Archive for November, 2010

Josiah Clark’s talk was an excellent wrap up to our year. Josiah’s work as an ecologist focuses on where the wild can fit into our urban centers. How we can take the highly fragmented green spaces of our cities and make them resilient and sustainable for the “last of the least and the best of the rest.”

The most fundamental aspect of that work is making these green spaces functional breeding areas. Keys to this is to have a lot of biodiversity (both of species and within species), and building up native plant communities, where communities is the operative word. Complex mashups of plants create all the more opportunities for all sorts of wildlife to thrive.

But each different area even within such a small city as San Francisco, can often need different management strategies. These strategies often hinge on understanding what the disturbance regimes (erosion, wind, floods, and nutrients) are like in a given area: for instance high tides at Crissy fields, fires (or the lack thereof) on San Bruno mountain, or wind blown dunes. Areas like dunes, serpentine and bluffs have poor nutrient soils, but because of their limits, often leaves native plants with better chances. Often times those disturbance regimes are the things that native plants were adapted to, and humans having built up or mitigated their affects has been to the detriment of native plants (like fire adapted coastal scrub). Our last remaining native rodent the gopher even provides positive disturbance, creating erosion where it otherwise would not happen.

Josiah then led us through a few case studies: the Green Hairstreak Project,  Nutall’s White Crowned Sparrow in the Bison paddock of Golden Gate Park, and the Pacific Chorus Frog. And how these were managed with all these things in mind.

And speakers have been bringing to us other examples of this all year long: Liam O’Brien talking on restoring the mission blue, Matthew Bettelheim and the western pond turtle, Brent Plater and Sharp park, John Bourgeois and salt pond restoration, our speakers on Yerba Buena island, Vance T. Vredenburg on frogs in the Sierras, and Camilla Fox showing us Coyotes in the city. We also had two historical overviews of the process of how our city came to its current fragmentation of habitats: one local — Joel Pomerantz and the Wiggle, once stream now bicycle route — and one area wide, Professor Richard Walker, giving us a history of bay area environmentalism.

We look forward to what we can bring out for you in 2011.

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What Are We Managing For? Restoration Strategies
Guest Speaker: Josiah Clark
7:30pm, THURSDAY, NOV 18th, 2010

Case studies in wildlife and habitat restoration by Consulting Ecologist, Josiah Clark.  How restoration strategies can restore ecosystem function and preserve native biodiversity. The last of the least and the best of the rest.

Josiah Clark is an expert on the urban-wildlife interface, and has investigated natural processes and the specific needs of wildlife in the urban setting for the last fifteen years. Josiah also leads international birding tours, environmental stewardship with urban youth and writes on environmental issues. Josiah Clark started a consulting practice, Habitat Potential in 2002, and has worked as a Consulting Ecologist for a wide range of clients, public and private.

Learn more about Josiah Clark’s work at habitat potential.

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The Country and the City

Professor Walker, professor of Geology at UC Berkeley, gave us a quick introduction to the rich and complicated history of environmental leadership in the Bay Area. The bay area and its cities, he says, are a green quilt, a coat of many colors, a rich fabric of different types of landscape, all political spaces, constantly being fought over, but all-told preserving more open space than Yosemite does. Open space for which people STILL have to fight.

He walks through seven eras of the environmental movement in San Francisco: “the scenic wonders” and the creation of an ideology of preservation (with the likes of John Muir); “parks for the people,” where national parks are created, and the Redwood preservation league gets state parks going, where parks become popular recreation areas; “suburban revolt,” the first questioning of growth, as the Golden Gate Bridge is built from Marin, on into the freeways wars of San Francisco; “saving the bay,” how Save the Bay became the example for environmental membership organizations and brought the masses into the environmental fight; “greenbelt alliance,” the start of regional thinking and planning for the environment, and the unification of a lot of anti-growth groups; “land trusts,” started with the Trust for Public Land in Marin, preserving land in a new sort of way; and most recently, “brown environments,” environmental justice fights over toxic lands and brown fields.

One of the questions Professor Walker was interested in was what can we learn from all this time and effort. Here’s the highlights: upper class rebels have always been a part of the fight (tip your hats to the rich with a conscience); today the blocks of people who most vote for park bonds in order are: a) latinos, b) african-americans, c) asians, and last d) whites; women have been the backbone of local movements; the land has been put to use for the public, for the public good; the institutionalizing of organizations like Save the Bay keep the movement robust and keep a memory of what has already occurred.

All of this has lead to a political culture that is very deeply green, has saved us some amazing places, and still creating more.

You can read about all this more in depth in his book, the County and the City.

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