Over the past few decades, citizen groups and resource agencies have recognized the ecological value of wetlands, long expounded by the scientific community. A number of environmental organizations and resource agencies have been actively working to protect wetlands in San Francisco Bay; other state and federal agencies have regulated aspects such as wetland fill. In 1996, an unlikely partnership formed that included not only these agencies but also business and agricultural communities, hunters, and local governments. Together they launched the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture (SFBJV).
|Least Sandpiper. Photo © Peter Latourrette.|
This was a novel concept at the time: citizen groups then were cautiously watching the actions of regulatory agencies and often fighting development projects, but the partners who signed the SFBJV Management Agreement decided to work together. Their aim was to restore wetland and riparian habitats for birds, fish, and other wildlife while enhancing wetland values such as flood control and public enjoyment.
SFBJV was modeled after other joint ventures of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (see page 1), whose successes hinge upon partnerships that represent a variety of interests. And broad-based collaboration is needed to bring back the wetlands and wildlife of San Francisco Bay, with its complexity of wetlands issues, internationally recognized wildlife values, and diverse wetland-dependent and -sensitive species.
|San Francisco Bay wetlands: tidal marsh at Albree Slough, Fremont. Photo © William Hammersky, Skyhammer Graphics.|
The goal of SFBJV has been to protect, restore, and enhance 200,000 acres of wetlands and riparian habitats in San Francisco Bay and surrounding watersheds, and along the coasts of San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, and Sonoma counties. By working through committees, leveraging resources, developing new funding sources, and helping build partnerships, SFBJV has already protected close to 40,000 acres, with 2003 the biggest year yet.
At least as important as acreage is the variety of habitats and of species they support. SFBJV is now launching a new phase, to evaluate JV partner projects not only from the perspective of acres but also the mix of habitat types that support diverse wetland-dependent species.
To achieve our ambitious goals, science must be combined with public outreach and activism. While many SFBJV partner organizations can be advocates, others do not or cannot and rely on SFBJV for a coordinated approach. One example: the JV strategized to include funds in Proposition 50 (California's 2002 water quality and wetland protection initiative) to purchase the Cargill salt ponds in South San Francisco Bay. SFBJV has now been asked for recommendations to the state Wildlife Conservation Board for prioritizing restoration and acquisition projects. Along with coordinating elements of the public input into the South Bay salt pond planning process, SFBJV supports research such as PRBO's (Observer 133, Summer 2003), making scientific data available to all JV partners for this and future projects.
With the advent of "all-bird" conservation (see page 2), SFBJV is turning to PRBO for leadership to integrate federal waterbird, shorebird, and landbird plans into our implementation strategy. Although its focus in the forseeable future will be wetland and riparian habitats, SFBJV will continue to develop partnerships that can help implement the full range of bird conservation plans.
To learn more about the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture and its partner organizations, visit www.sfbayjv.org or call 415-883-3854. PRBO Executive Director Ellie Cohen is SFBJV's incoming Chair.