A Vision for Open Space

April 29, 2011

Bettina Ring is Executive Director of the Bay Area Open Space Council, a group of 60 organizations dedicated to protecting and maintaining the Bay Area’s network of open space lands, including its parks, trails and agricultural lands.

BN: What first brought you to the Bay Area?
BR: Our careers. Although I opened the California office of The Wilderness Land Trust in 2003, I first fell in love with this area when traveling in my 20s. Before moving here I worked with the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts and the Virginia Department of Forestry.

BN: How did you get involved with the Bay Area Open Space Council?
BR: I first heard about the good work of the Open Space Council while I was still in Virginia, so I was following its work already before moving here. I joined the Council as soon as I got to the Bay Area and began attending meetings, and then later had the good fortune to be hired as the new Executive Director.

BN: What’s an interesting program you’re working on right now?
BR: We recently completed work on the Conservation Lands Network, a five-year science-based study identifying the most essential lands needed to sustain the “natural infrastructure” of our region. Along with this effort, we developed an online decision-making tool that allows individuals and organizations to make more informed and strategic conservation decisions. We hope this tool will be used by everyone from land managers to local planners to transportation authorities to funders.

BN: What are some of the major issues the Council is focusing on?
BR: Building healthy communities, along with sources of sustainable funding to support them, remains the greatest challenge. For example, 14 years ago we were able to establish the Bay Area Program of the State Coastal Conservancy, which has leveraged close to a billion dollars in funding for land protection, restoration and stewardship throughout our region. Ensuring consistent funding for this program, along with restoring funding for State Parks and other important conservation efforts is very challenging in today’s climate.
BN: What do you like most about the work you are doing?
BR: I am most passionate about connecting land and people and building community. We have a world class city surrounded by productive farms and ranchlands that produce globally recognized cuisine. The region is a biodiversity hotspot and has the world’s largest network of urban parks, along with trails that connect the Bay to the coast and our most remote ridges. Our communities are ethnically and culturally diverse. All of this contributes to our health and the quality of life in the Bay Area. What more could we ask for, except to ensure that all people in the region have access to these lands and to the values and benefits they offer?

BN: What’s your favorite park, hike, or place to go in nature in the Bay Area?
BR: That’s a hard question to answer when we have over 1.2 million acres of protected lands in the Bay Area! I have many favorites – from small urban parks and trails to those that take me into larger landscapes and higher elevations. Some at the top of my list include the Dias Ridge Trail in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area near Muir Beach and Limantour Beach at Point Reyes. And I never tire of the trails along the mountains streams in the Mount Tamalpais watershed.

The theme of this year’s Bay Area Open Space Council conference (May 12th at the Presidio) will be “Healthy People, Healthy Parks, Healthy Communities.” Register here.

About the Author

Beth Slatkin is Bay Nature's marketing and outreach director.

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