Tuesday
Dec112012

On the Slopes of San Bruno Mountain

Having grown up in the densely developed neighborhoods of San Francisco, I became accustomed to walking up and down the hilly streets and seeing more and more buildings in the next valley. When my family moved to the Outer Mission neighborhood, my view looking southeast was all but a line of houses along Crocker Avenue and I simply assumed the houses continued beyond that. As I grew older I developed a penchant for long walks, just to see what interesting places they would take me. It was during one of these walks that I finally discovered the gem that lay beyond those ridge line homes. I was expecting to see more houses, but as I ascended Crocker Avenue and had my first peek on the other side of the ridge, what I saw took my breath away. I came face to face with the shrubby green and brown slopes of a vast mountain and the largest open space I had ever seen so close to my home. I could hardly believe that I had lived less than a mile from San Bruno Mountain but was oblivious to its existence

For some time after that, I enjoyed hiking the landscape of San Bruno Mountain, but was still unaware of the other treasures that lay on it. That changed on a cool January morning in 2010, when I dropped in on a workday with the Mission Blue Nursery. For the next few hours I found myself rubbing dried flower heads in metal strainers with Stewardship Director Joe Cannon and a crew of three volunteers. I became a regular participant, attending weekly nursery workdays every Wednesday, watering plants during the week, and becoming a regular member of the Saturday stewardship crew weeding invasive plants like velvet grass and eventually planting natives like coffee berry.

Through volunteering with Mountain Watch, I learned to gradually appreciate the local ecology. The more I learned about the mountain, like the Callippe Silverspot butterfly and the California golden violet that call the mountain home, the more I longed to understand and the more I wanted to do to help protect its ecological health. I became familiarized with native plants, learning to recognize the white fluffy seed heads of pearly everlasting so that I could collect them for the nursery. I made connections with dedicated community members whose warmth and kindness is what I believe to be one of the greatest strengths of Mountain Watch. For one of the first times in my life, I worked with people towards a common goal, not because our grades or our livelihoods depended on it, but because we simply cared about the well being of San Bruno Mountain.

It’s been almost two years since I moved out of state and stepped away from my involvement with San Bruno Mountain Watch, but the experiences I had there linger strongly within me. To this day, I still treasure the experiences I had as a member of a community dedicated to working together to protect the mountain. Be it scouting out the endangered San Francisco Lessingia on remnant dunes with members of the California Native Plant Society or scrubbing out pots to reuse at the nursery, each person contributed their efforts with gusto. Whether it was talking about how to get involved with local politics to help environmental causes while pulling plantain on the slopes of Owl Canyon, or simply sharing thoughts about our lives with the nursery crew while transplanting lizard tail seedlings, Mountain Watch provided an avenue for me to not only connect with nature but also to connect with people whose warmth and dedication to the cause inspired me to strive to do the same. My experiences instilled within me a resolve to dedicate myself to better understand the natural world around me, and to pursue a life’s work that would help enhance the health of our ecosystems. I hope to one day be able to return to the mountain to enjoy the open space it provides and bring back knowledge and experience that will help with conservation of its rich biological wonders.

Saturday
Apr092011

Water Earth Air Fire

All are of the essence, but today I think about air.  Waves of air.  As we breathe deeply of air to relax and center, I think about air as it fills my belly, my chest, my throat, my mouth and the flow of molecules past my lungs and into my blood to become a part of me.

How precious is the air we breathe.  The breath of life on our planet -- we take it so for granted.  What's a few more diesel fumes?  What's a little more black carbon soot compared to getting our packages delivered?

Refocus...

Air - waves - wind - I sit in the bowl of grass at the top of Buckeye Canyon and watch the waves of air ruffle the green grass.  I watch the hawks soar on the warm eddies of air that blow across the ridges.  The waves and waves of ruffled grass -- now green, soon to be golden, then silvery colored, still with waves of wind ruffling, ruffling.

Little butterflies and solitary bees flit and are tossed by the air currents.  Flowerheads tremble with joy in the breeze.

Way at the bottom of the canyon, I can see the building that the freight forwarder will move into.  I can see how the toxic plume will wend its way up into the air.

Refocus...

I do not speak for me.  The air, the breath, that passes my lips to protest this travesty is for the waves of grasses, the flits of flies, the soaring of hawks and the breath of life for our future.

Michele Salmon

Tuesday
Apr052011

Freight Forwarders

Dear Friends and Neighbors -
 
As a consumer, I am not against freight forwarders.  I've used DHL, FedEx, UPS and of course, the USPS, along with several other freight companies over the years.  They provide a valuable service and one that is considered essential in our society today.
 
However, as a Brisbane resident and tax payer, I am against expanding freight forwarding operations in Crocker Park.  Freight forwarding operations do not contribute to our city coffers in any direct way and yet their trucks destroy our roads and use valuable infrastructure without contributing to upkeep, repair or city services like police, fire, and public works.  (Think giant potholes and rough roads.)
 
Many years ago, South San Francisco put a 20% cap based on freight forwarding operations because although SSF is ideally situated for this type of business, they realized that the cost of these operations were a serious drain on city resources with little benefit.
 
Brisbane enacted the same cap as SSF to prevent being overrun with freight forwarders no longer allowed in SSF.  However, our situation is vastly different than SSF and this was not taken into account.  In addition, our ordinance has not been properly revisited for at least a decade.
 
SSF has a much larger business base over which to spread the infrastructure cost.  Residential traffic does not constantly share the same routes and SSF has greater area so that the same roads are not constantly beat to death.  Here, even an increase of 100 truck-trips a day in Crocker Park has a huge impact on Brisbane.
 
You can cry NIMBY if you want, but I think that accommodating this "service" needs to be shared regionally, just like "housing needs."
 
As an environmentalist, I am also against expanding freight forwarding in Crocker Park.  Diesel emissions have been proven over and over again to be toxic and harmful to humans, plants and animals.  The bowl shape of Crocker Park combined with limited ingress, egress and distance from 101 exacerbates this situation not only for us, but for the fragile habitat on our mountain.
 
In addition to direct health problems linked to diesel emissions and black carbon soot, produced from incomplete combustion of diesel fuel and biomass, is one of the largest contributors to climate change apart from CO2 and should be a prime target of policymakers.
 
Installing particulate filters in current and new fleets of diesel vehicles in the US is also important strategy; filters can cut particulate emissions by up to 90 percent.  We already have the technologies needed to achieve deep reductions and move us forward in the clean energy economy, but they are not written in our current ordinance regulating freight forwarders.  This should be implemented and not just for freight forwarders, but all regular truck traffic in Brisbane.  Until these protections are in place, I again call for a moratorium on more truck traffic in Brisbane.
 
If you don't believe in pollution-caused global warming and the dangerous near-term consequences of abrupt climate change, then do nothing.
If you think that the health consequences of breathing diesel exhaust is at an acceptable level for you and your children, then do nothing.
If you do not value the quality of life of our collective future, then do nothing.
 
If we make the tough choices, devote our beings to fighting pollution and making the earth cleaner, the air breathable, and global warming is just a big hoax made up by Al Gore and some scientists, what are the consequences?
 
We will have spent a lot of time and effort cleaning up our mess for nothing -- except we'll have a cleaner, healthier planet.
 
If we ignore the tough choices, do nothing, and just focus on our creature comforts because we don't believe in man-made climate change and it turns out to be true, what are the consequences?
Michele Salmon

 

Thursday
Jan202011

White-Tailed Kites on the Saddle

 

For those of you who aren't familiar with this bird, it's a White-Tailed Kite, a type of falcon. Three years ago Bruce Grosjean, avid bird photographer, and Doug Allshouse, watched a pair successfully fledge three young. Yet, ever since, ravens have driven them from the area at the critical time. Bruce is forever hopeful - at least when it comes to birds.

Recently, Bruce and Doug have been watching for signs that the kites may have finally returned for breeding. On the day these photographs were taken, as usual, Bruce heard them before spotting anything; all the chatter made it clear there must be a pair, even though he only saw one for the first hour. A single raven, in particular, seemed intent on annoying the kites over and over. However, much to Bruce's delight, the kites would immediately return to the same spot, as if they were making their own statement. That's what's happening in the series of the kites fleeing the gorse snags (he didn't get the raven in the shot). The last in the series shows them returning.

The final picture was taken from the Day Camp trail area and shows the kites, confident at meal time. Bruce is crossing his fingers for some nest building in a month or so.

Friday
Dec312010

The Bog Trail in Winter

On a recent trip to the Mountain, between the recent deluge of rain and storms, I visited the bog trail on the Saddle.  The paths were soggy and wet, but at that time of day, in the middle of the morning, the trail was vibrant and alive.  All plant life flickered with the iridescence of newly-fallen rain.  Shiny diamonds of water clung to leaves and grass, encapsulated in clusters, all the way to the ground.

It's been a while since I last visited the Mountain, and this time I was alone.  But, not really alone, alone.  Life was teeming all around, Springtime seemed so near, in the "dead" of winter.  I even encountered vestiges of human interaction with the wildness around me.  Hay recently laid down to protect nascent native plant transplants covered portions of the trail and colored flags stood up everywhere, like stubborn cowlicks.  "We're back!  And we've got friends."

What went through my mind was, 'What a gift!  This place is a miracle.'  Even if it were not at the backdoor of an urban environment, San Bruno Mountain would still be a breathtaking sanctuary, a sweeping panorama in the Northern California landscape, a true destination worth the trip, from nearby or from far away.

--Maryanne Razzo