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Wetlands on Tuesday’s Ballot for Bay Area Voters

Wetland restoration efforts in the South Bay have enabled the population rebound of Ridgway’s Rail, seen here. (Source: Wild Equity Institute)

Wild Equity’s vision for Sharp Park has called for restoring the wetlands and repurposing the lands as a new national park for the public to enjoy. This proposal has been passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors 5 times, and a huge community of partners from different areas have endorsed our restoration vision as well.

On June 7th, Bay Area residents will vote on Measure AA, a wetland restoration initiative that would do something similar for the Bay side of our region. If passed, Measure AA would raise $500 million over 20 years for wetland restoration projects around San Francisco Bay. The funding would come from a $12 annual parcel tax in the 9 Bay Area counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano.

Restoring wetlands is the best tool for mitigating sea level rise because wetlands break up wave energy. Furthermore, the restoration of wetlands provides many other benefits such as improved water quality, increased public access to shorelines, and ameliorated habitat conditions for wildlife. Wetland restoration projects in the South Bay, for instance, have enabled the return of wildlife such as Ridgway’s Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. Climate models and recent scientific reports indicate that we can expect sea levels to rise 3 to 8 feet by the turn of the century, and that sea levels are now rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. If we don’t take action now, taxpayers can expect to shell out billions of dollars for new coastal infrastructure.

You can read more about Measure AA here.

It’s Air Quality Awareness Week: Who Bears the Brunt of Air Pollution?

This week (May 2-6) is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Awareness Week. Unfortunately, the EPA is still giving the green light to projects (e.g. new power plants) which poison the air and compromise the health and wellbeing of local communities and wildlife.

In fact, Wild Equity has spent years challenging the EPA’s ongoing failure to protect communities and endangered species in Antioch, CA, from PG&E’s Gateway Generating Station- a power plant that emits tons of nitrogen pollution annually, poisoning sensitive wildlife habitats and irritating the lungs of local residents. The EPA has allowed Gateway Generating Station to pollute without performing a legally mandated consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service about the pollution’s impact on endangered species at the adjacent Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge- the last home for one of our nation’s most imperiled butterflies.

Achieving environmental justice has always been the backbone of Wild Equity’s mission. It is far too often the underprivileged, the poor, working-class communities of color that are disproportionately burdened with the impacts of pollution and of climate change. This paradigm is evident in many scenarios that have drastically altered the way of life in some communities, a few of many examples being:

Flint, Michigan, a predominantly African American town, the highly toxic tap water is unsuitable for drinking, cooking, or bathing. The residents of Flint have no choice but to cook, drink, bathe with bottled water because of their contaminated water supply.

Wilmington, a Los Angeles ethnic minority neighborhood dense with oil drilling operations, residents have spent years suffering from frequent headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, and other health-related issues due to exposure to drilling-related pollution. Wilmington has received little media attention, as opposed to the natural gas leak at Porter Ranch, an affluent neighborhood with a majority white population.

Kettleman City, CA, a community that is over 96% of Hispanic or Latino origin, is located amongst oil wells and a massive hazardous waste dump site. The town has been plagued with contaminated water, polluted air, abnormally high rates of birth defects, infant mortality, and cancer.

Regrettably, environmental injustices are still ever-present and we still have a long fight ahead, but we will continue to fight for the people, plants, and wildlife whose voices go unheard, and hope you will join us. Thank you for supporting Wild Equity, and click here to get involved with our work!

Bay Area Still Not Serious About Preparing for Sea Level Rise


Sharp Park Golf Course has flooding issues as it is. Sea level rise will only make it worse.

New reports say that sea levels are now rising faster than they have at any point in the common era, and the clock is ticking on the opportunity to restore Sharp Park, which would protect the lands from flooding brought on by sea level rise.

According to Justin Gillis of the New York Times, a new report posted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that sea levels are now rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. Towns such as Annapolis, Maryland have experienced 394 days of flooding between 2005 and 2014, a stark contrast from the 32 days of flooding in the same area between 1955 and 1964. In just a matter of 50 years, the impacts of sea level rise have become increasingly observable and problematic, and will only get worse from here on out.

The science seems to fall on deaf ears, however, as Pacifica, San Mateo County, and San Francisco continue to authorize shortsighted seaside development projects. The last thing we should be doing is punting adaptation 30 years down the line, yet San Francisco continues to fight against the restoration of Sharp Park and has approved a number of large scale waterfront projects, such as the contentious new billion dollar stadium for the Golden State Warriors in the Mission Bay neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Pacifica has rubber-stamped the construction of both a new mobile home park and a library on the fragile coastline. Regular storm cycles such as El Nino have already caused significant damage to coastal infrastructure, and over time sea level rise will only substantially exacerbate the problem. In Pacifica, cliffs and sea walls have crumbled, people have been forced to vacate their homes, and cliffside apartment buildings have been demolished as a safety precaution- all on the taxpayers dime. $450 thousand dollars have been needed for emergency repairs to the sea wall alone. The town’s Sharp Park Golf Course has been subject to closures due to annual flooding caused by rain, and yet both San Francisco and San Mateo County are intent on keeping the golf course open and even partially redeveloped, despite environmental and economic conditions working against the course’s favor. As sea levels rise, the ocean will engulf Sharp Park Golf Course unless we let the seawall erode and the lands revert to a wetland, which would act as a natural buffer against elevating waters.

If Sharp Park Golf Course is closed and repurposed as a new national park, the restoration of the wetlands would decelerate the impact of sea level rise, since wetlands “break up” wave energy. Plus, having Sharp Park as a publicly accessible park operated by Golden Gate National Recreation Area (like the adjacent Mori Point) would allow the federally protected California Red-Legged Frog and San Francisco Garter Snake a chance to thrive, while also providing locals with more diverse recreational opportunities, saving taxpayers millions, and giving Pacifica an opportunity to make tourism-based revenue on land that is otherwise losing money. Moreover, the National Park Service, SF Board of Supervisors, residents of San Francisco and Pacifica, and even golfers have all supported the initiative to restore Sharp Park.

Bewilderingly, Mayor Ed Lee and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors want to keep the golf course open, despite the viable and fiscally responsible alternatives available, and thus continuing an era of questionable long-term decision making.

Tell your city and county administrators to start taking sea level rise seriously, and click here to tell Ed Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to close down and restore Sharp Park today.

Bay Climate Defense Project Seeks Partners & Volunteers

Sea Level Rise Will Disproportionately Impact Bay Area’s Low Income Communities

The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuarine system on the West Coast of the United States. About one-third of the Bay was lost to infill development by the mid-1900s, and plans were underway to fill another third of the Bay. But a grassroots organizing effort halted Bay infill, and today vibrant and diverse communities ring San Francisco Bay and share this resource with extensive wetland habitats for migratory birds and other wildlife.

But now sea level rise caused by global warming threatens these protected areas and communities. If existing predictions about sea level rise are correct, the San Francisco Bay’s waters will likely rise 55 inches this century, drowning habitat for threatened and endangered species and putting 270,000 people—more people than Hurricane Katrina displaced from Louisiana—at risk of global warming-induced flooding. In more than half of the counties that ring San Francisco Bay, these people are disproportionately low-income communities of color, many of which already live in proximity to environmental hazards.

In 2010, the Wild Equity institute will launch a campaign to ensure that the Bay’s wild places and at-risk communities are given due consideration in sea-level rise planning processes. If you are interested in partnering with us, or know of others who may be interested in this campaign, e-mail us at info@wildequity.org.

Climate, Coral Reefs, and Equity

Coral reefs provide billions of dollars of economic benefits to the world, and some 30 million of the poorest people on the planet are completely dependent on reefs for their livelihood and survival.

But a new report on climate and biodiversity suggests that if we fail to stabilize carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at 350 parts per million or less, coral reefs will not survive. If our reefs are lost, some of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people will be further impoverished.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (“TEEB”) study makes these claims in a climate update released recently on the TEEB website.

The link between how we treat each other and how we treat other forms of life becomes more apparent as our climate warms and our policy makers fail to take action. The poor and disenfranchised—along with our imperiled species and ecosystems—are bearing the brunt of this failure, and the longer we wait the more likely that these consequences will be catastrophic and irreparable.

Trinidad and Tobago Climate Change Consultation

It is simply unjust for wealthy nations to debate climate change while species are lost and poor communities are put at risk. The Wild Equity Institute is currently commenting on climate policies in Trinidad and Tobago and building a Bay Climate Defense initiative to ensure that low income and wild communities are protected from the worst impacts from climate change. Donate today to help us ensure corals and our communities can thrive.

In the meantime, Join 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 at 350ppm.