About San Bruno Mountain Watch

The members of San Bruno Mountain Watch have been working diligently for over thirty years to protect and preserve San Bruno Mountain as the largest and richest remaining example of the native Franciscan bioregion, elsewhere destroyed by the spread of San Francisco and its neighboring cities in the urbanized northern San Francisco Peninsula.


From our mission, to “preserve and expand the native ecosystems of San Bruno Mountain, in perpetuity,”  we support programs in advocacy, education, stewardship and land preservation.
•We maintain an extensive archive of documents and artifacts relating to all facets of the mountain's history both in its immediate local context and in its wide ranging significance. Slideshows, guided walks, and school programs are offered to interest the public in caring for this treasure.
•At least three work parties a week meet to fulfill our stewardship goals of protecting and restoring native plant communities.  The Mission Blue Nursery was established in partnership with Friends of the Mountain to grow native San Bruno Mountain plants for the mountain.  
•Mountain Watch also scrutinizes local land use policies and government / agency decisions to block further destruction and to fight for the expansion of existing natural resources. We publish a newsletter and educational materials (also republish out-of-print works) about the mountain and its endangered habitats. SBMW also issues white papers and flyers on events and issues important to regional and national endangered species preservation.
•A Conservancy Committee has been developing a land trust program to purchase or otherwise protect undeveloped parcels of land contiguous to the mountain.  We have sparked interest in a “Bay to Beaches” wildlife and pedestrian corridor roughly along the San Francisco - San Mateo County border.

Some current Mountain Watch members actually spearheaded the original fight to save the mountain, leading to the creation of parklands totaling 2,200 acres under the administration of the State of California and San Mateo County. Subsequent cooperative efforts have added to this protected territory. However, the park plans excluded most of the privately owned hillside areas; these were slated to be sacrificed for development despite being large habitat centers probably essential to the mountain's endangered species.

SBMW has given high priority to fighting the San Bruno Mountain "Habitat Conservation Plan" (HCP) which authorizes destruction of endangered species habitat to enable development. Passed in 1982 to address non-federal lands hosting endangered species, this amendment to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) was first used on San Bruno Mountain and allowed developers to proceed with construction that had been stopped due the presence of such species. In exchange, developers were to dedicate portions of their properties for parks and to restore degraded habitat. This HCP has served as a model for the roughly1200 other HCPs either implemented or in the works in the U.S.

Two and a half decades later, clear signs indicate that the HCP amendment to the ESA is not safeguarding endangered species, neither on San Bruno Mountain nor nationwide. There has never been a comprehensive peer review of the San Bruno Mountain HCP as administered by its Trustees. While the rare species certainly exist today on the mountain, their longterm prospects remain tenuous, especially given the increasing spread of invasive, displacing weeds. SBMW volunteers, well versed in the plant and animal life of the mountain, have gathered evidence and publicized the ongoing results of their informal review of the lofty promises and often dismal results of the nation's first Habitat Conservation Plan.

Despite our recent efforts, the US Fish & Wildlife Service recently issued a "take permit" that allows the destruction of the severely imperiled Callippe Silverspot butterflies and their habitat on the Northeast Ridge of San Bruno Mountain, and San Mateo County and the City of Brisbane approved of development plans there.  Mountain Watch has filed one lawsuit to challenge the approvals, and is considering others.

Meanwhile, the ESA itself, as one of the nation's strongest environmental laws, faces assault by exploitative industries, and their congressional allies. HCPs have become part of a “rigged for development” permitting process that supports an unsustainable policy of building on open space across the country.

San Bruno Mountain Watch has worked closely with other groups, including the California Native Plant Society, with whom we have worked on three additions to the mountain's list of rare and endangered species. We are affiliated with the California Endangered Species Coalition, a federation of environmental organizations working on the reauthorization and strengthening of the Federal Endangered Species Act. We have worked with the Trust for Public Land and The Archeological Conservancy to preserve the Ohlone Indian shellmounds on the border of Brisbane and South San Francisco.

San Bruno Mountain Watch remains tenacious in its defense of the mountain, applying dedication and expertise to studying it, to teaching others about its unique values, and to preserving its integrity and ensuring its future.