Celebrating National Estuaries Day

Bay wetlandsThis week we celebrate the 25th annual National Estuaries Day.

Estuaries are partially enclosed bodies of water, where rivers meet the ocean and create some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They are rich in nutrients, and havens for fish and wildlife.

Naturally, at Save The Bay we focus on protecting and restoring the incredible estuary in our own back yard. But national advocacy matters, too. The Bay Area is a leader in coastal protection and restoration, and the work we do at the federal level has benefits here at home.

All across America, we’ve seen dramatic evidence of how valuable healthy estuaries are to the economy. Tidal marshes and sea grasses provide natural barriers that buffer against storms and floods, absorb and store carbon, and serve as nurseries for commercial and recreational fisheries. Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and Superstorm Sandy have all shown the pressing need to protect and restore estuaries.

Save The Bay pioneered this kind of protection 50 years ago, with a revolutionary citizens’ movement that stopped the massive filling that was shrinking San Francisco Bay. Our success inspired similar movements from Boston Harbor to Puget Sound, and Chesapeake to Galveston. Nearly 20 years ago we formed a national alliance of 11 “save the bay” organizations. The Restore America’s Estuaries alliance builds on the work of regional organizations like ours to create an effective nation-wide movement.

In the years I’ve been privileged to work with the alliance, it has secured federal coastal legislation and millions of dollars for marsh restoration in San Francisco Bay and around the nation. National advocacy has boosted Congressional funding for the Community Restoration Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which in turn has paid to restore salt ponds back to tidal marshes from Alviso in the south to Napa in the north.

Wetland restoration has made a huge beneficial impact on San Francisco Bay, providing more habitat and improving water quality to make the Bay healthy enough to support more sharks, porpoises, pelicans, and shorebirds. The challenge of climate change still looms before us, but San Francisco Bay also offers an enormous opportunity: With more resources to pay for restoration, we could double the Bay’s current tidal marsh in the next few decades. That habitat improvement would protect Bay shoreline communities and crucial infrastructure from flooding. It’s a proven job creator, too.

That’s why we’re working hard to make restoration a reality in the Bay Area. We’re blessed with a spectacular natural treasure, residents who love the Bay, and a great legacy of fighting for our environment. With those assets, restoring a healthy estuary is within our grasp.

It’s Getting Fishy in Here!

Wetland Habitat means more and healthier fish!

Restoring wetland habitat around San Francisco Bay will strengthen fisheries.  Photo credit: Flickr user nchill4x4.
Restoring wetland habitat around San Francisco Bay will strengthen fisheries. Photo credit: Flickr user nchill4x4.

A new report from our partners at Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) provides yet another strong argument in favor of restoring our shorelines and wetland habitat.

More Habitat Means More Fish, the most recent in a series of reports on the fragile state of our nation’s wetlands and marine environment, makes the case for additional resources to protect and restore vital estuaries like San Francisco Bay.

In the last 150 years, San Francisco Bay has lost more than 90% of its historic wetlands, which when combined with the urbanization of the early 20th century, resulted in a disastrous fall in aquatic species and populations. Fifty years after residents realized the need for restoration and pollution controls, and following significant work, the Bay is on the mend.  But much remains to be done.

The RAE report reminds conservationists that marsh restoration isn’t just about enjoying a weekend out on the water.  Salt water fisheries like the Bay support some 1.7 millon jobs, and contribute nearly $200 billion to the national economy.  Fortunately, following the conversion of Bay wetlands from salt production in the 1950’s, an estimated 30,000 fish from 41 species have returned to San Francisco Bay.  This is proof positive that if you restore it, they will come (back).

We’re encouraged by the work of our partners, and hope that you can get more involved as well.  Want to dip your toe in the water?  Take our For The Bay Porpoise action today and tell the Regional Water Board to keep San Francisco Bay clean and healthy.

You can also read more about the RAE report, and the critical role of wetlands in our economy and our environment here.

Now, time to grab that rod and reel and head out for an afternoon on the Bay!

Notes from the Field | RAE Family Reunion in Florida

Save The Bay at RAE
Save The Bay reunited with our “family” of conservation organizations at Restore America’s Estuaries in Tampa. Representing Save The Bay were (clockwise from left): Donna Ball, Laura Wainer, Seth Chanin, Dylan Chapple, and David Lewis.

Family reunions can be wonderfully meaningful events, especially when they don’t involve awkward conversations and mandatory group photos with your distant relatives.  Last month, Save The Bay reunited with its “family” of ten community-based conservation organizations in Tampa, FL for their biennial conference.  The consortium, collectively referred to as Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE), was joined by hundreds of other participants from government agencies, academic institutions, consulting firms, and non-profits.  Representatives from Save The Bay included David Lewis (our Executive Director), Donna Ball (Restoration Director), Laura Wainer (Senior Scientist), Dylan Chapple (a past Restoration staff now getting his PhD at UC Berkeley), and me, Seth Chanin.

Over the course of five days, conference attendees exchanged restoration strategies, community-based program structures, experimental outcomes, and educational techniques.  Laura delivered a wonderful presentation on the experimental planting work we are doing at Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh, and Dylan shared the results of the work he is doing to test the use of soil amendments at Eden Landing in Hayward.   I also had a chance to present at the conference, joining educators from the Galveston Bay Foundation and North Carolina Coastal Federation to teach a workshop on education program evaluation techniques.

Though the conference sessions at Restore America’s Estuaries were tremendously informative, the most valuable aspect of my time in Florida was the opportunity for networking and informal sharing of experiences.   Field trips, meals, and explorations around downtown Tampa provided ample opportunity for memorable conversations with peers from other organizations, many of which have continued over email and phone.

I hope to reunite with the RAE family again in 2014!