San Bruno Mountain Watch’s mission is to “preserve and expand the native ecosystems of San Bruno Mountain, in perpetuity.” Through connecting people to nature near where they live, we create a culture of stewardship. Volunteers learn about the importance of biodiversity and help us to sustain the native landscape of 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, there is an inland sand dune that is almost 100,000 years old, evidence of the ancient shores of the Pacific Ocean. The sand dune is one of only two remaining habitats for the federally listed Lessingia plant.

Read more about the mountain’s natural history

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.


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. Most of the remaining land has been bulldozed and built upon, despite Mountain Watch’s efforts.


A public plant sale at the Mission Blue Nursery.

Volunteers restoring endangered butterfly habitat.

Volunteers restoring endangered butterfly habitat.

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 Director Ariel Cherbowsky, our Mission Blue Nursery Manager Ildiko Polony, and our Executive Director Kris Jensen. Board Members David Schooley, Michele Salmon, Paul Bouscal, Del Shembari, Tom Lambert, Miranda Sulley, Gail Mallimson, and Brian Gaffney play active roles in program planning, community outreach, fundraising, stewardship, and leading hikes. 


San Bruno Mountain wildflowers


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.

Learn more about our conservation successes and goals.

Hiking on San Bruno Mountain

Hiking on San Bruno Mountain

Although much of San Bruno Mountain is protected from development, the native ecosystems are still under attack from non-native plants. These plants and bushes can completely take over entire hillsides within a year or two, wiping out interdependent biological systems that have developed over thousands of years. In order to combat this, we organize volunteers to pull pernicious plants before they take over. We also maintain a 4,000 square foot native plant nursery, where we grow seeds from the mountain and replant the seedlings. 

learn more about our stewardship program and the mission blue nursery.


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.

Learn more about our outreach programs or take a hike.