First Measure AA Funds to Start Flowing

This week, Measure AA goes to work accelerating Bay marsh restoration – realizing a vision Save The Bay first had more than a decade ago.

On April 11, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority will vote on how to spend the first tax receipts from the nine-county ballot measure Bay Area voters overwhelmingly approved in June 2016. The first nine recommended project grants would invest $23.5 million to restore tidal marsh habitat for wildlife around the Bay. Many of these projects also will provide trails and other public recreation, and help protect shoreline communities against flooding.

Scientists have told us for decades that the Bay needs at least 100,000 acres of restored tidal marsh to be healthy, after development reduced tidal marsh to only 40,000 acres. Many diked salt ponds and hay fields were acquired and protected for restoration over the last 20 years, bringing that goal within reach, and we identified the missing ingredient is sufficient public funding.

Recognizing how much local residents love the Bay, Save The Bay and other key stakeholders worked for years to create a way all of us who live here can help invest in a healthier Bay. We convinced the state legislature to create the Restoration Authority, a regional special district that could propose new funding mechanisms for the Bay. Eight years later, the Restoration Authority finally put Measure AA on the ballot, and voters agreed to pay a modest $12 annually for 20 years.

To maximize the impact of these funds, this first round of AA grants supports large and smaller restoration projects all around the Bay, including several in economically disadvantaged communities. (see the full list at www.SFBayRestore.org )

One of the most visible recommended projects is Phase 2 of the Ravenswood Pond restoration from East Palo Alto to Menlo Park. Part of the huge South Bay Salt Ponds complex, this project will convert more of the former commercial salt production ponds back into tidal wetlands. Drivers on the Dumbarton Bridge and California highway 84 have seen these huge brown areas for years, and soon that brown will begin turning green. Save The Bay worked to restore other Ravenswood sites in the past, and we will be creating transition zone habitat there with volunteers at the edge of Bedwell Bayfront Park.

These grants are a major milestone in the effort to accelerate Bay restoration, but it is only the beginning. The Bay needs more funding to address the serious strain that growth and climate change are having on the Bay and Bay Area communities. There was more demand for the first AA funds than supply; matching funds will be needed from the state and federal governments to create all the wetlands needed. Proposition 68 on the June statewide ballot is the next opportunity to boost resources for the Bay, as it includes another $20 million in matching Measure AA funds.

Through Measure AA, Bay Area residents are funding the largest urban climate adaptation effort in the country, using green infrastructure to make our region more sustainable and resilient to the expected impacts from more extreme storms and rising seas. We look forward to watching the progress of this important work in the coming years.

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.

 

What would the Bay be like without sharks?

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Often unfairly and inaccurately cast in movies as the violent villain of the deep, sharks play a starring role in maintaining the health of their ecosystem. So much so that their absence would drastically throw their habitat and food web entirely out of whack.

As an apex predator, their top down regulation of prey species indirectly benefits the habitat quality and availability. For example, sharks eat sea turtles, sea turtles eat seagrass, and numerous animals use seagrass as habitat. If sharks are not around to regulate the sea turtle population, then seagrass beds become overgrazed, effectively demolishing habitat and nursery areas for several species of fish and invertebrates.

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In other words, when sharks are present, they increase biodiversity in habitats as they prevent any one prey item from becoming too abundant. They also usually hunt fish that are slower and weaker, leaving the stronger, healthier fish to reproduce. This process can prevent the spread of devastating disease outbreaks and strengthen the prey species’ gene pool.

All in all, the loss of keystone species and release of predator regulation over prey populations results in a ripple effect through the food chain, upsetting the balance of a marine environment. Humans have already caused a major decline in shark numbers, and this same thing can happen here in San Francisco Bay.

What effect might the recent die off of hundreds of leopard sharks have on the Bay? What would happen to the sea lion population if there were no more white sharks patrolling the waters under the Golden Gate Bridge? One can speculate at the thought of these impacts on our Bay, or we can affect change through action.

Here are a few things you can do to help our local shark species thrive in San Francisco Bay:

  1. Volunteer to restore Bay wetlands: Often referred to as the “lungs of the Bay” our local wetlands help improve the Bay’s water quality, naturally protect communities from sea level rise, and provides nursery habitat for sharks and other wildlife that call the Bay Area home. Register for a Bay restoration event near you today!
  2. Reduce pollution at the source: Our Bay’s keystone species (among others) need a trash-free Bay to thrive. That’s why we’re now pressuring Bay Area cities to eliminate the flow of trash from city streets into the Bay by 2022, but it will take all of us to accomplish this ambitious goal. Take time to organize or volunteer for neighborhood cleanups, urge your local officials to prioritize stormwater projects, and if you haven’t already take the Zero Trash Pledge!

Donate your Wheels for Wetlands!

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Do you have a car that has been sitting in your driveway or garage? That car can directly benefit Save The Bay’s work to protect and restore our region’s most important natural resource that’s essential to our quality of life, San Francisco Bay.

Donating your vehicle to Save The Bay is easy. We work with a reputable and local company who will pick up the vehicle directly from you. The vehicle doesn’t need to be in running order. Car Donation Services will tow your car at no cost to you!

“The whole process of donating our vehicle was smooth and easy.
I definitely recommend Save The Bay’s car donation program.”
– Jonah L. from Berkeley

Your donation will help provide much-needed support to protect the Bay. Proceeds from the sale of your donated vehicle will support our work to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the Bay Area, restore local wetlands, reduce toxic pollution, and build more sustainable “Bay Smart” communities. Better yet, when you donate your vehicle you will automatically become a Save The Bay member and receive special member benefits for one year. Plus, you receive a tax deduction in return!

We also accept trucks, vans, RV’s, motorcycles and boats too.

“We donated our sailboat to Save The Bay. The process couldn’t have been easier. The crew came out and tailored it away.
It was very easy and the people who came were very nice. We would do it again.” 
– Glen R. from Walnut Creek

To donate your vehicle (or boat!) to Save The Bay, complete our online donation form or contact Jackie Richardson at 510-463-6835 or email Jackie@saveSFbay.org.

Bilingual learning at the Baylands

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“All right, let’s do Ridgway’s Rail. Repeat after me: ¡El!” I shout.

El,” reply the dozen fourth-grade students crowded around the bench.

Rascón,” I say, pointing to a laminated sign.

Rascón,” they chant back.

“¡De California!”

“¡De CaliforniaI!”

We’re in the middle of our “Wetland Exploration” activity along Adobe Creek Trail at the Palo Alto Baylands, which at first glance would seem like an unusual spot for a Spanish lesson. But it represents one of Save The Bay’s first steps toward making its educational programs more inclusive to all of the Bay Area’s students, including the many students who are immigrants and children of immigrants who don’t speak English at home.

As Save The Bay’s Temporary Spanish Language Project Specialist, I’ve helped Save The Bay take those first steps, specifically by translating and redesigning our key educational materials into Spanish.

Save The Bay currently runs educational programs at three restoration sites: Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward, Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in East Oakland, and Palo Alto Baylands in East Palo Alto. All three of these sites are in neighborhoods where a majority of residents are working-class people of color. Students from all over the Bay Area visit our sites for field trips, and our programs reflect our region’s great diversity. Providing Spanish-language materials is one of the many ways we are working to make Save The Bay’s programs more meaningful, inclusive, and accountable to the students and communities with whom we work with. I’m honored to have been a part of it.

It’s been especially fun teaching our key wetland vocabulary in both languages, as some students fluent in Spanish are excited at the chance to teach their classmates. When I hold up a handful of Bay mud, teeming with microbial and invertebrate life, and ask who knows how to say “mud” in Spanish, a few students yell out “¡Lodo!” Then, while I talk about how the mud is the base of the salt marsh food web, the group gets the chance to stick their hands in a bucket and finger-paint it on their faces.

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Translating some of our educational cards of endangered animals, native plants, and invasive species presented some interesting linguistic challenges I hadn’t expected. Some species have well-used Spanish common names because they are also found in Latin America, like salt grass (la grama salada) whose range extends as far south as Argentina. Other species have names from Spain, such as yarrow (la milenrama) with its circumpolar distribution; and invasive species from the Mediterranean, such as fennel (el hinojo).

However, some of our California endemics have no widely-used contemporary Spanish name as far as I can tell. A few plants have beautifully descriptive old Californio Spanish names though, like marsh gumplant (la flor de agosto, literally “the flower of August”) and California buckwheat (la patita de venado, literally “deer’s paw”), so I used those names in our translations. But for a couple of secretive endemic animals who escaped the eyes of the Californios, I was left to simply translate their English names literally. Now we can all know our beloved salt marsh harvest mouse by another name: el ratón campestre de la marisma salina.

It’s a bit unwieldy, but the fourth graders still have a fun time yelling it.

Save The Bay was founded by three outstanding women over fifty years ago, and we are still living with the legacy of a Bay that’s only been made healthier and better-protected since then. But we must also recognize that these three women were white and had means, and that many other voices tell different stories about their relationship to the Bay and what it means to save it. As long as the Bay has existed there have been people of color who have stewarded it, and developing partnerships with the many marginalized communities who work to make the Bay beautiful and livable is tantamount in an age of environmental injustice. As this place we call home faces a new generation of environmental challenges, we will only be able to meet them if we consciously make space for everyone to develop a relationship with the Bay and save it.

So in Tagalog or Cantonese, Arabic or Farsi, Chochenyo Ohlone or any of the other languages that we speak: how would you say “It takes all of us to protect and restore the Bay”?