Pelicans, state parks, drought & more

July 23, 2012

Welcome to Bay Nature’s first News Digest post. We’ll be updating you regularly on the top nature news reported in the Bay Area with the hopes that you’ll feel connected to what’s going on around here.

We do this by reading and culling news stories from dozens and dozens of sources each day, something we know is too time consuming for most people to do. Our curated content also serves as an archive of information on our site, so please peruse Nature News for more stories that interest you.

Also, we’d love to hear from you if you discover news or information that’s worth getting out to the Bay Nature community of online readers. Please send ideas for blog posts, news items, and photographs to:

Thanks! And now on to the News Digest.


Big news on brown pelicans. Sick and dying fledglings have been appearing in droves on San Mateo County beaches, straining resources at the Peninsula Humane Society. Meanwhile, the coastal birds have been turning up in some unusual places, such as Yosemite Park. And in Bodega Bay, pelicans are fighting for scraps around fish-cleaning stations.

Scientists are not entirely clear what’s going on beyond a shortage in food supplies. The once endangered birds have seen a spike in numbers, while their main food — anchovies and sardines — have declined dramatically.

“It is a recipe for disaster,” Bill Sydeman of Petaluma, president of the Farallon Institute for Ecological Research, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

State Parks fandango

So, yeah, all that gut-wrenching for the past year over the planned closure of 70 state parks was [fill in the blank]. One thing’s for sure. All those state parks lovers who came out of the woodwork to save their beloved park from closure are not amused that the department squirreled away $54 million.

“You don’t go around coercing community groups and nonprofits to solve your problems while you’re sitting on reserves that size,” Caleb Dardick of the South Yuba River Citizens League told the in Nevada County. “The state parks staff betrayed the public trust, they betrayed our community and betrayed our children.”


But the angry reaction is not just  a lot of hot air. Sonoma County quickly decided to abandon its plans to put a countywide sales tax increase on the ballot to raise money for its local state parks. And Gov. Jerry Brown has lost some of his talking points on why state taxes need to go up.

“If one department can hoard $54 million for 12 years, who else is playing the same tricks of deceit and thievery?” Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Evans, a champion of state park funding, called on Brown to audit every department and division in the administration. Another parks champion in Sacramento, Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, stated in a press release that he hopes the scandal leads to a brighter day in the Parks Department.

“I’ve repeatedly expressed my concern about the lack of transparency and the fortress mentality at State Parks,” he stated. ” The only good news I can see from this scandal is that it will bring much-needed transparency, accountability, and a serious ‘reset’ to an agency that desperately needs it.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco is facing a mini-scandal over its own parks department. Patrol officers in the park’s law enforcement unit were apparently hoarding lucrative overtime hours, among other abuses.

All dried up

What does the worst drought in 50 years have to do with suburban sprawl? Streetsblog network posted a story saying that large-lot residential development uses more water than walkable neighborhoods, exacerbating water shortages, and spreads more pavement around watersheds, sending rainwater down stormdrains instead into soil for groundwater recharge.

If you’re feeling like a deeper historical perspective to this summer’s drought, Ken Burns has announced a new two-part, 4 hour documentary on “The Dust Bowl” that’s not to miss. Although, you’ll have to wait for November to see it on PBS.

In other news:

  • San Francisco is moving around sand from one beach to Ocean Beach to stem bad erosion. 
  • California’s water wars are heating up with an announcement this week about plans for a peripheral canal in the Delta.
  • Cooley Landing Park opens in East Palto Alto, giving community access to the San Francisco Bay for first time .
  • The bill to ban “bear and bobcat hounding” is moving through State Assembly. 
  • Stanford study finds hard evidence of the economic value of marine reserves.  


About the Author

Alison Hawkes was a Bay Nature editor from 2011-2017. Before Bay Nature she worked in journalism for more than a decade as a former newspaper reporter turned radio producer turned web editor with each rendition bringing her closer to her dream of covering environmental issues. She co-founded Way Out West, a site dedicated to covering Bay Area environmental news.

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