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.

First Encounters

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When European explorers and naturalists began coming to California a few centuries ago, most sailed right past the fog-shrouded Golden Gate. But those few who did stop here, including the botanist-poet who first described the California poppy, left tantalizing clues to the world they saw before the Gold Rush transformed the Bay Area from backwater to boomtown.

West Marin

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Driving out to the coast among the seemingly endless ranks of Marin County hills, studded with rock outcrops and spotted with grazing cows, you can feel the calmness that flows from a stable landscape. It has always been this way, … Read more

Wild Gardens

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A visit to remnant native grasslands in Richmond or diverse oak woodlands in eastern Alameda County gives a taste of our region’s native habitats. But few of us are aware of an important element that helped shape those habitats: the regimes of burning, pruning, and digging carried out over centuries by the East Bay’s indigenous inhabitants, some of whom still carry on those traditions today.

Eastshore Park, Two Decades in the Making

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Eastshore State Park, an 8.5-mile-long ribbon of East Bay shoreline between the Bay Bridge and Richmond’s Marina Bay, is proof that many good things don’t come easily. The park is the result of 20 years of advocacy, negotiation, and planning … Read more

New Life For The Laguna

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Thirty years ago, few people gave a second thought to the Laguna de Santa Rosa, the North Coast’s largest freshwater wetland. The once-teeming marshland had become a dumping ground. But things are changing, and this complex waterway is finally beginning to recover some of its former glory.

Getting Burned

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Fire dwells deep in the human psyche. It is among the oldest of words, the most elemental of tools, and the primary means by which early man projected himself onto the world. The torch and the hearth fire enabled our … Read more

Wallace Stegner Exhibit in Los Altos

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In 1962, community activists on the Peninsula banded together in an effort to save the area’s wild places from development. They named themselves the Committee for Green Foothills (www.greenfoothills.org), and chose renowned teacher, writer, and environmentalist Wallace Stegner to be … Read more

The Lost Trails of Santa Clara

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According to the ranchers and cowboys who ran cattle in the rugged Diablo Range southeast of San Jose, Sada Sutcliffe Coe (1910-1979) could ride a horse as well, if not better, than any of them. Several years of “proper” education … Read more

Down to the Sea Again

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Daly City’s cliffs hold tales of ancient seas and volcanic eruptions. But don’t count on them to stand still under your feet, or your home.

Taking Refuge

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At this small, sandy National Wildlife Refuge on the industrial outskirts of Antioch, you’ll find great views of the San Joaquin River, and rare plants and insects that don’t exist anywhere else.