he San Francisco
Bay estuary sustains over 500 species of fish and wildlife, and this does not even touch upon the thousands of plant and invertebrate species living
there. Over 20 of these species are currently threatened with extinction.
Francisco Bay is one of the greatest estuaries in the world, providing
habitat for feeding, breeding, raising young, and resting during migrations
for all of these species. The Bay Estuary is recognized as a site of international
importance for more than a million shorebirds and over half the diving
ducks migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Other species supported by the
Bay ecosystem include harbor seals, Dungeness crab, juvenile steelhead,
snowy egrets, the California Clapper Rail, and the endangered salt marsh
With over seven million residents, the Bay Area is the U.S.’s fourth-largest
metropolitan area. To make space for buildings, roads, rails, farming,
grazing, and salt extraction, many of these pristine wetlands have been
diked and filled in. However, the Bay remains the largest and most ecologically
important estuary on the U.S. Pacific Coast.
San Francisco Bay Restoration Program
Since 2000, Audubon has been working on protecting and restoring 100,000
acres of tidal wetlands in San Francisco Bay through a comprehensive program
of land acquisition, ecological restoration, community outreach, and nature
The program, projected to last 20 years, is already well under way. Audubon
recently took the lead in successfully negotiating the purchase of 16,500
acres from Cargill, Inc. as well as spearheading efforts to secure $100
million in public and private funding for its acquisition and restoration
efforts. The acquisition sets the stage for the largest tidal wetlands
restoration on the U.S. Pacific Coast. The scale of this program is unprecedented.
This expansive project in the heart of a major urban setting is a model
for communities across the country looking to restore natural resources
in an urban environment.
huge piece of Bay restoration is happening in 2004. Audubon recently acquired
a 631-acre tract of land called the Bahia Wetlands Property. Restoration
of these tidal marshes is a top priority for the program.
Orvis Partners with Audubon
The Orvis Company, Inc., based in Manchester, Vermont, has partnered
with Audubon for 2004 to help save this valuable ecosystem.
Orvis donates 5% of pre-tax profits to conservation each year. Using
funds from Orvis’ 2004 matching grant campaign, Audubon hopes make
major progress in the Bahia Wetlands this year.
of tidal marshes happens surprisingly fast. According to Audubon experts,
it is possible for many of the natural systems to recover in just 12 months.
Using the domino effect to their advantage, the oak woodlands adjacent
to the wetlands will also benefit from these restoration efforts.
Restoration strategies include removal of dikes and fill material, allowing
the Bay’s tides to carry water, sediment, and native plant seeds
onto the marsh. Native vegetation will also be replanted to help speed
the process along.
Next year, residents of San Francisco may be able to look upon the harbor
seals basking in the sun in the Bahia Wetlands and know they have played
a significant role in the recovery of the ecosystem.
Resources: Special Thanks
to Audubon California for providing innovation, detailed insight, and information
on this project. Images by David Sanger, from San Francisco Bay: Portrait
of an Estuary, by John Hart (2003, University of California Press).