San Bruno Mountain Watch’s mission is to “preserve and expand the native ecosystems of San Bruno Mountain, in perpetuity.” We accomplish this through working with the community to preserve the mountain as an intact open space and by protecting the fragile native ecosystem that has survived there for thousands of years. Our programs create a culture of stewardship and appreciation through connecting people to nature near where they live. Volunteers learn about the importance of biodiversity and of nurturing the native landscape in this unique area.

San Bruno Mountain is a 3,600-acre island of biodiversity surrounded by a sea of urbanization. The mountain is home to 13 rare and endangered plant species and three federally listed endangered butterflies, the Mission Blue, Callippe Silverspot, and San Francisco Elfin. There are also several Native American shellmounds on the mountain dating back over 5,000 years. On the mountain’s western slopes, lies an inland sand dune that is almost 100,000 years old, evidence of the ancient shores of the Pacific Ocean.  Read more about San Bruno Mountain.


David Schooley leading a hike

San Bruno Mountain Watch was founded in 1970 by David Schooley, an artist and environmental activist. David grew up and went to college in Berkeley. Not long after graduating, he discovered San Bruno Mountain while driving by on a Greyhound bus. Concerned by plans to develop the mountain for housing, David joined with local residents to stop the destruction of this unique wilderness. The ensuing multi-decade battle resulted in much of the mountain being preserved in a San Mateo County Park. Read more about our history.

Mission Blue Nursery


Volunteers restoring endangered butterfly habitat.

Today, we still work to preserve untouched land through partnerships and advocacy with landowners and government officials from the surrounding cities and San Mateo County. In the last two decades, Mountain Watch has become increasingly focused on defending the mountain from invasive plants and succession of larger native plants that choke out grasslands. Our 4,000 square foot volunteer-built Mission Blue Nursery has become the cornerstone of these efforts, with thousands of native plants growing there each year.


Our grassroots organization is closely tied to the surrounding community, with hundreds of volunteers partaking in our programs each year. Our dedicated staff includes our Stewardship Coordinator Ariel Cherbowsky and our Mission Blue Nursery Manager Ildiko Polony. Board Members David Schooley (Founder), Michele Salmon (Chair), Paul Bouscal (Vice Chair), Miranda Sulley (Secretary), Tom Lambert (Treasurer), Del Shembari, Gail Mallimson, and Brian Gaffney play active roles in program planning, community outreach, fundraising, stewardship, and leading hikes. 



our programs


Since 1970, Mountain Watch has fought many battles to keep San Bruno Mountain from being developed. Much of the mountain is now preserved as a San Mateo County park, but there are several parcels of land that are still privately owned and eligible to be destroyed. Our organization proactively seeks to preserve these lands, working with landowners and government officials to arrange for donation and/or purchase.

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San Bruno Mountain Watch works with volunteers to remove detrimental invasive plants and replant native species. This work is vital to the preservation of native ecosystems and species that have co-evolved over thousands of years. We also maintain a 4,000 square foot native plant nursery, where we cultivate seeds collected from the mountain to replant once grown. 



Many people in the San Francisco Bay Area are unaware of San Bruno Mountain's biological riches, despite it being the closest wilderness to the homes of over one million people. In order to introduce the public to the mountain, we lead regular guided hikes three times a year, with additional hikes added seasonally. We also work with local schools to bring students onto the mountain and to integrate their experiences with their curriculum. We often table at community events to get the word out about our programs, and our events, such as our annual Pancake Breakfast serve to connect the community to our work.