The Bay Area program of the California Coastal Conservancy has been protecting critical open space landscapes and wetlands around the region for 15 years now. However, the program’s anniversary is bittersweet: The sense of accomplishment from having played a central role in conserving 80,500 acres of valuable habitats and recreational open space is tempered by the knowledge that the program could soon run out of money. Proposition 84, passed in 2006, was the last of a series of voter-approved bonds for parks and clean water projects. The conservancy administered much of the funding for those bonds. “Within two years, the Bay Program bond funding will all be obligated, and we won’t be able to take on any new projects,” says program director Amy Hutzel. “We are definitely coming to the end of 13 years of bond funding.”
In those years, the Coastal Conservancy’s Bay Area Program has been the backbone of most restoration, acquisitions, and trail projects in the nine-county Bay Area. According to Hutzel, the Bay Area Conservancy has granted $250 million for projects in the region and thereby leveraged more than $760 million in additional matching funds from private and other public sources.
“The Coastal Conservancy has been the venture capitalist of the coastal and Bay Area conservation community,” says Sempervirens Fund‘s Reed Holderman. “Almost every innovative, big, and precedent-setting project has their fingerprints all over it. Their role in getting these projects started and implemented has been crucial, and our success is directly tied to their continued participation in this future work.”
There have been discussions of a regional water bond or parcel tax for the 2014 November election, but nothing is in the works yet, says Hutzel.
“I worry about the nonprofits and land trusts who depend upon state funding to put projects together,” she adds. “They accomplish a lot with small staffs, but how can they complete acquisitions and pull off large projects without state funding?”