Human settlement in the San Francisco Bay Area dates back 10,000 years to early Native American settlements. Today, the region is a teeming metropolis of 7 million people that collectively challenge the health of the region's ecosystems. How it got this way is a story that prompts a deeper understanding of our place in the landscape.

Postcards from Pescadero

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True, there was no e-mail, snail mail, or even Pony Express, but somehow postcards from intrepid explorers of the San Mateo coast in days of yore have reached our mailbox. Take a unique trip through time and discover how the beach and marsh at Pescadero came to be the treasures we love to visit today.

Butterflies and Bulldozers on an Island of Time

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San Bruno Mountain rises along the southern border of San Francisco, remnant of an ecosystem that once covered much of this peninsula. The mountain provides a tenuous refuge for some of the rare plants and endangered butterflies that have lost much of their former habitat. And it beckons to people who want a taste of the San Francisco peninsula as it was before Europeans arrived.

Undercover San Francisco

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Have you ever wondered what some familiar spots in San Francisco looked like 300 years ago? Environmental artist Mark Brest van Kempen did, so he went back in time and took some pictures.

From the Bottom Up

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It’s small, it’s restless, and it changes sex halfway through its life. Plus, the humble bay shrimp occupies a crucial niche in the complex food web of San Francisco Bay. It once played a significant role in the economy and culture of the local Chinese community. Today, both the shrimp and those who fish for it are still hanging on, but it hasn’t been easy.

Legacy of the Red Ore

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Numerous animals make their homes in burrows in the hills of this Santa Clara County park, but none dig as deep as the miners who hauled mercury-laden ore out of the ground for 125 years.

The Dream Given by You

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The return of endangered coho salmon to their ancestral spawning grounds in this west Marin watershed is an essential component of the connective tissue that holds a fragmented ecosystem together. Greeting the salmon tethers us to the landscape’s seasonal rhythms and reawakens a lineage that goes back to the first inhabitants of this place.

The Vale of Tesla

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Nestled in the hills southeast of Livermore, at the border between the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area, the old Tesla Mine townsite in Corral Hollow sustains a vibrant mix of inner south coast range plants and animals along with the traces of a rich human history. But a state proposal to create an off-road vehicle park in the hollow threatens to reopen old scars on this tranquil landscape.

Old Hills, New Economies

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The vast expanse of rugged country east of high-tech Santa Clara Valley, crowned by the Bay Area’s highest peak, has been a refuge for wild species—humans included—for a very long time.