Wetlands Regional Monitoring Program
San Francisco Bay Area
Wetlands Regional Monitoring Program

History

Restoration Program History

San Francisco Bay is one of California's most treasured natural resources, a part of one of America's great estuaries, and one of the world's most recognized visual icons. The Bay and the watersheds that surround it are home to hundreds of species of fish and wildlife and a growing human population of more than seven million. Although the Bay Area is prized for its beauty, during a period of more than a hundred years it has evolved from an essentially natural ecosystem to a mix of urban, suburban, and open space land uses. These changes have taken a toll on the region's native habitats, especially its wetlands.

By the 1960s, one-third of the Bay was lost to filling and diking, and more than 80 percent of its tidal wetlands were converted to other uses. Likewise, the immediate watershed had been extensively altered by urban and industrial development. In the decades that followed, many local, state, and federal laws were enacted and programs established to better protect, manage, and restore the area's natural resources. These efforts focused on improving the Bay's water quality, minimizing habitat losses, increasing populations of endangered species, and even enlarging the surface area of the Bay.

The first attempt to prescribe restoration needs for the entire Bay-Delta Estuary was in 1993, when the Governor and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the San Francisco Estuary (CCMP). The CCMP includes more than one hundred recommended actions aimed at improving the Estuary, and has nearly a dozen actions that pertain to wetlands. One of these actions led to the publication, in 1999, of the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals, a report by a panel of scientists describing the kinds, amounts, and distribution of wetlands and other habitats that are needed to sustain the area's fish and wildlife resources.

The recent scientific consensus expressed by the recommendations in the Habitat Goals report has been accompanied by the public's desire to improve the region's wetlands. Citizens are willing to fund wetland habitat projects, and in the past few years have provided an unprecedented level of project funding. Three state bond acts have provided tens of millions of dollars, and these monies are being supplemented with federal, local, and private contributions. The kinds of projects these funds enable, and which are in various stages of planning, are generally larger and more complex than in the past. And while these projects potentially can bring major improvements to the Bay and its watersheds, the Habitat Goals report identifies a number of deficiencies that hinder the way habitat projects are designed, implemented, and monitored.

The San Francisco Bay Area Wetlands Restoration Program (Restoration Program) is a partnership of public agencies working to implement wetlands action items in the CCMP and the broad recommendations in the Habitat Goals report. It seeks to fill programmatic gaps and improve communication and coordination among the resource agencies, regulatory agencies, and programs and groups that plan or implement habitat projects.