Protecting the “Golden Foothills”
Connecting with Save Mount Diablo's George Phillips
Land Conservation Associate George Phillips coordinates Save Mount Diablo’s Stewardship, Landowner Outreach and Hike programs.
He also manages volunteer groups like the East Bay Trail Dogs and the Diablo Restoration Team (DiRT) to restore habitats and trails on properties under Save Mount Diablo’s management prior to being turned over to a park agency.
George developed a passion for herpetology and botany at Lewis & Clark College, where he received a B.A. in Biology. He loves hiking and sharing his enthusiasm for the Diablo Wilderness with friends and family.
BN: How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
GP: Let’s see, 22 years now. I was born and raised in Castro Valley and then encouraged to expand my horizons and attended college in the Pacific Northwest. I thought I’d never come home but on one return trip I remember seeing the evening shadows on our golden foothills and at that moment I knew the Bay Area would always be home. Now I live in Walnut Creek.
BN: What turned you on to nature here?
GP: As a kid an incredible jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the catalyst for my appreciation of nature. My family is made up of birders, fishermen and backpackers so I’ve always been exposed to the diversity of plants and wildlife in our area. We spent a lot of time in our local Regional Parks tromping through creeks, identifying birds and traversing new trails.
Mount Diablo has pushed my appreciation of nature to a new level. It’s home to 14 endemic plants only found on the peaks and surrounding foothills. Ten percent of the known plant species in California can be found on Mount Diablo. No matter which trail I choose, there’s an opportunity to see some of the amazing species that live in the area.
BN: Tell us a bit about Save Mount Diablo and the work you do there.
GP: At Save Mount Diablo we work to preserve, defend and restore the remaining natural lands on and around Mount Diablo for people and wildlife to enjoy. I oversee the restoration piece which includes caring for the properties SMD has purchased by restoring native habitat, cleaning up creeks, maintaining trails, and protecting rare species.
BN: What’s one of the most important projects you’re working on now?
GP: The most important projects I am working on now involve connecting people to the Diablo wilderness. The Diablo Restoration Team (DiRT) gives us the opportunity to restore habitat and gives volunteers the chance to get hands on experience. Through the Hike & Thrive program we lead free guided hikes and produce free audio hike guides which encourage recreation and familiarize people with the wonders in their backyard. Our newly published trail map, the only one to include all of the parks and trails around the mountain, is another great resource that helps people connect with Mount Diablo.
BN: What is the biggest threat to Mount Diablo?
GP: Sprawling residential development is the biggest threat to Mount Diablo’s remaining unprotected 70,000 acres. We monitor more than 40 agency agendas every week to assess impacts to habitats and existing parks. We collaborate with individuals, cities and organizations to find solutions that protect sensitive habitats while allowing progress. People don’t realize this amazing place is at risk.
BN: What’s your favorite place to go in nature in the Bay Area?
GP: I love the Diablo Trail between Curry Point and Riggs Canyon. There is tremendous plant and wildlife diversity there. Flintstone-like rock pinnacles, soaring falcons and impressive manzanita stands are among my favorite things to see there.
>> Visit SaveMountDiablo.org to learn more about this organization and how to get involved.