It’s a new year, which in the case of 2017 means a new Congress and a new administration in Washington, D.C. Many of us in the Bay Area have a palpable sense of unease about what the impending changes in the federal government mean for the Bay and the environment more broadly. And on no issue is this concern felt more deeply than the fight to address climate change and its impacts.
Environmental advocates in the Bay Area – and California as a whole – are determined and prepared to advance this fight, and we at Save The Bay are doing everything we can to ensure that climate change remains front and center in regional, state, and federal agendas over the coming years.
Here is what we are doing to make this happen:
On the local level
As the Bay Area rapidly grows in the coming years, we can help ensure that the growth happens in a way that minimizes the impact on the Bay and adapts to climate change. This is the aim of our new Bay Smart Communities Program, which promotes investment in green infrastructure, low-impact development, transit-oriented development, and increased affordable housing along the Bay. These “smart growth” components have a number of significant climate change-related benefits, including:
On the state Level
We are fortunate to live in a state that has led the nation in the fight against climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown and our state legislature have already committed to pursuing continued aggressive action regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C. In 2017 and beyond, Save The Bay will:
On the federal level
Despite what we expect to be a more climate-change skeptical and anti-environment leadership in Washington, D.C., over the next few years we will be more aggressive than ever in asserting the importance of federal environmental protection laws, regulations, and strong action on climate change. Already, we have:
Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.
My introduction to estuarine and wetland conservation began in high school while slithering on my belly through cordgrass marshes on the mudflats, counting fiddler crabs while participating in an environmental education program on the Chesapeake Bay.
It was there that I gained an appreciation for estuarine environments, and learned the ecological value of estuarine and wetland habitats, and the need for conservation and stewardship of these unique habitats.
I am so pleased to have the opportunity to join Save The Bay as their new Restoration Program Manager. It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of environmental conservation heroines Esther Gulick, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Kay Kerr who created a lasting legacy for San Francisco Bay. I believe that my new position with Save The Bay perfectly marries my early career experience in environmental education and environmental advocacy, with my years of professional work as an estuarine ecologist, conservation biologist and wetland restoration practitioner on the San Francisco Bay.
The focus of my early career was in coastal and marine ecology, environmental education and volunteer coordination. After some years working on the coast and in the Bay as an educator, I decided to further my own education and pursue my interests in wetland and estuarine ecology and habitat conservation in graduate school.
When deciding on the focus of my graduate school studies, the San Francisco Estuary had been declared as one of the most invaded estuaries in the nation. Invasive non-native species in the Bay were a growing threat to the health of the Bay ecosystem. Given my passion for protecting the coastal and estuarine ecosystems that I cherished, my keen interest to expand on my knowledge and my life goal to actively contribute to the cause of conserving and restoring the San Francisco Bay, I developed a graduate school research project that involved monitoring the spread and control of invasive non-native cordgrass (Spartina spp.) into a newly-opened restoration site.
My graduate research project evolved into a career as the Monitoring Program Manager and eventually the Restoration Program Manager with the Invasive Spartina Project. I started a field-based monitoring program, surveying the extent of San Francisco Bay and the outer coast marshes for five species of non-native cordgrass. The monitoring program introduced me to an incredible network of marshes around the Bay. I surveyed by foot, by bike, by kayak and boat. I learned how to access shoreline and coordinated with land owners and introduced them to the threat of invasive cordgrass.
My years surveying the Bay provided me with many unique experiences and adventures. I surveyed the expansive strip marshes and mudflats of San Pablo Bay National Wildlife. I got to know how to best access the marshes around the Bay, making the most of the miles of shoreline trails provided by numerous landowners including East Bay Regional Parks where I surveyed miles of shoreline from Pt. Pinole to Hayward. It was always a highlight when I surveyed by kayak. I was fully cognizant of the special opportunity I had to kayak the sloughs in and around Bair and Greco Islands. Even driving access was an adventure as I learned to navigate driving the levees in and around the evolving Eden Landing Ecological Reserve and South Bay Salt Pond Complex.
In the process of surveying the Bay, developing the ISP Monitoring and Restoration Programs, I worked and collaborated with remarkable community of land owners, managers, stakeholders, researchers, environmental advocates and regulators. I built an incredible network of colleagues and friends, all of whom were committed to the cause of protecting and restoring the health of the San Francisco Bay Estuary. I take great pride in having the opportunity to work with such an incredibly committed community of conservationists here in the Bay Area.
I’ve always enjoyed contributing and volunteering in my own backyard, or watershed, working with local conservationists. With the intention of working locally to acquire, protect and restore local ecologically significant wetland habitat, I joined the Board of the Bowen Island Conservancy while living in British Columbia, and then Marin Audubon Society when I returned to the Bay Area.
As the Save The Bay Restoration Program Manager I am so pleased to be able to continue to collaborate and work with existing partners, wetland restoration practitioners, and to join the committed team of Bay and wetland stewards, environmental educators, advocates and policy makers at Save The Bay.
Every section of the Bay shoreline has a story….A story of what could have been, a story of future potential, a story of conflict and inspiration. Behind many of these stories is a powerful 90-year-old Palo Alto woman named Florence LaRiviere.
Florence and her late husband Philip first fell in love with the marshland as a young, married couple. They’d take a picnic down to the water’s edge to near the old Palo Alto Marina with their children to catch a breeze on hot days. They’d watch the tides wave in and out of the cord grass, and feel the gentle breezes. It was their special place, but it was in danger of being paved over and lost forever. Though they weren’t activists at the time, they would spend the next half-decade of their lives fighting for such places.
Some of the protected places we take for granted wouldn’t exist without Florence. The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is one such place. The refuge covers 25,902 acres and spans a large part of the South Bay from Redwood City to Fremont. It’s the largest urban wildlife refuge in the country in an area that could easily have become an ugly mass of parking lots, convention centers, and tract housing.
After over 50 years of working on behalf of San Francisco Bay, what advice would Florence give to ordinary citizens who want to make a difference in their communities?
“You need to know what goes on in City Hall. Everyone thinks decisions are made in Washington or California so we elect people to local councils and boards who have no sensitivity to the land. We don’t know how important their votes will be to us and the people who live here after us.”
Take a look at what Florence and fellow citizens have accomplished by acting locally:
• The old Palo Alto Marina and its destructive dredge were shut down, and now that area is the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, which covers approximately 1,940 acres in both Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Hundreds of species of wildlife live there and it’s considered to be one of the best bird-watching sites on the West Coast.
• LaRiviere marsh near the Don Edwards Visitor Center in Fremont was once a series of crusty salt ponds. Today it’s lush with native marsh plants and home to endangered species like the California clapper rail and hundreds of other migratory birds.
• As the leader of the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, Florence was instrumental in expanding the Refuge boundaries to include Bair Island, the Redwood City salt ponds, and the remaining wetlands into the refuge. The recent restoration and reopening of Bair Island to public access is an inspiring example of what can be accomplished when people work together.
There’s still much more to accomplish. For the past two decades, the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge has been fighting to defeat the City of Newark’s plan to pave over a large section of restorable baylands in the South Bay for an 18-hole golf course and luxury houses. This area is within the expansion boundaries of the Refuge, home to crucial wildlife habitat, and adjacent to a harbor seal pupping site at Mowry Slough. You can help defeat the plan by signing onto our petition Florence asking the Water Board to deny permits for this development.
As Florence says, “If you see something that upsets you, you have to do something about it.”
2013 was the driest year on record in California, leaving 87% of California in a severe drought. The drought we’re experiencing is caused by a massive high pressure ridge that has camped out over the eastern Pacific Ocean for 13 months. This ridge is pushing the jet stream that normally delivers our rainfall and snowpack up to Canada.
The State Department of Water Resources is likely to recommend that Governor Brown declare a drought emergency by February 1st. In a meeting with Central Valley farmers and water managers on Monday, Governor Brown responded to drought declaration questions with “not today, but we’re certainly getting ready.” This declaration could loosen water quality regulations that are meant to protect endangered fish, allowing more water to be delivered throughout the state.
Major Bay Area water agencies are expected to make decisions in the next few months about whether to impose mandatory summer water restrictions. Meanwhile, local water utilities in Sonoma and Marin counties have launched a campaign to educate the public about conserving water. Lake Mendocino, which supplies water to Sonoma County is at 38% of capacity. Reservoirs in the Mokelumne River watershed, which supply most of the East Bay’s water, are still two-thirds full. The ten local reservoirs in Santa Clara County are at 33 percent capacity.
The lack of rainfall is also having a significant impact on Save The Bay’s planting season. Our on-the-ground wetland restoration projects re-establish native plants in the unique transition zone habitat located between Bay water and land. Our Habitat Restoration team and thousands of volunteers restore the wetlands by growing seedlings in our nurseries, sowing the plants along the shoreline, and maintaining the sites by removing invasive weed species and cleaning up trash.
Donna Ball, our Habitat Restoration Director, wrote last year about the difficulty of planting and maintaining 30,000 seedlings without adequate rainfall. We plant during the rainy season because newly installed plants require water to ensure their survival immediately after planting. With an even drier winter so far and an ambitious 40,000 plants to put in the ground by the end of March, this planting season has proven even more challenging. Donna says that “due to the lack of rain this winter, our staff and volunteers have spent more time on watering instead of planting, jeopardizing our ability to plant all 40,000 seedlings.” We need more volunteers to help us get these plants in the ground and keep them watered.
Help us get through this drought with 40,000 healthy plants in the ground and intact by volunteering at one of our habitat restoration events! Visit www.savesfbay.org/volunteer to sign-up!
UPDATE – January 17, 2014:
Governor Brown has declared a Drought State of Emergency. In his press release, the Governor said “We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas.” The Governor called on all Californians “to conserve water in every possible way.” Please visit the Office of the Governor’s website to view the press release and the language of the Governor’s proclamation.
UPDATE – January 21, 2014:
“State regulators can now relax water quality standards, allowing rivers and estuaries to be saltier and warmer, as they try to manage the state’s limited supplies.” A KQED article explains how the drought declaration will loosen environmental regulations.