Bay Nature magazineApril-June 2009

Letter from the Publisher

April 1, 2009

Good news: It finally started raining again! Many of us held our collective breath through bone-dry January, all the while enjoying the guilty pleasure of midwinter outings in sunshine and shirtsleeves. I had a sneaking suspicion that the weeks without rain and without a state budget were somehow linked, with the drying up of funding for restoration projects mirroring the drying up of our reservoirs.

Now, a few weeks later, we have both a state budget and water-soaked hillsides. I’m not superstitious, but I will say that the crazy weather and the crazy state budget process are both signs of things being out of whack–in the state’s politics and in the planet’s climate system. Getting things back on track is up to us.

You can sign me up as a supporter of the effort to change the two-thirds vote requirement for passage of the state budget ( As for the climate, Bay Nature is following up January’s section on climate change with an insert in this issue on something we nature-lovers can actually can do about it: get out of our cars and use public transit (or bicycles) to get to our parks.

In California, cars and trucks are by far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. So anytime we can avoid driving our cars–to work, to the store, to the trailhead–we’re making a positive contribution. “Transit to Trails” in this issue presents some eminently doable–and thoroughly enjoyable–ways of cutting your carbon footprint.

In 1948, the young, wandering Gary Snyder stopped in San Francisco to pick up his girlfriend and headed out to Marin for a camping trip. That adventure, described in the exquisite new book Tamalpais Walking (Heyday Books), began with a ferry ride from the city, then a bus ride up to a campsite on Mount Tam, followed by a combination of buses and hitchhiking out to a beach on Tomales Bay. (A selection from the book appears in Tamalpais Walking.)

Emerging from Snyder’s luminous prose is a clear sense of the remarkable density of the region–the proximity of urban center and wild areas–making the entire Bay Area ideally accessible for adventure and exploration. Getting out of our cars doesn’t have to be like taking medicine. Indeed, making the connections to get to a trailhead can add to the adventure.

It’s also possible we are approaching the end of an era in which we get to have our own cars and washing machines and well-watered yards. There’s simply not enough water in the mountains, not enough money in the budget, not enough oil in the ground, to keep up such each-to-his-own extravagance. My hunch is that the much-anticipated “green economy” can’t be everyone owning his or her own electric car and solar panels. Instead we may have to pool our resources, build an infrastructure that we can share (ubiquitous, reliable transit; carpooling and sharing; walkable communities; etc.), and even get to know our neighbors and surroundings better in the process.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate the late winter rains by taking the bus to the Marin Headlands, or BART to Mount Diablo, to revel in the shared wealth of the glorious spring wildflowers those rains have caused to bloom, absolutely free of charge, at an open space near you!

About the Author

From 2001-2017, David Loeb served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine, and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.

This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.

Now retired, David contributes to his Bay Nature column "Field Reports."