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Historic Photos, Field Notes Show Sharp Park Has Always Been Habitat for Herps--and the Golf Course is Harming Them

Rediscovered historic photos of Sharp Park, along with field notes stored at UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, indicate that Sharp Park was once excellent habitat for the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog: and that Sharp Park Golf Course is the primary threat to both species at the site.

This undated photo of Sharp Park shows Laguna Salada before the golf course was built, with Mori Point Ridge in the background.

In this photo, the lagoon is clearly fringed with cattails, vegetation that can’t grow in saline environments. This indicates that Laguna Salada was not a “salt lake” as golf privatization advocates have argued, but a fresh lagoon where the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog could thrive.

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Check Out Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument

Here are a few Photos of our newest National Park, Port Chicago National Memorial, where hundreds of mostly African-american military personnel were killed in a munitions explosion on 7/17/44, and then court-martialed when they demanded training on how to load the munitions safely. One of the key injustices that ultimately led to the desegregation of the military, the story is now being interpreted by our Nation’s best steward of history, the National Park Service. Reservations are required to visit: click here to make yours. You may also want to check out Dr. Robert Allen’s book, The Port Chicago Mutiny: the Story of the Largest Mass Mutiny Trial in U.S. Naval History.

Twain's Frog & the Beautiful Serpent Hike 7/24, 10am

This weekend we’re leading a trip to Mori Point to search for the the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-legged Frog: the perfect opportunity for you to see at least one of these species and compete in the GGNP Endangered Species Big Year. See you outside!

Saturday, July 24, 2010, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Join Brent Plater of the Wild Equity Institute to search for two of the most imperiled vertebrate species on the San Francisco peninsula: the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake. This will be a leisurely walk to enjoy the restoration work being conducted at Mori Point and to learn about the bold steps being taken to save both species from the brink of extinction. RSVP Required: please use this website to RSVP. Rain or Shine. Meet at the Mori Point Trailhead, Pacifica, CA, 94044. Take the Sharp Park exit off Hwy. 1 and continue south on Bradford Way about 0.5 mile to the gate/trailhead at Mori Point Rd. Roadside parking is limited; carpooling is encouraged. Samtrans buses #110 and #112 stop nearby.

July 7 & 10 Big Year Trips

This week the Wild Equity Institute helps you explore the Presidio, restore habitat for two imperiled plants, and earn points towards the Golden Gate National Parks Endangered Species Big Year grand prize! Join us on either or both trips:

San Francisco Lessingia Restoration at Lobos Dunes, Presidio

  • No More Blues for the Blite — Saturday, July 10, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.:  Join Michael Chassé of the National Park Service at Crissy Field Marsh and restore a reintroduction site for the endangered California Seablite. This satisfies the GGNP Endangered Species Big Year conservation action item for the species. Meet at the Presidio Transit Center, 215 Lincoln Blvd @ Graham St., San Francisco, CA 94129. RSVP: Call 415-561-2857 or email Michael Chassé.

Crissy Field Marsh Restoration

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Nearly Two-dozen Community, Park Groups Demand Scrutiny of Sharp Park

Nearly two-dozen allies have joined the Wild Equity Institute in demanding heightened environmental and fiscal scrutiny of Sharp Park Golf Course. The controversial golf course is killing endangered species and loses money, and a new community group letter and a park group letter ask the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to stop prioritizing the suburban golf course the City owns in San Mateo County, and instead prioritize neighborhood and community services threatened by the ongoing recession.

San Francisco Budget Rally; Sharp Park is “Bleeding Green”

San Francisco’s budget crisis is resulting in substantial cuts to neighborhood parks and community services. But cash flow isn’t the only factor in determining what is cut and what is not: these decisions are also a product of the City’s priorities.

The community and park groups recently submitted two letters highlighting the choices the City can make, and specifically highlighting the ongoing financial losses at Sharp Park Golf Course as a misplaced priority.

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June 21: Tell the Board of Supervisors to Stop Bleeding Green

We need you to tell the SF Board of Supervisors to break out the “green scissors”: eliminate the environmentally destructive Sharp Park Golf Course from the City budget and redirect the money saved back to San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and community services, where the money belongs.

On Monday, June 21 at 4pm in San Francisco’s City Hall, Room 250, the Board of Supervisors will have a hearing on San Francisco’s budget. Come to the hearing early, around 3:30pm, to get a speaker card and find out when you’ll get a chance to speak. This could be a long one, so if you can’t stay please send an email to info@wildequity.org with your comments and we’ll hand them in for you.

The SF Weekly recently exposed that Sharp Park Golf Course is a much larger liability to SF’s budget than the Parks Department had previously disclosed (read the article here).

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June 18: Wither SF Rec. & Park Commission?

The SF Recreation and Parks Commission is supposed to be an oversight agency, a check against bad calls made by the Recreation and Parks Department’s political appointees. But today it is notorious for rubber-stamping the Department’s often ill-planed and inequitable decisions. It acts like an agency captured by the very entity it is suppose to oversee.

For example, the Commission rubber-stamped the Department’s flawed all-golf alternative for Sharp Park Golf Course, ignoring the expert testimony—not to mention the vast majority of public comments—which favored creating a National Park at Sharp Park. Subsequently both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the SF Weekly exposed flaws in the biological and financial reasoning the Department made, completely undermining the all-golf alternative.

But this is precisely what the Commission is supposed to do: scrutinize proposals to ensure they aren’t flawed or based on unsound assumptions. We can’t expect the Feds or journalists to do the Commission’s job for them every time.

So Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has introduced a charter amendment to revamp the Recreation and Parks Commission. Under the proposal, commission appointments would be shared between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors, ensuring that no one political agenda can stack the deck against sound decision-making.

Public park supporters are rallying around this charter amendment at a hearing on Friday, June 18, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee at San Francisco City Hall. Help our government get better: support an improved check-and-balance system at the Recreation and Parks Department and ask your Supervisor to vote for Mirkarimi’s charter amendment.

June 19: Flax or Blite: You Choose!

This week the GGNP Endangered Species Big Year is offering two trips to see and help save the Park’s endangered species: one in San Mateo County and one in San Francisco. Hope to see you outside!

Marin-dwarf Flax

Marin-dwarf Flax Blooming in San Mateo County!?!— June 19, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Here’s a great opportunity to see the Marin Dwarf-flax blooming: in San Mateo County! Join the Edgwood Weed Warriors at Edgewood County Park & Nature Preserve to see this diminutive wildflower in bloom. Despite the specie’s name, San Mateo is part of its natural range, and a part of Edgewood is also within the Golden Gate National Parks legislative boundary. While there you can pitch-in and pull weeds to help restore the entire nature preserve. Please note that this activity counts as a sighting, but not as a restoration action item for the Endangered Species Big Year competition. Meet at Edgewood’s West Kiosk; from there we’ll walk to the restoration site. RSVP required: please e-mail Drew Shell. For more details click here.

California Seablite

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June 12: The Fantastic Fountain Thistle

This week the GGNP Endangered Species Big Year is heading to San Mateo County to see and help save the Fountain Thistle, a beautiful plant on the brink. See you outside!

The Fantastic Fountain Thistle—Saturday, June 12, 2010, 10:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m.: Join Ken Himes and Jake Sigg for a stroll into the usually inaccessible Crystal Springs Watershed to search for the endangered Fountain Thistle. Afterward, join a restoration work party on nearby Caltrans land to remove exotic plants invading the species' habitat. Meet at the Lexington Avenue Gate at the South end of Lexington Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94402. RSVP required:e-mail Jake Sigg.

Sign-up for your Endangered Species Big Year here.

New Fence Shuts-out All Recreation at Sharp Park, Except Species-killing Golf

In another Orwellian move, the Recreation and Parks Department has installed a fence along Sharp Park to keep birders and hikers from accessing the property. WEI supports the enforcement of strong ethical principles to ensure outdoor recreation has no impact on the natural world. But birders and hikers have never harmed endangered species at Sharp Park. Yet just behind the fence the Department continues to drain aquatic habitats and run lawn mowers on the land, activities that do kill endangered species.

The exclusion of other recreation users from Sharp Park is about the Department’s skewed priorities, not protecting the environment. This is particularly disturbing because the Department’s own survey shows that the #1 recreational demand is for more hiking trails; golf comes 16th out of 19 options in the same survey. It’s time for the Department to restore Sharp Park and get its priorities in-line with the public’s.

Matier & Ross Falsify Franciscan Manzanita Funding: Will Fox News Be Next?

The Franciscan Manzanita

Last week San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier & Ross claimed that the City and County of San Francisco was stuck with a $200,000 bill to move the rediscovered Franciscan Manzanita from the path of the Doyle Drive construction project. The article caused a firestorm: it was the most viewed item on the Chronicle's website last week, and now Sean Hannity of Fox News is calling around to do a hit-piece on the plant.

Trouble is, Matier & Ross' accusation is false. According to Doyle Drive Project Spokesperson Molly Graham, "this money isn't coming from the City of San Francisco's coffers."  In fact, the transplant was funded by a pre-existing environmental mitigation budget sponsored by all Bay Area counties.  Although the discovery of the Manzanita wasn't anticipated, not one new taxpayer dollar was needed to fund the move.  Moreover, the total proposed to be spent on this species recovery action is less than .01% of the entire budget for the Doyle Drive project.

CalTrans Video of the Manzanita Move

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SF Weekly Exposes Park Department's Dishonesty

UPDATE: SF Weekly Exposes Park Department’s
Dishonest Assessment of Sharp Park Golf Course

June 2: Hump Day Habitat Restoration

Can you think of a better way to get over the mid-week blues than by helping save the diminutive wildflowers endemic to San Francisco? Neither can Michael Chasse of the National Park Service or the GGNP Endangered Species Big Year: and that’s why we’ll be out in the beautifully restored Lobos Creek Valley to save this charming little wildflower!

San Francisco Lessingia

June 5: Twain's Frog & the Beautiful Serpent will Jumpstart Your June Big Year Competition

This weekend we’re leading a trip to Mori Point to search for the the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-legged Frog: the perfect opportunity for you to see at least one of these species and win a copy of Last Child In the Woods. See you outside!

Help a Herp, Become a Bookworm!

Thanks to REI’s generous support of the 2010 GGNP Endangered Species Big Year, we are happy to bring you a new interim Big Year competition to win nature prizes during the month of June!

From June 1 until June 30, any 2010 Golden Gate National Parks Endangered Species Big Year competitor that (1) completes the action item for the San Francisco Garter Snake; (2) completes the action item for the California Red-legged Frog, and (3) sees at least one of these two herpetological species will win a free copy of Richard Louv’s seminal book, Last Child In the Woods: Saving Our Chidren From Nature-deficit Disorder.

To win the prize you must sign-up for the GGNP Endangered Species Big Year, complete the action items for the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-legged Frog, see either the Frog or the Snake, and log your actions and sighting into the GGNP Endangered Species Big Year website by 11:59:59 p.m. on June 30, 2010.

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What Will Newsom Do: Subsidize Suburban Golf or San Francisco City Services?

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will release his budget proposal to the public June 1. A growing chorus of environmental and social service groups are hoping the Mayor’s budget will help save community services by closing the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course.

Add your voice by contacting the Board of Supervisors & the Mayor. Demand that the City stop subsidizing suburban golf in San Mateo County by closing Sharp Park Golf Course and reinvesting the money saved back in our neighborhoods, where the money belongs.

WEI Executive Director Brent Plater Speaks at a Budget Justice Rally May 26

San Francisco is poised to cut millions from community centers and neighborhood services this year to close the City’s budget deficit.

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Win Prizes on the Tiburon Paintbrush Conservation Trip May 29!

Just in time to help you win Jack Laws’ Pocket Guide to the Bay Area, the Wild Equity Institute is organizing a trip to help save the Tiburon Paintbrush. Remember, the first four 2010 Endangered Species Big Year competitors to complete this action for the Tiburon Paintbrush will win a copy of the pocket guide, so sign up for your Big Year and come on this special trip!

Tiburon Paintbrush      Laws Guide to SF Bay

Save Some, Win Something: Tiburon Paintbrush Competition Is On!

Thanks to REI’s generous support of the 2010 GGNP Endangered Species Big Year, we are happy to announce our next reward for seeing and saving endangered species!

This competition focuses on the Tiburon Paintbrush, a beautiful little wildflower that can only be seen in a few select places within the Golden Gate National Parks. It was likely always rare, but habitat modification in its remaining strongholds threatens the viability of the species.

And that’s where you come in: the first four people to help save the Tiburon Paintbrush by completing the conservation action item for the species will win a copy of John Muir Laws’ new Pocket Guide Set to the San Francisco Bay Area!

Tiburon Paintbrush       Laws Guide to SF Bay

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WEI Engages Allies to Restore Sharp Park

As San Francisco proposes massive cuts to city services, more and more residents are demanding that San Francisco close the money-losing, endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course.

WEI Allies: Bring Our Money Back

San Francisco is proposing massive cuts to youth services while privatizing our parks and open spaces. These cuts will disproportionately impact poor, disenfranchised communities in San Francisco, precisely when services are needed to offset the impacts of the financial crisis.

Yet at Sharp Park, San Francisco continues to subsidize suburban golf in San Mateo County by up to $300,000 each year, and is planning to spend tens-of-millions more to try and build an elite golf course on the property.

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5/22 Tidewater Goby Trip Cancelled--by Oil Spill

As the Gulf Oil Spill crisis enters its second month, the scale of the oil spill is requiring more hands on the ground then ever.

This week our local Tidewater Goby expert, the National Park Service’s Darren Fong, was called to Mobile, AL to help with oil spill clean-up efforts.

Among the other unfortunate things that this prefaces, this weekend’s Go-Go Gobies! trip must also be cancelled: at least until Darren returns.

Good luck Darren, and thanks for all you do to deal with crises on our coasts.

REI Loves WEI, Heats Up Big Year

Download Your Big Year Checklist
and Start Seeing and Saving Endangered Species

REI’s San Francisco Store is partnering with the Wild Equity Institute’s GGNP Endangered Species Big Year by providing a slew of interim prizes for competitors with a knack for seeing and saving endangered species.

The prizes, which include books, field guides, binoculars, backpacks, and other tools to explore the Golden Gate National Parks, will be offered in the coming weeks to Big Year competitors that reach interim competition milestones.

Details about the interim competitions will be announced shortly. Check the WEI website here for announcements about the interim competitions. Some restrictions will apply, so be sure to read the rules carefully.

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Congresswoman Speier Slowly Supporting Science-based Restoration

Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced a bill to spend a billion federal dollars and create a new federal office dedicated to San Francisco Bay wetland restoration.

It’s a great sign that, after some early missteps, the Congresswoman finally understands the importance and timeliness of science-based wetland restoration projects.

Now we need the Congresswoman to display the same vision for coastal wetland restoration at Sharp Park.

Wetland restoration is one of the best investments we can make to build a healthy and sustainable global community for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth, particularly in coastal areas that will be affected by sea level rise.

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Oil and Equity

The Gulf Oil Spill is a heartbreaking disaster, more so because it could have been prevented if proper environmental review had been conducted before exploration occurred.

And as oil reaches coastal communities and the explosion continues to spew carbon into the atmosphere, it is clear that those with the least resources to adapt to a polluted planet—low income communities and the non-human world—will bear the brunt of the catastrophe.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and politicians will hold hearings trying to punt that blame to the other side of the aisle, or onto the corporations that profit off oil drilling. But nothing will come of this dog-and-pony show if we fail to direct our moral outrage into concrete demands, and place those demands at the feet of those who wield power.

A starting point is demanding that our government cap carbon emissions so that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere stabilize at no more then 350 parts per million. This will inevitably require an end to off-shore oil and gas exploration once and for all. Consider joining Bonnie Raitt, James Hansen, the Center for Biological Diversity, 350.org, and many others by signing this petition to request that the EPA cap carbon emissions now.

A Little Bird in the Belly

In this Wild Equity Institute update from Trinidad, we’ve got a cute video for you of a little bird with a big surprise. Enjoy!

Video: One More Way Plastic Bottles Can Ruin a Turtle's Day

Some of you may know that the Wild Equity Institute is helping draft new regulations to protect leatherback sea turtles in Trinidad and Tobago, the twin island nation in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. Trinidad has the 2nd largest nesting colony of leatherback sea turtles on Earth, and WEI is helping ensure that the population remains robust.

But the ways our lifestyles impact the leatherback sometimes confound even the most elegantly drafted rules. On April 27, 2010, a nesting leatherback sea turtle was digging her nest at Matura Beach in Trinidad when a wholly unnatural sound came from her nesting hole. The turtle had struck a plastic bottle four feet under the sand, jeopardizing her nesting attempt.

This was particularly disheartening because hundreds of volunteers had recently scoured the beach picking-up thousands of pieces of plastic trash to prepare the beach for turtle nesting season. This particular bottle may have been buried long ago, so the volunteers couldn’t have found it.

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WEI Collaborators in the News

At the Wild Equity Institute we are fortunate to collaborate with some of the most accomplished environmentalists on Earth, and many of them have been making wonderful news recently.

Dr. Peter Baye was recently featured in this article about the California Seablite, a GGNP Endangered Species Big Year species. Dr. Baye is a preeminent coastal ecologist who has prepared the scientific rationale for sustainable restoration options at Sharp Park. You can watch him in action here:

John Muir Laws, one of the great artist and illustrators of the natural world, helped WEI highlight the fate of the San Francisco Lessingia in 2008 with a field sketching class using wild Lessingia as the model. Now he’s produced these foldout guides of local flora and fauna. They should be outstanding aids to help people see and care for the planet.

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May Day Is for Mission Blues

This week you’ll get one more chance to see the Mission Blue Butterfly with last year’s Big Year co-champion Liam O’Brien. With the recent sighting of a Mission Blue mud-puddling for reproductive success, this may be your best chance to see the species yet! Plus you can bend O’Brien’s ear for some tips on winning the Big Year. See you outside!

Big Year Competitor Molly Latimer Spots a Mission Blue

Earth Day the Wild Equity Way

You could buy an eco toothbrush holder with that extra $10 in your pocket this Earth Day. Or you could get the best bang for your environmental buck by donating to the Wild Equity Institute today!

We run a lean, mean, equity machine over here at WEI, but we can’t do it without your support. This Earth Day join 2,000 others and become a member of WEI for $10 (or more) so we can continue our work. Send your contribution to Wild Equity Institute, PO Box 191695, San Francisco, CA, 94119, or join now with PayPal:

This Week's Big Year Trip: Flying Pansies

This week get outside and search for the Mission Blue Butterfly with last year’s Big Year co-champion Liam O’Brien. With the recent sighting of a Mission Blue mud-puddling for reproductive success, this may be your best chance to see the species yet! Plus you can bend O’Brien’s ear for some tips on winning the Big Year. See you outside!

The Things You'll See: New Butterfly Behavior Seen on Big Year Trip

Participants in last weekend’s GGNP Endangered Species Big Year Mission Blue Butterfly hike got a rare and scientifically important treat: they not only saw a Mission Blue, but also watched it engage in a behavior not previously proven to occur in the subspecies.

Mission Blue Butterfly Mud-puddling in the GGNP

The rare butterfly was seen “mud-puddling” from the SCA trail in Marin County. Mud-puddling occurs when butterflies congregate on moist soils or other substrates to obtain nutrients, such as amino acids and salts. These nutrients are believed to help the butterflies reproduce: males that mud-puddle tend to increase their reproductive success, if only because they sometimes transfer the nutrients to the female while mating as a nuptial gift! We’re glad to see one of the rarest butterflies in the GGNP finding new ways to gain a reproductive edge.

Although other members of the genus were known to mud-puddle, it was unclear if Mission Blue Butterflies engaged in this behavior: butterfly experts had debated this point. The new observation with photographs provides evidence of mud-puddling in this subspecies.

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