As I have worked these past months on the special report in this issue on the South Bay salt pond restoration project, I’ve become enormously impressed by the all-around good will, dedication, intelligence, and coordination that characterizes this ambitious, sprawling collaboration between scientists, public officials, environmentalists, business people, and the public at large.
It all started with grassroots activism on the part of citizens who were able to think big and project a vision of a bayshore radically different from the industrial saltscape that has long dominated the South Bay. Environmental laws limiting development on wetlands were an essential start. But the dream of purchasing the salt ponds to restore them to wildlife habitat required more than guts and good laws; it required vast sums of money — $100 million to start with. The actual restoration will require even more of the same, much more.
That’s just not the kind of money you can raise through year-end direct mail appeals. Armed with a science-based plan showing the feasibility and desirability of restoring Bay wetlands, environmentalists were able to convince supportive public officials (and several large foundations) to come up with millions of dollars to purchase the ponds. These are your tax dollars at work, folks, doing something innovative, creative, and beneficial. Usually, we only get to marshal these kinds of human and financial resources for a war on something. This isn’t a war on anything; it’s a grand, collective act of respect for our environment, and we’re incredibly fortunate to be part of it.
Unfortunately, in this era of budget deficits and tax cutting, it is going to get harder to fund this kind of endeavor. Tax breaks may buy you a small backyard pond, but they won’t buy you 16,500 permanently-protected acres of wetlands filled with wildlife. Or pioneering wetlands restoration science. November 2nd is election day, and there are significant choices up and down the ballot. If this kind of concerted effort to reverse decades of degrading the environment is important to you, then please vote as if your wetlands (and a lot of other things) depended on it.
Then after elections come the holidays. And while you probably can’t afford to give a wetland to a loved one for Christmas, you can give a subscription to Bay Nature. Because Bay Nature helps get you out into the Bay Area’s open spaces, and also serves to nurture the community of people that protects them. With this issue, Bay Nature completes its fourth year of publication with a sense of pride that we’ve made it this far, surprise that four years have gone by so quickly, and delight at all the stories still left for us to tell. We look forward to sharing them with you in our fifth year and beyond.
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Veteran environmental activist, writer, editor, publisher, educator, and coastal wetlands scientist Phyllis Faber has made countless contributions to the Bay Area environmental movement.