Give Back to the Bay: Save The Bay Seeks Hundreds of Volunteers to Plant 30,000 Native Wetland Species this Winter

December 6, 2007

As the one-month anniversary of the tragic November 7 Cosco Busan oil spill approaches, Save The Bay, the oldest and largest membership organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay, is continuing its work to improve the health of the Bay by restoring vital wetland habitat and is seeking critical volunteer support. Save The Bay needs hundreds of volunteers to help meet its goal to plant 30,000 native plants at seven wetland restoration sites along the Bay shoreline in the North, South and East Bay from now through March 2008.

“A healthy Bay is essential to our quality of life and economy in the Bay Area. The Cosco Busan oil spill was a tragedy for the Bay and it’s now more important than ever to continue building healthy, functioning wetland areas around the Bay to improve Bay water quality and provide habitat for wildlife affected by the oil spill,” says David Lewis, Executive Director for Save The Bay.

Volunteer Support is Key to Saving the Bay
During the holidays, Save The Bay is urging the Bay Area community to “give a gift to the Bay” by volunteering during the crucial winter planting season and is offering 70 volunteer programs this winter for school, business and community groups, families, and individuals. Timely watering is vital to the success of newly planted seedlings, and planting during the wet season ensures that rainfall will give each plant the water it needs to grow and thrive. Additionally, weaker solar radiation, diluted Bay water, and seedless invasive weeds make the winter the perfect time to plant.

When it comes to restoring the Bay shoreline, Save The Bay involves volunteers in every stage of the process—including collecting seeds in the summer and sowing the seeds in the fall. This year students from six Bay Area schools are growing native plants in their classrooms and will plant them along the shoreline when they participate in Save The Bay’s Watershed Education Programs. In addition to growing and planting native wetland plants, volunteers help Save The Bay perform other important activities including cleaning up the shoreline, removing invasive weeds and restoring oyster and eelgrass populations.

“The focus of this year’s planting season is quality,” says Marilyn Latta, Save The Bay’s Restoration Director. “We want these native species to survive and flourish so they can provide much needed wetland habitat for Bay wildlife including endangered species like the California clapper rail; and we’re in desperate need of volunteers to help us.”

Restoring Wetlands Crucial in Aftermath of Oil Spill
In the wake of the November 7th oil spill, wetlands serve an increasingly important function not only as habitat for displaced wildlife during such emergencies, but wetland plants also filter pollution to actually help clean the waters of the Bay. Wetlands also keep the Bay healthy by providing vital habitat for endangered species, filtering runoff pollution to improve the Bay’s water quality, and preventing erosion. Additionally, wetlands act as a sponge, providing flood control when water levels are high and are effective in combating global warming. In fact, Save The Bay is working with dozens of agency partners to establish 100,000 acres of healthy wetlands ringing the Bay by protecting remaining wetlands and restoring former wetlands, like portions of the South Bay salt ponds, back to their natural tidal marsh state.

How to Sign Up to Volunteer
To volunteer as an individual or set up a group project, visit www.saveSFbay.org/volunteer or contact Save The Bay at bayevents@savesfbay.org or (510) 452-9261. All volunteer restoration programs are free, but an RSVP is required. Save The Bay is in particular need of volunteers to help with winter plantings during the week of December 17-21 at any of four sites in Oakland, Hayward, Redwood City and Palo Alto. Please contact Jocelyn Gretz, Community Programs Coordinator, at bayevents@savesfbay.org or (510) 452.9261 x109 to set up a volunteer event for your community group or employee team.

Save The Bay’s volunteer projects are made possible through partnerships with local, state, and federal resource agencies with the goal of engaging student and community volunteers in wetland restoration. Save The Bay’s seven restoration sites include: Bair Island in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Redwood City), Eden Landing Ecological Reserve (Hayward), Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve (Palo Alto), Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline (Oakland), Santa Venetia Marsh (San Rafael), Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge (San Rafael), and Tolay Creek in the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Sonoma).

Following are highlights of Save The Bay’s upcoming community volunteer projects:

> Paddle and Plant Natives in One Trip
At Bair Island National Wildlife Refuge in Redwood City, volunteers can join Save The Bay for a monthly canoe paddle out to Middle Bair Island, a former salt pond that is normally off-limits to the public, where they will help plant 2,500 native marsh plants like marsh gumplant and sea lavender. In San Rafael, volunteers have a unique opportunity to kayak to the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge – which is home to hundreds of nesting herons and egrets and also normally off limits to the public – and help maintain previous plantings of purple needlegrass and blue wild-rye.

> Greening Former Salt Ponds
Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward is a 6,000 acre complex of former salt ponds undergoing restoration as part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. It will include a mix of wetland habitats, provide flood management, and offer wildlife-oriented public access and recreation. In 2006, a levee breach connected a 300-acre pond to Bay tidal action for the first time in over a century. This winter, Save The Bay volunteers will help plant 5,000 native seedlings along the shoreline of this pond, which is generally off-limits to the public; and will help restore vital habitat for many species including the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and California clapper rail.

> Restoring Wetlands Near Urban Areas
Two of Save The Bay’s restoration sites are tucked within highly populated urban areas, providing natural areas for residents to visit, view wildlife and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. At the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, volunteers are helping Save The Bay plant 10,000 native seedlings like sticky monkey flower and mugwort. And volunteers are restoring some of the last remaining wetland habitat in the East Bay by planting 10,000 native wetland plants at Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline this winter.

> Plant Natives in the North Bay
This winter Save The Bay volunteers are helping with the effort to plant 1,500 plants like tufted hairgrass and yarrow at Santa Venetia Marsh on Gallinas Creek in San Rafael, near the Marin Civic Center. And at Tolay Creek in Sonoma, volunteers will help plant 1,000 natives to advance the restoration of 435 acres of diked historic wetlands to tidal salt marsh.

About Save The Bay
Save The Bay is the oldest and largest organization working exclusively to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay. As the Bay’s leading champion since 1961, Save The Bay is committed to making the Bay cleaner and healthier for people and wildlife. Save The Bay wages and wins effective advocacy campaigns to increase public access to the Bay, establish 100,000 acres of healthy wetlands around the Bay, and protect the Bay from today’s greatest threats: pollution and urban sprawl. Save The Bay educates 10,000 students and adults on the Bay each year and engages volunteers to improve vital wetlands and subtidal habitats. www.saveSFbay.org

Save The Bay’s Site Partners
Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline: East Bay Regional Park District www.ebparks.org
Palo Alto Baylands: Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve www.cityofpaloalto.org
Tolay Creek: San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge www.fws.gov/sfbayrefuges
Bair Island: Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge www.fws.gov/sfbayrefuges
East Marin Island: Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge www.fws.gov/sfbayrefuges
Eden Landing Ecological Reserve: California Department of Fish and Game www.cdfg.ca.gov
Santa Venetia Marsh: Marin County Open Space District www.marinopenspace.org

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