By Linda Hunter, Executive Director
Did you know that the San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary on the west coast, encompassing 1,600 square miles and draining almost one-half the land area of California? The Bay is fed by many smaller watersheds beginning in the High Sierra and cascading downstream through rivers, streams, creeks and the watershed you are standing in right now!
We are all connected to this important estuary through our watersheds. Our watersheds connect us to each other and to the entire Bay Area. Everything we do–from mountaintop to marsh–affects our water and wildlife, our air and soil quality, our families and communities. But our ties to local water resources have unraveled. Birds and fish have fled in the face of urban and industrial development. Shorelines sprout trash instead of grasses. Creeks and streams have been paved over. What can be done?
For over 15 years, The Watershed Project has advocated on behalf of your watershed. We help kids and adults understand that their ordinary, everyday decisions can improve the health of our creeks, the San Francisco Bay and the entire Pacific Ocean. We advocate for policies to reduce the use of products like plastic bags and Styrofoam that too often end up clogging our creeks. We encourage “extended producer responsibility,” a strategy that prevents trash from entering our watersheds by requiring those who design, produce, or sell a product to minimize its environmental impact throughout the product’s life cycle. We engage thousands of volunteers every year through creek and shoreline cleanups and we nurture Friends of Creeks and Watersheds and provide them resources and guidance to ensure their success.
The Watershed Project provides unique environmental education programs to students throughout the Bay Area such as our Riparian Lab that changes students’ perceptions of creeks from a scary place where trash is dumped to an exciting world full of life–right in their own backyard. We feel that informed and motivated young stewards will be the environmental leaders of the future. We educate gardeners about how pesticides can harm creeks and wildlife. We advocate for the implementation of Low Impact Design to reduce pollutants from entering our Bay and we encourage rainwater harvesting to prevent erosion in the Oakland hills. We are working to bring native oysters back to San Francisco Bay in an effort to provide habitat for salmon and other underwater Bay denizens and to mitigate the effect of rising sea levels on our Bay shoreline.
But funding cuts have threatened the The Watershed Project’s ability to respond to the growing need to address watershed issues on a grassroots level. Local government agencies and schools can no longer help us financially to teach students the importance of protecting the environment.
That’s where you come in. In addition to the ‘boots in the creek’ work that we organize, perhaps the simplest yet most important way you can support our organization is to BECOME A MEMBER. I have been a member myself for the last five years and I can assure that this is one of the best investments you will ever make. I am constantly amazed at how this talented group of individuals can have such a big impact on our community… and so cost-effectively. Less than 15% of The Watershed Project’s yearly budget goes to administrative and fundraising expenses. The vast majority goes into protecting your watershed! A basic membership is $40, although many people join with a gift of $50, $100 or $200.
We depend on the financial support of our watershed community! Consider joining the Rainmakers, a growing group of people who make contributions on a monthly basis to ensure that we are able to continue our vital work. I know you share our concern for clean water, air and soil. Please join The Watershed Project in restoring the natural wonder of the San Francisco Bay–one creek, marsh and watershed at a time.