Building bridges for better conservation


Graphic illustration by Sophie Au

A hiking trail dotted with shrubs and various plants — one of the many such open space preserves that exist throughout the Bay Area. Local citizens should support conservation efforts through volunteering, financially, or otherwise, to preserve the Bay Area’s natural wonders and as well as for recreational purposes.

Alyssa Wang, Opinion Editor

The Bay Area is home to many unique and beautiful ecosystems that are essential to the well-being of the environment and its inhabitants. However, human threats such as pollution and deforestation have destroyed natural habitats and the homes of animals. In hopes of preservation, various conservation efforts, like Golden Gate National Park Conservancy and Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, safeguard endangered species and protect their natural habitats. Local citizens should financially support these organizations by volunteering to protect the Bay Area’s natural wonders so they can have future recreational purposes. 

“It is much harder to make real change when working by yourself, but with a big conservation group, you can focus on larger projects and develop a sense of community while protecting something that many people take for granted,” junior Nicholas Kong said.

Many of California’s rich ecosystems are under threat by climate change, pollution and deforestation. In recent years, California has experienced severe droughts, resulting in wildfires and dry wetlands and other aquatic habitats. The frequency and severity of heat waves has also increased, significantly impacting plant and animal species. 

California’s forested areas play a critical role in regulating climate patterns. However, deforestation has caused changes in precipitation patterns and desertification. Simultaneously, continuous pollution damages the ecosystem’s inhabitants, reducing biodiversity. 

“Natural habitats in California have been heavily degraded, but there are still many remaining ecosystems across the state, albeit in patches,” sophomore Daphne Zhu said. “We are so lucky to be able to experience these beautiful, untouched parts of nature, so we should strive to restore and protect them.”

To save the Bay’s struggling ecosystems, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, for example, works to protect the San Francisco garter snake, a reptile on the brink of extinction, and its habitat. Similarly, the Marine Mammal Center rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured or endangered marine animals. Essential for maintaining biodiversity, conservation efforts promote sustainable practices such as reducing waste, using renewable energy and conserving natural resources. Save the Bay and Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter focus on similar initiatives, such as restoring the San Francisco Bay, its surrounding wetlands and wildlife habitats while advocating for environmental protection and conservation. 

“Many conservation groups primarily concentrate on animals and preventing the extinction of different species or the preservation of an ecosystem, so they are focused on making real change whether that be through policy or fundraising,” senior Cindy Chou said. 

Conservation efforts in the Bay Area are also important to ensure that future generations can enjoy the environment’s beauty and various benefits. Preserving wildlife habitats and its inhabitants guarantees that they continue to provide necessary resources for future human use.

Furthermore, conservation groups preserve open space, trails and parks, which can create jobs, enhance property value, support local businesses and decrease local government expenditures and the cost of recreational activities. The conservation of natural lands, working farms and forests can generate financial returns for governments and individuals, as well as significantly save costs. According to the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, the county’s open space contributes at least $1.6 to $3.9 billion in benefits to the people and local economy each year. 

In addition, conservation efforts help these areas remain accessible for future recreational activities. The restoration of wetlands can provide new areas for kayaking and birdwatching, while the preservation of natural forest habitats creates opportunities for camping and other outdoor activities. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, for instance, offers beautiful hiking and biking trails along the Golden Gate seaside, giving its members opportunities to listen to stories about the history of the land from conservatory experts and educating the members about environmental health. 

“Many environmental groups offer activities and programs for members ranging from young children to the elderly to educate them about nature, the importance of our ecosystems, and environmental health,” said Shani Kleinhaus, a member of Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. “These are of great value to our community, and most of these events do not cost anything which will hopefully encourage more people to come and listen.”

More students and local citizens should get involved in conservation efforts to support these organizations, which rely heavily on community support. For instance, many conservation groups rely on volunteers to help with their projects, whether cleaning up local parks or aiding in rehabilitating injured animals.  Likewise, donating can help workers carry out these important responsibilities and make a real impact. 

“Local citizens can even sign up to get alerts from environmental groups and begin to engage by educating themselves about the information and speaking up,” Kleinhaus said. “Engaging and preserving the environment is better for the residents and nature, so people should get involved; they have an opportunity to make a difference that makes them feel better about themselves and the world.” 

However, one of the most important and effective ways to aid conservation efforts is to encourage others to get involved and adopt sustainable practices in their own lives. This includes simple actions in your daily life, such as reducing waste and conserving water. Some local organizations give specific ways that people can help: for example, Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter encourages individuals to promote renewable energy and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels to mitigate climate change and maintain the ecological balance of the planet. 

“As students, we can expand our impact by joining environmental organizations,” Zhu said. “Volunteering or just being outdoors — whether that be joining a native plant garden or taking a short hike — really helps build appreciation for nature and for conservation. We need to come together and protect the environment that gives so much to us; it is something we cannot live without.”