Bay celebrate its iconic role in our community, and inspiring us all to better protect this shared natural wonder. Bay Day is San Francisco Bay’s new regional Earth Day. This Bay Day – Saturday, October 7th – is an opportunity to inspire positive environmental actions by connecting communities with immersive, Bay-themed educational and recreational activities.

This is not the first time Facebook and Save The Bay have partnered to protect the Bay. This June, 350 enthusiastic Facebook volunteers came out for a massive Intern Service Day at Bair Island, bringing their incredible work ethic to our three-acre Inner Bair Island restoration site. Facebook’s volunteers completed 100 days of restoration work in just one day.

At Save The Bay, Facebook’s platforms are vital to everything we do, from spreading the word about the Bay-spanning events this Bay Day to engaging citizens with our vision of a clean and healthy Bay.

This Saturday, October 7th, Facebook’s sponsorship is supporting volunteer restoration events in Redwood City and Palo Alto, and a total of 70 community events around the Bay. And for people and families who can’t make it to one of these public celebrations – Facebook helped us launch My Bay Day Adventure Guide, an interactive, online guide to experience Bay Day from your mobile device. I love how the My Bay Day experience helps people to discover the Bay in a new way, through each of our senses, and hope you and your family enjoy it too.

Save The Bay is proud of our partnership with Facebook, and we are grateful for all the company does to protect San Francisco Bay and the communities that call the area home.  Together, we can ensure a healthy and resilient Bay for generations to come.

Facebook Intern Service Day at Bair Island – 100 days of work in one day!

Sunny skies greeted hundreds of Facebook interns as they poured onto the pathway leading to the three-acre restoration site at Bair Island. More than 350 enthusiastic volunteers were met by equally delighted restoration scientists and fellows from Save The Bay, ready to start the day.

FB at Bair

In our second year hosting Facebook’s interns on the shoreline, we made history completing our biggest program ever. In just one day at Bair Island, volunteers accomplished what it would take one of our restoration team members more than 100 days to do! 

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Once a thriving tidal marsh, the 3,000-acre Bair Island was drained in the 1800s and later transformed into salt evaporation ponds. It was rescued from development in the 1980s by a group of concerned citizens, Friends of Redwood City. Bair Island is now home to over 150 species of birds and wildlife and is protected as part of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

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A long-running rehabilitation process has been underway to restore Bair Island. Save The Bay’s project is a part of a regional effort to restore Bair Island, including restoration partners the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, among others.

Yesterday, volunteers worked on Inner Bair Island to help us prepare the site for planting by removing 3360 lbs of invasive Stinkwort and Wild Mustard. With generous support from the Bently Foundation, this three-acre site will be the future location of a leading-edge pilot project to accelerate native plant establishment in the transition zone. Our work will increase habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality, and contribute to crucial flood protection for local communities facing increasing risk from sea level rise.

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Building community and bringing people closer together is at the core of Facebook’s mission, and a strong synergy with Save The Bay’s mission to connect people to San Francisco Bay and the Bay Area’s sustainable future. Yesterday, 350+ interns were able to connect to each other and their environment, giving them a brand new view of the Bay only minutes away from Facebook’s campus.

Yesterday at Bair Island was a highlight of a growing partnership. We are also thrilled to announce Facebook’s lead partnership in Bay Day 2017, our Earth Day for the Bay.

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Volunteers are a huge part of achieving our restoration goals and working towards a climate-resilient Bay. With wind in their hair, 700 hands in the dirt, and 100 days of work achieved in one day, Facebook interns made critical progress towards a healthier Bay. Thank you Facebook for bringing your energy and muscle to help restore Bair Island!

Want to get involved? Explore Bair Island’s publicly accessible trails or come out on the shoreline and restore habitat with Save The Bay!

Click here to view more pictures from this event. 

Taking the Long View at Bair Island

Inner Bair breach
Bay waters flow into Inner Bair Island culminating decades of community activism and wetland restoration.

The modern environmental movement has sometimes focused on responding to sudden, urgent crises.  Think oil spilling into rivers, species plummeting towards extinction, or toxic chemicals sickening people.

Indeed, Save The Bay was founded in 1961 in response to the alarmingly rapid decline of the San Francisco Bay.  Much of this organization’s early work was to stop the imminent destruction of large portions of the Bay for land “reclamation” purposes.  It was natural and even necessary to think in short-term time frames, so as to quickly react to rapid-fire developments and shifting tactics.

Today, with threats of new bay fill largely eliminated, attention is turning towards confronting the long-term threats to the Bay from climate change and sea level rise.  This increases the importance of careful planning and collaboration amongst various stakeholders to achieve successful restoration and protection of the Bay’s wetlands, which form a crucial defense against damage from extreme weather and encroaching waters.

It also requires working with nature itself, which restores degraded landscapes on a (often gradual) timescale of its own.

Persistence pays off at Bair Island

One timely example illustrating this shifting approach is the Bair Island restoration project in Redwood City, which celebrated a milestone on December 10 when a perimeter levee separating the Bay from Inner Bair Island was breached.  This moment is significant because it marks the completion of the nearly decade-long, $7 million project, some 35 years after the land was under threat of residential and business development.

Historically a flourishing wetland, Bair Island by the 1980s had been used for decades for agriculture and salt evaporation ponds.  In 1982, Mobil Oil owned the land, and wanted to construct a new development called South Shores on Bair Island.  A citizen’s group called Friends of Redwood City quickly arose to oppose this project, and through grassroots campaigning helped stop Mobil’s plans at the ballot box that year.

Since then, a long-running, multi-step process has been underway to complete the circle of ecological restoration at Bair Island.  First, the land was purchased by an entity that would ensure this outcome.  In 1997, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), a local land trust, bought the land for $15 million.  In 1999, POST transferred the land to state and federal government agencies for inclusion in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, ensuring its permanent protection.

Then, a restoration plan needed to be crafted and funded.  A key collaborator in this process has been the conservation non-profit Ducks Unlimited, which pieced together much of the funding from government and foundation sources.  Construction began in 2006 and is now finishing up.

Investing for future challenges

Bair Island’s decades-long journey towards rehabilitation shows how complicated restoring ecosystems can be.  Local activists have successfully protected sites like Bair Island from reckless development around the Bay, which now must be restored to wetlands to benefit our region.  Chief among the challenges of accomplishing more projects like this one is finding the needed money.  Funding streams from the government, particularly through federal appropriations, can be unpredictable and inconsistent.  Contributions from foundations and individuals can significantly ebb and flow when the state of the economy changes.

Given this, having a dependable source of money would accelerate the timeline for pending and potential projects.  Like Bair Island, many of these projects could take decades from beginning to end.  So, we need to get to work now to see the benefits by the time sea level rise and climate change becomes more severe later this century, as stated in a recent scientific report.

The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority (SFBRA) is a regional agency empowered to raise money specifically to fund Bay Area wetland restoration, shoreline improvement, pollution reduction, and flood protection. On January 13, SFBRA will vote on placing a measure on the June 2016 ballot that, if approved, would generate $500 million over two decades through a regional parcel tax.  Passing this measure will allow environmental stakeholders to more quickly and reliably undertake restoration efforts in all nine Bay Area counties.

The main threat to a thriving, productive Bay has changed.  We need long-term plans to address climate change and sea level rise.  Call on the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority to place the Clean and Healthy Bay measure on the June 2016 ballot.

Tribute: Founding Member Ralph Nobles of Redwood City

Ralph Nobles. Photo by: Christopher-Gardner
Ralph Nobles’ legacy will forever live on in our storied Bay Area environmental lore. Photo by: Christopher-Gardner

Another giant in the battle to prevent overdevelopment of San Francisco Bay has died.  Ralph Nobles, who led the Friends of Redwood City and won the fight to protect Bair Island, passed away February 20, at the age of 94.

The 2006 winner of Save The Bay’s Founding Member award, Ralph was a long-time activist who inspired me with his tenacity and wisdom.  When I first met him in 1998, he showed me around Redwood City’s Bair Island, and shared the story of the citizens’ movement he led that saved it from becoming another Foster City development.

In 1982, Redwood City’s city council had approved plans by Mobil Oil to build 20,700 homes and corporate offices on those diked islands that had been Bay tidal marsh.  Ralph and his wife Carolyn led a referendum to overturn that decision, founding the Friends of Redwood City and mounting a grassroots campaign from their living room against a massive corporation.  Mobil Oil rented a camel from Marine World and staked it out in the Baylands, with a big billboard calling the area a desert where nothing grew. Ralph hired a plane to fly a “Yes on O” banner over a football game at Stanford Stadium.

On election night, Ralph was in Florida on a business trip for Lockheed and learned by phone that Friends of Redwood City had lost the referendum by a narrow margin, but when absentee ballots were counted, the Mobil plan was defeated by 42 votes, out of more than 18,000 votes cast.

Several years later, after Mobil had sold the property to a Japanese company, Ralph and his allies in the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge placed an advertisement in the Tokyo edition of the New York Times that shamed the owner into selling the property to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, and it eventually became part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Save The Bay volunteers have helped restore native vegetation on Inner Bair Island, where a breach will restore tidal action later this year.

Ralph played another part in American history years before, serving as one of the youngest physicists on the Manhattan Project in 1943.  He witnessed the Trinity test of the first bomb at Alamogordo, NM, in the summer of 1945, just before bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

In 2004, Ralph and a new generation of Friends of Redwood City helped defeat a plan to build 17 high-rise condominiums near the Port of Redwood City.  And he was a vocal opponent of Cargill’s proposal to build 12,000 homes on retired salt ponds just south of Bair Island.  That battle continues today, and Ralph’s legacy is an inspiration to those waging it.

“People want to live here because there is a healthy San Francisco Bay,” Nobles told the San Jose Mercury News in 2009.  “And if you destroy that you destroy our most precious commodity.”

See what Ralph saved for us.  Visit the Inner Bair Island trail – click here for directions.

Continue Ralph’s legacy by helping Save The Bay improve habitat for endangered species on Bair Island.  Sign up to volunteer there on April 11.

Read more about Raph’s remarkable journey here.

Top 5 Posts of 2013

As the blog editor for Save The Bay, I am continually interested in learning which stories most excite readers and inspire them to share with their friends. In 2013, readers loved positive stories about wildlife recovery, anything about Oakland (yay Oakland!), inspiring stories about Bay recovery, fascinating Bay history tales, and even stories about innovative policy solutions to pollution problems. Though these topics are incredibly varied,  one consistent theme runs through all of them:  a sense that a healthier Bay and healthier environment is always possible. As the New Year begins with this incredible sense of hope, and we look back on last year’s accomplishments and forward to next year’s, I’m pleased to share our most popular blog posts from 2013:

Sailing on SF Bay
Photo by Rick Lewis.

River Otter Sighting a Sign of Lake Merritt’s Recovery
“Keep Oakland Fresh” bumper stickers. “Great Lakes” T-shirts, comparing the outlines of Mono Lake, Lake Tahoe and Lake Merritt. Vintage color postcards showing flocks of birds wading in clear blue waters and flying above beautiful green hills. Nearly every candidate who runs for City Council in Oakland has a picture of themselves with Lake Merritt as the backdrop. There’s a reason why: Oaklanders love Lake Merritt.

We received a surprising indication that recent restoration work is making a difference. For the first time in living memory, a river otter was spotted on a dock along the lake’s shoreline. Read more…

After 143 years, Oakland’s Lake Merritt Reunites with the Bay
A gem at the heart of Oakland, Lake Merritt has been many things – the nation’s first wildlife refuge, beloved waterway, sewage-filled cesspool, and even the rumored home to a lake monster. There’s one thing that Lake Merritt has never been, however – and that’s a lake.

What we now call Lake Merritt has for most of the past ten thousand years been a tidal lagoon where the waters of several East Bay creeks met the brackish tides of the Bay. Read more…

Are Butts the New Bottles? NY Proposes Cigarette Butt Redemption Program
New York Assemblymember Michael DenDekker is not one to wait around for easy answers. As a retired NYC Sanitation Worker, DenDekker knows firsthand the scale of America’s tobacco litter problem. And, as a politician, he knows firsthand the impact this litter has on our economy. His solution? Create a redemption program (similar to the current CRV for bottles and cans) to incentivize smokers to properly dispose of their butts. Read more…

Explore the Newly-Opened Trail at Bair Island
Save The Bay was thrilled to join the Redwood City community in a celebration of an important milestone in the nearly-completed restoration of Bair Island. The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge celebrated the opening of a new pedestrian bridge, and the first segment of trails accessible to the public since restoration work began in 2007. Read more…

Trash Dumps and the Hidden History of the Bay Shoreline
After the Gold Rush, a full one-third of the San Francisco Bay was diked off or filled in for development. Over three dozen trash dumps (both official and unofficial) lined the Bay shoreline. The public had access to less than six miles of shoreline, but far from being the recreational haven that the Bay Trail is today, the old shoreline greeted visitors with views of a struggling Bay choked with raw sewage and industrial pollution. Read more and view the interactive map…