San Bruno Mountain is a unique island of biodiversity in the heart of the Bay Area, one of the country’s largest population centers. This ecological treasure is home to several Endangered Species, dozens of rare plants, year-round springs, ancient native oak groves, and 5,000 year-old native American village sites. San Bruno Mountain is also the last viable remnant of the Franciscan ecosystem that once covered San Francisco.

Conservancy Mission

San Bruno Mountain Watch is committed to preserving and conserving San Bruno Mountain in perpetuity. As one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hot spots, the mountain’s remaining habitat should be preserved to the highest degree possible using ecological best practices.



Our goal is to raise a significant capital account for:

  • Acquiring high-conservation-value land contiguous to San Bruno Mountain.
  • Developing and implementing an effective, sustained land-management and habitat-restoration program to maintain and protect the mountain’s wealth of species and habitats.


  • Securing the remaining critical land parcels integral to the mountain’s rare ecosystem will require creative legal and real estate expertise, since land in the area is at a premium both for open space and urban development.
  • With roads and development surrounding the mountain, complex factors have been introduced that threaten the native habitat – invasive species, nitrogen deposition, and fire suppression among them.


San Bruno Mountain Watch has its roots in a sign posted in Bette Higgins front yard which said, ‘SAVE SAN BRUNO MOUNTAIN’. By the 1960s, the postwar development boom had come to the mountain, and there were plans to shuttle 200 million cubic yards of earth to fill the bay, and build 20,000 housing units on the denuded mountain. Countless hours of citizen activism over the next several years – attending public meetings, lobbying city and county decision makers, organizing protests, going to court – finally bore fruit when the State and County park, totalling approximately 2,000 acres, was dedicated in 1986.

But not all of the mountain’s wild and historic areas had been saved. Buckeye and Owl Canyons, whose shellmound showed that it had been home to the Ohlone Sipliskin people for millennia, and whose grasslands are still home to the endangered Mission Blue and Callippe Silverspot butterflies, was still in private hands. More citizen lobbying helped ensure that funds from Proposition 70, the California Wildlife, Coastal and Park Land Conservation Bond Act, were used to purchase 83 acres in these canyons to form a State Ecological Reserve in 1988.

An even larger shellmound on the southeast side of the mountain, not far from the original bay shoreline, was in more immediate danger from the Terrabay development in South San Francisco. Development plans including paving over the shellmound, or surrounding it with industrial and residential buildings. This shellmound was saved, when, as a result of court settlement between the owner and San Bruno Mountain Watch, it was added to the State and County Park in 2004.

In 2010, funds from the settlement of a case brought by San Bruno Mountain Watch against Brookfield Homes were used by the City of Brisbane to purchase a lot in the Brisbane Acres, helping the City achieve its goal of keeping the Acres as open space.

Over the last three years, we have made a concerted effort to add a formal land trust program to our organization. There are still open lands contiguous to the mountain that need to be preserved and our conservancy program has evolved to meet this need. Presently the conservancy committee is meeting monthly to investigate and prioritize parcels to save, and to develop strategies for their purchase or protection through conservation easements. We intend to work closely with local governments and planning departments to achieve these goals. We are members of the Bay Area Open Space council and the Land Trust Alliance, and expect to benefit from their experience and resources. We are also seeking to add committee members with land trust, real estate, legal and fund raising experience. If you have some of these skils, or have friends with these skills who would be willing to be work with us to preserve more of San Bruno Mountain, please contact us.

San Bruno Mountain is a miracle, a wild place in the midst of urbanization. But it's a miracle that takes effort ot preserve.