100,000 plants and counting

IMG_9957_BM 100k.
It’s hard to visualize what over 100,000 California native plants looks like. But it’s exciting to think of the habitat they will create when fully established at our restoration sites around the San Francisco Bay.

Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration team is very proud of the accomplishments made this past planting season, reaching our most ambitious goals to date with a grand total of 103,770 plants installed from October 2015 to April 2016.

A bulk of these plants were propagated and planted for the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee, a project totaling 70,000 plants in itself. This innovative project is a multi-pronged approach to filtering waste water, mitigating floods due to sea level rise, and creating native habitat along the Bay’s edge. But it was no easy job installing 70,000 plants by hand. With long days in the field, rain or shine, hands and knees in the mud, the restoration team worked tirelessly to complete this project, and that we did. I’m happy to say the site is developing well and the native plants installed this winter are starting to spread over the horizontal levee’s surface.

Additionally, over 30,000 plants were also planted at our ongoing restoration sites around the Bay including the MLK Shoreline in Oakland, the Palo Alto Baylands, and Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward.

But regardless of however many native plants were propagated and planted at our sites, what’s truly inspiring is the community that joins together to make this possible. From our own staff, to 3rd grade students, to company employees, to families and college students, more than 6,000 volunteers each year help physically improve the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay, restoring vital habitat lost over time.

With the plethora of environmental problems we face, it gives me hope to see not all damage is irreversible; that with motivation, dedication, and getting your hands in the dirt, we can make real change.

Join us in the field this summer to help these native plants thrive! Sign up to volunteer.

Planting Day at Eden

Eden planting
We had a productive day of planting at Eden Ecological Preserve along the Hayward shoreline.

With just five staff and two volunteers, in two days we planted a total of 1,900 plants, all mulched and watered at Eden E!

It’s been a dream since I started with Save The Bay for a staff planting day to get 1,000 plants in the ground and yesterday that dream became a reality. We actually haven’t planted that many plants even on volunteer days with 60+ people. I am extremely proud of the restoration team for their hard work and dedication to getting this project accomplished. With the drought setting us back last winter, we still have a long way ahead of us — we need over 15,000 plants to be planted at Eden E by staff this winter — but with such a strong start I believe we’ll be able to pull it off.

Though hard to see in this picture, there are plants in every mulch pile. Now we just need a TON MORE RAIN!

Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration Team adapts to severe drought

The lack of rain has severely impacted our planting season.
The lack of rain has severely impacted our planting season.

Did anyone notice that wet stuff coming out of the sky over the weekend? That inch of rain brought all bay area residents some hope, but California will need much much more. So while the Midwest, east coast and even the south are experiencing polar vortices and freezing artic storms, out west we are baking under 80 degree weather.

The drought, now officially designated by Governor Brown, has become THE topic of conversation. From farmers in the central valley to ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada everyone seems to be feeling the effects of this drought.

The lack of rain has certainly affected Save The Bay’s community-based habitat restoration programs. If you have signed to volunteer with us recently, you may have noticed a disclaimer that reads: Attention volunteers! Please note that due to the drought, all restoration activities are subject to change. 

The winter marks the most exciting time of the year for the thousands of volunteers who have worked so hard to remove invasive species and grow native plants for our restoration sites. During this stage of the restoration cycle, volunteers and restoration staff work together to plant 40,000 native seedlings along the Bay shoreline. But after two months of negligible rain the planting season has ground to a screeching halt. Instead of spending my days planting with volunteers, the drought has forced me to focus on watering the plants that have already been planted.

Jon Backus, Save The Bay’s Restoration Project Manager explained the difficulties to a recent volunteer, “We depend on the winter rains for supplemental watering after the volunteers have planted. The lack of rain has created a daunting task. We have 6 restoration sites around the Bay and thousands of little seedlings that are struggling through this dry weather.

In order to reach our goals for the year and give the plants the best chance of survival Save The Bay’s Restoration team has become a mobile rain cloud, driving around to our various sites with hundreds of gallons of water in tow. Instead of having volunteers plant 1,000 plants during a program we stick with a more manageable goal. Quality over quantity is our mantra.

Many volunteers are surprised at the amount of water we are giving the seedlings. The common misconception is that because a plant is a California native or drought tolerant that the lack of rain will not be a problem. But, the reality is that even drought tolerant plants need water to become established. It can take up to 5 months for a little seedling to take root, especially in the degraded soils that we are trying to restore.

Even with some sprinkles in the forecast for this week, the only way to ensure the survival of our remaining plants is to hold them over for another year. Instead of planting, some volunteers will be giving the plants more room to grow by transplanting them into larger containers. With our nurseries already full I encourage any tetris or jigsaw puzzle champions to join in helping us fit these plants AND the new plants for next season! In the meantime let’s keep our fingers crossed and those rain dancin’ shoes on and maybe mother nature will surprise us.

We need your help more than ever during this dry winter. Sign up to volunteer with us this season.


Save The Bay Staff Day: Restoration Revival

Save The Bay staff
Save The Bay staff left our desks to spend a day restoring the Bay. We highly recommend it!

50 weeks out of the year I am coordinating restoration events for corporate groups, community groups and individual volunteers around the Bay. On January 30th, the Restoration Staff had the opportunity to showcase our skills for a different kind of private program: Save The Bay Staff. Each year in January, we leave our desks and adventure out to the Bay we love and fight for every day.

Planting season is our busiest time of the year. With all the plants bursting in their pots just longing to provide habitat for endangered species, we have a commitment to ensure those plants make it to the shoreline. The past few years have added an extra challenge with the lack of rain pushing the start of the season back to December. That means we have less than four months to plant 30,000 plants. On our day by the Bay, Save The Bay staff contributed 300 plants to the total. It was a wonderful reminder about all the hard work that goes into getting our natives in the ground.

All throughout the year, we are revamping our curriculum for both our youth and adult programs. We were very excited to try out our freshest adult activities on our staff yesterday and get their feedback on how we could make them even better! Everyone enjoyed “Drawing Themselves into the Bay” and our “Photo Scavenger Hunt”. These activities provide a light-hearted structure to practice working in a team. They also help with leadership development and practicing our communication skills. We spend so much of our time fighting for the Bay, it’s nice when we get to argue the finer points of imaginary marsh creatures!

By taking the time to get out as a team and enjoy the Bay, we come back to the office with a fresh perspective on what it takes to restore 100,000 acres of bay wetlands, what our volunteers experience on a program and what it is that we are fight for. This restoration revival gives us the gusto to continue pushing for pollution prevention, deterring inappropriate development and of course creating more wetlands for plants, animals and humans alike.

Come out and experience your own restoration revival by signing up your organization for a Corporate Bay Adventure, your school group for a Bay Discovery or your family for a public program. Whichever way, you’ll be singing hallelujah for the Bay!

— Natalie LaVan, Community Engagement Manager

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!