Apr 22, 2020
SFEI's Letitia Grenier appears in a San Jose Mercury News article by Paul Rogers, describing the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the challenges we still face:
[L]ooking back over the past five decades, the amount of environmental progress that has been made is dramatic, and something often overlooked by many Americans. How? Fifty years ago cars ran on leaded gasoline. There was no curbside recycling. No California Coastal Commission. A whaling station that harpooned whales off the Golden Gate to make Kal-Kan dog food operated in Richmond until 1972.
The amount of parks and protected open space in the nine-county Bay Area has nearly quadrupled from 340,000 acres in 1969 to 1.2 million acres in 2017, largely because Bay Area voters passed tax measures in the East Bay and elsewhere, and created new agencies like the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, while Congress established the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, protecting land from the Peninsula to the Marin Headlands and beyond.
After generations of filling and paving, by 1970 there were only about 35,000 acres of tidal marsh left around San Francisco Bay. Today restoration projects have increased that to 53,000 acres, with plans underway to restore another 21,000 acres, said Letitia Grenier, a senior scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute. The eventual goal is to get to 100,000 acres — roughly half the total from 200 years ago — for fish, birds, human recreation and a much cheaper form of flood control than building concrete walls.
“We converted marshes to other uses, like cities, salt ponds and hay fields,” she said. “And then we have realized we really need them. We’ve been trying to change them back into marshes as fast as we can.”
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