The Bay Area Open Space Council (BAOSC)–a coalition of 55 park agencies and land trusts–will celebrate its 20th birthday at its annual conference on May 20, 2010. John Woodbury, BAOSC’s first executive director, says today’s recession reminds him of the climate when the organization formed. “A lot of people think that the economic situation today isn’t hopeful, but now is the time to strengthen partnerships and lay groundwork,” he says.
The council arose out of discussions among a group of local conservation leaders in 1990. At the time, it had been five or six years since any state park bonds had appeared on the ballot. “There was a fair amount of discouragement about the economic downturn,” says Woodbury, now the general manager for the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District. So one of the council’s first efforts was to advocate for a state-authorized regional conservancy to provide financial support for open space protection. This led to the expansion of the Coastal Conservancy’s jurisdiction to all nine Bay Area counties by 1997. “The Bay Conservancy turned out to be the primary funder of parks and open space in the region,” Woodbury says, pointing to the $200 million in state bond funds the conservancy has provided so far for land acquisition and stewardship. Not bad for efforts begun in a down economy.
Looking ahead, the council hopes to increase the region’s store of public and private protected lands from 1.2 to 2 million acres by 2025, says Bettina Ring, the organization’s current executive director.
At the May conference, the organization will present its latest major initiative, the Upland Habitat Goals Project, an effort to coordinate open space protection and habitat restoration across the region. Based on lots of complex science and extensive habitat mapping, the goal is both compelling and simple: Enable open space groups, from the largest agency to the smallest land trust, to pull in the same direction, toward a vibrant, biodiverse, and sustainable region.
“Individual organizations get tied down with their own little piece of the world,” says Bob Berman, a founding board member of the Solano Land Trust. “This tool will help us see how our work is connected to the larger Bay Area picture.” For more, go to openspacecouncil.org.