In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Friday, August 19, 2011


1.   Volunteer steward needed for Alemany Farm
2.   Agencies developing Air Tour Mgt Plan for GGNRA and Pt Reyes
3.   Another nail in the coffin of the Central Subway - from Jake McGoldrick
4.   Fiona Ma trying to overturn voter-approved imported waste caps
5.   Green Hairstreak project needs you this Saturday
6.   Feedback:  Heron's Head/clapper rails/herbicides in wildlands v. industrial ag
7.   Weeds:  In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants
8.   Daisies, by Mary Oliver
9.   The poor like taxing the rich less than you would think
10. The civil war in Washington is damaging American business
11.  Futile French war on pot/GM corn pollution
12.  "Fossil eel" squirms into the record books
13.  Notes & Queries: Two ages of women/when and where did ironing originate?

1.  The National Park Service (NPS) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA ) started the scoping part of the project to develop an Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) for GGNRA and Point Reyes
Volunteer steward needed for Alemany Natives

Find over 70 species of San Francisco native plants, enhancing the habitat resources for birds, butterflies, herps & other species, while also providing opportunities for visitors to learn about native plants, local ecosystems, and how to increase habitat value in agricultural practices, landscaping, and in the urban environment.

At the center of a 3.5 acre beautiful volunteer-run farm, we need good people to volunteer to manage this area asap!  If this might be you, or you know the perfect person, please contact Iris at alemanynatives (at) gmail (dot) com, 415-312-2214

And come by our 3rd Sunday workdays from 1:00-4:00.   Next ones: Aug 21 and Sept 18  at Alemany Farm, 700 Alemany Blvd, San Francisco

Check out these photos at:


2.  The National Park Service (NPS) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA ) started the scoping part of the project to develop an Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) for GGNRA and Point Reyes. This will set the number of commercial air tours that can fly – or not -- over these areas as well as ½ mile buffer surrounding the park’s boundary.  The GGNRA Sites include: Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, Marin Headlands, Point Bonita Lighthouse, NIKE Missile Site, Fort Baker, Fort Mason, Presidio of San Francisco, Cliff House, Lands End, Ocean Beach, China Beach, Baker Beach, and even Fort Funston.

There are two tour operators that currently offer such tours. One is the San Francisco Helicopter Tours ( – they are authorized to offer 2,900 flights/year over the GGNRA and seashore from SFO. The other is in Sausalito. This will be in effect until the ATMP is completed.

Provide your input, suggestions, and comments about this issue by September 28, 2011 to help them prepare the Environmental Assessment. More information is at and you can submit your comments there.

See the Public Scoping document at


3.  Stop Central Subway mistake in its tracks
By Jake McGoldrick
The proposed Central Subway project in downtown San Francisco will likely be one of the costliest mistakes in the city’s history, but the political leadership in our community refuses to keep the train from leaving the station.

Despite sharp criticism of the project by engineering consultants hired by the Municipal Transportation Authority, transit activists and even the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, this obvious boondoggle continues to roll on. Of greatest concern is the ever increasing cost of this project, now projected to be $176,000 per foot of construction all for less than 2 miles of track. The estimate has ballooned from a projected $648 million (in November 2003) to $1.578 billion today. The project, already behind schedule, is slated to be completed by 2019. By that time, the cost could triple and San Francisco taxpayers would be on the hook to make up the difference.

The project itself already will strain a Muni budget. By adding a new stand-alone transit line, diverting scarce capital improvement dollars and creating new maintenance demands, this expenditure will undermine Muni’s ability to keep pace with already flagging maintenance efforts on existing lines.

According to the grand jury report, over the next five years, Muni has planned for $4.5 billion in capital needs but the MTA has only been able to identify sources for $2 billion.

Worst of all is the basic transit rationale. Upon completion, the Central Subway will become an independent train system with no direct connection to Muni, BART or the ferry system. For passengers who seek to transfer to another system, it will be as much as a three-football-field walk to make such a connection. The train will also bypass the Financial District in San Francisco, missing a ready pool of potential passengers. This disconnect will ensure less usage and create a barrier for those who are less mobile.

This project will most certainly require more than a decade to complete, at great cost to our current transit system and to future investment, and provide no relief for those this project is supposed to help. For those dependent upon the infamous 30-Stockton bus this project line seeks to replace, there is no interim alternative.

San Francisco is now in the process of securing nearly $1 billion in federal funding to help pay for this project, an allocation still pending in Congress. Without the funding, the project would be impossible to build. With funding, however, San Francisco will mortgage its federal transit allocations for a generation and strain existing transit budgets to the breaking point.

San Francisco is embarking on a Big Dig of the West and, unless our local leadership applies the brakes soon, the damage to our local transit systems will be all but guaranteed. I urge local and national leaders to recognize what is obvious and stop this train to nowhere.

Jake McGoldrick is the past chair of the San Francisco Transportation Agency and former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Op-ed in San Francisco Chronicle 18 Aug 2011


4.  The Planning and Conservation League

Assembly Bill 1178 (Ma) would overturn voter-approved imported waste caps which limits the amount of solid waste that can be brought in from other counties to 95,000 tons a year. AB 1178 aims to prevent local governments from restricting the importation of solid waste into their jurisdiction. Cities and counties would be unable to control the size, location and operation of landfills. AB 1178 incentivizes landfills at a time when California should be developing strategies to reduce, recycle and divert solid waste in California. The Planning and Conservation League opposes this bill which prioritizes special interests at the expense of the environment and citizens of California.

Call Your Senator NOW and Ask Them to Vote NO on AB 1178!

Click the link to find your Senator

1.  Please call your Senator's Capitol Office (not their district office),
2.  Identify yourself as a constituent from the district, and ask for his/her NO vote on AB 1178. 


Please call your Senator and ask them to vote “NO” on AB 1178.  Tell him or her:

·        This bill encourages irresponsible waste management at a time when California needs to look for long term solutions to the growing problem of landfills.
·        Places rural areas at a disadvantage by forcing them to accept waste from large urban areas which export their waste, passing the problem onto others.
·        To protect local community rights to have courts enforce the environmental and land use laws which protect the health and nature of our local communities.  Measure E was in place long before PHLI bought the landfill.
·        There is no emergency or compelling state interest that requires the Legislature to step into the middle of litigation and retroactively give PHLI immunity from Measure E which was passed by 2/3 of the local voters.  California has at least 50 years of excess landfill capacity, and other Bay Area landfills can easily absorb all of the garbage that PHLI is trying to import in violation of Measure E.
·         AB 1178 will undermine our well established waste hierarchy, which prioritizes reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting of materials.  Instead it would allow a huge expansion of a dump in contravention of a local community’s interest.


5.  Green Hairstreak News

Come Steward Green Hairstreak Habitat this SATURDAY, August 20th to 14th & Pacheco
9.30 am - 1 pm

Green Hairstreak nectaring on sea thrift

The Green Hairstreak workdays are now the 3rd Saturday of the month. 

Come for a half hour to socialize and enjoy morning treats with other neighbors, volunteers, and nature enthusiasts.  The workday begins at 10 am promptly, when we will orient volunteers on the different sites.

Places to buy San Francisco native plants for your garden: HAIGHT-ASHBURY NATIVE PLANT NURSERY  
780 Frederick Street @ Arguello   Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4


6.  Feedback

Alex Lantsberg:
Jake, I'm on the LEJ board and love seeing all the shout outs to our amazing staff for making Heron's Head Park such a hospitable place for clapper rails and other critters.  As you know, LEJ is facing the same challenges as other non-profits and we could really use some support from all the fine folks who read your newsletter and want to make sure that HHP continues to be cared for by dedicated stewards.  Please ask folks to donate whatever they can at or by sending us a check to LEJ, 1329  Evans St. SF CA 94124.

Dominick Mosur:
Jake, An update on the Heron's Head Clapper Rails. After a review of the photos of the chicks "experts" have agreed that these birds were too young for flight and did in fact hatch out at the site. This is the first nesting of Clapper Rail documented in San Francisco although I'm sure they were nesting here before the wholesale filling of marshes before say the 1920s.

I also wanted to address Ms. Gemill's comments. I agree that Crissy Field is a great place and its heavy use prevents it from reaching full potential. However I have to add that during the initial restoration in the late 90s there were many voices calling out for a larger lagoon and marsh so that it could be a viable piece of habitat. These voices were ignored and we got what we got today. As for comparing species lists, lets just say Heron's Head can more than hold its own with Crissy. It's gotten vagrants like Eastern Kingbird, Harris's Sparrow and even the FIRST CITY record of Buff-breasted Sandpiper (that I found with Alan Hopkins on August 24th 2007)
but that's really not the issue here. Vagrants can show up anywhere for a few hours or even stay for a few days in unsuitable habitat. The real measure of a site's value is what species can successfully nest. Once you get past Mallards and White-crowned Sparrows there's not much else to be said for Crissy, Heron's head has hosted American Avocets for several years, Black-necked Stilts fledged two chicks last year and this year, the ENDANGERED Clapper Rail.

So, with all due respect, "in yo' face Ms. Gemill!"
Mr Smarty Pants

Cameron Colson:
Mr. Sigg,
Not to offend. I question a subtle resistance. Frankly I grinned as I read your making sense to the news on this matter of weed killing. Wriggling and contorting to an uncomfortable paradigm shift. No squirming out of it. I contend there is no reason to rationalize the use of chemicals for invasives. 
Clearly soil biology in ag settings is compromised.
Why think any different in natural settings?
Cameron:   You don't express yourself clearly, so I have to guess what your message is, and I guess it's contained in the last line, which is what is the difference between natural and ag settings.

The primary difference is less between ag and natural (although there are differences here), but more in the frequency.  Roundup-ready crops are sprayed several times per crop, whereas a hypothetical wildland use of an herbicide would be, perhaps, once or twice in, say, a decade--then perhaps not again. 

Since ag is on strict timelines and our natural example is an ill-defined hypothetical example, we can't be any more definite than that.

I'm also guessing that you are rigidly anti-pesticide.  There's problems with that. 
You are my elder. i appreciate your efforts and respect our common interest in stewardship.   So my intent was no disrespect.
Before I found this side of life.
I worked in the HAZMAT side of environmental.
Chemical, radiological, and bio hazard is my perspective I got from a fiscal angle and physiological understanding.
This is a legal risk beyond any!
That is all
Plain foolish risking it.

My opinion based on having access to this experience directly at NASA Ames in Mt view  i was being over loaded with information a decade before peer review.

Infra red detection machines and home land security sensors do not differentiate between that of an intentional attack and a lazy Gardner over spraying and it getting into a buildings air intake system. 

There is zero use on base because of the proprietary products.
That is the real deal.
MSDS for any product brought on base, training on to many issues worth a strong cup of coffee to explain and harmonize on.

I'm practical. Information shapes perspective.

Thanks for bringing your style to the world.
Elder I may be, but age doesn't necessarily confer wisdom.  However, one does learn things in life, so more years should (I wish I could say would) result in experience that informs one's view of life.  As to the specific question here, those who are responsible for managing wildlands on a large scale or who are concerned about biodiversity, are desperate for effective tools to combat the ravages of invasive plants.  Because our urban society is cut off from nature, we do not fund programs to deal with invasive organisms in general--just because we don't see the connection to our own welfare.  Know it or not, there is a connection. 

Our toolbox is almost barren.  The herbicide tool is one of the few there is; limited as it is, it is an absolute necessity in many cases.  The inevitable price to be paid from constant, intensive use such as in industrial ag seems not a problem in its occasional use in wildlands.  In wildlands the benefits are apparent, and there are seemingly no negatives when used properly.


7.  Weeds:  In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants, by Richard Mabey

Weeds, according to one definition, are simply plants that are growing in the wrong place.  Some have invaded gardens from the surrounding countryside, and others escaped cultivation to infest the landscape.  But in almost every case, weeds--whether you think of them as adaptable opportunists or as botanical thugs--thrive in human company.

In a charming paean to plants sometimes ignored and often detested, nature writer Mabey points out that weeds are evolutionarily primed for success:  They tend to grow quickly and produce prodigious numbers of seeds.  Those seeds are dispersed by winds or carried far and wide by creatures, on fur and feathers or hitching a ride in stomachs--in which case the plants-to-be are deposited at their destination amid a dollop of fertilizer.  And if growing conditions aren't quite right, so be it--some seeds can lie dormant for decades before sprouting in profusion.

Regardless of common perception, weeds can be useful, Mabey argues.  The first crops were essentially domesticated weeds.  Kentucky bluegrass, a symbol of the American South, was considered a weed in Britain before it was planted as forage for livestock in the colonies.  And burdock burrs, covered with thin spines ending in tiny flexible hooks, inspired the invention of Velcro.

Plants unwelcome in some places are beloved in others, from cornflowers and fuchsia to the exuberant yet fragile poppy--a reminder, the author says, that plants become weeds only when people label them as such.

Science News 13.08.11



It is possible, I suppose that sometime
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead
oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their center piece, their -- if you don't
mind my saying so -- their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example -- I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch --
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.
 ~ Mary Oliver ~

(Why I Wake Early)


9.  Economics focus

Don’t look down
The poor like taxing the rich less than you would think

Aug 13th 2011 | from The Economist print edition (excerpt)

Never mind the top, avoid the bottom

Instead of opposing redistribution because people expect to make it to the top of the economic ladder, the authors of the new paper argue that people don’t like to be at the bottom. One paradoxical consequence of this “last-place aversion” is that some poor people may be vociferously opposed to the kinds of policies that would actually raise their own income a bit but that might also push those who are poorer than them into comparable or higher positions.

(Study methodology omitted.)

...In keeping with the notion of “last-place aversion”, the people who were a spot away from the bottom were the most likely to give the money to the person above them: rewarding the “rich” but ensuring that someone remained poorer than themselves. Those not at risk of becoming the poorest did not seem to mind falling a notch in the distribution of income nearly as much. This idea is backed up by survey data from America collected by Pew, a polling company: those who earned just a bit more than the minimum wage were the most resistant to increasing it.

Poverty may be miserable. But being able to feel a bit better-off than someone else makes it a bit more bearable.


10.  Schumpeter

American idiocracy
The civil war in Washington, DC, is damaging American business

Aug 13th 2011 | from The Economist print edition (excerpts)

...Calvin Coolidge reputedly said that “the business of America is business.” These days the business of America is carpet-chewing rage. American politicians are intent, not on improving their country’s competitiveness, but on gouging each other’s eyes out.

Businesspeople still enjoy huge advantages from being in America. Business is part of its DNA...

..Yet America’s politicians are intent on squandering this painfully accumulated capital. As it revoked America’s triple-A credit rating on August 5th, Standard & Poor’s explained that the gulf between the political parties was becoming unbridgeable, and that policymaking was becoming unpredictable.

...Optimists argue that S&P’s decision may act as a wake-up call. Yet in Washington it is being treated as another battle cry, with Republicans raging about “the Obama downgrade” and Democrats railing against “tea-party terrorists”. The roots of America’s current polarisation are distressingly deep. The parties have reorganised themselves along ideological lines, as white conservatives have abandoned the Democrats and northern liberals the Republicans. The ideological factions have built mighty propaganda machines stretching from Washington think-tanks to the studios of Fox and MSNBC. And ideologues have resorted to previously taboo weapons, such as the threat of default.

This ideological civil war has led to the marginalisation of corporate America. In the Republican Party country-club types have been elbowed aside by Rush Limbaugh listeners. In the Democratic Party the business-friendly centrists who flourished under Bill Clinton have been sidelined by Ivy League intellectuals and trade-union and minority activists.

...The civil war is creating two obvious problems for American business: paralysis and uncertainty. The Obama administration is still pockmarked with vacancies because Congress refuses to approve routine appointments. Important trade deals have been languishing for months. The Republicans are fighting a war of attrition against Barack Obama’s health-care reforms and his new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

All this has immediate consequences for business. The federal government not only runs basic services such as the Federal Aviation Authority (where thousands of workers were briefly laid off because Congress refused to renew the FAA’s authority). It also accounts for a quarter of the economy.

…The direst consequences of all this lie in the future, however. America’s health-care system consumes a sixth of GDP but produces only mediocre results. America’s schools produce run-of-the-mill results despite generous funding. The immigration system leaves 11m people in the shadows..

Bring back Silent Cal

American companies are sitting on a gigantic pile of cash; Apple alone has $76 billion in the bank. Why won’t corporate America invest in America? It does not help that domestic demand is feeble, and that the global economy is in turmoil. But American politicians deserve some of the blame. Their unpredictability erodes confidence. The gulf between American business and the Obama White House is growing ever wider, as business-friendly insiders (such as Larry Summers, an economic adviser) leave the administration. Even more dangerously, the gulf between business and the rest of the country is widening: opinion polls show that American businesspeople are losing faith in their country even as ordinary Americans are losing faith in business. Calvin Coolidge’s statement was once denounced as the height of bourgeois complacency. Today it sounds like a reminder of an America that is in danger of disappearing.


11.  Guardian Weekly
Quote of the week: "The [French] state spends about 300 million euros a year to arrest about 80,000 [for cannabis-related offences] without this having a noticeable impact on consumption, which has remained at a high level." Economist Pierre Lopp, of Paris University

Fact of the week: One kernel of amylase corn, a GM variety bred to be good for ethanol production, in 10,000 of "normal" corn could damage food products, according to data supplied to the North American Millers' Association by Syngenta, the company that bred it.


12.  'Fossil eel' squirms into the record books

Some world-weary reader comments:
Fantastic - no doubt it's dried and powdered remains improve financial success and sexual potency in our Chinese friends, can we over fish it immediately and drive it to extinction?
well done good find but now there are 8 less in the world.
My god can we humans leave nothing alone on this earth to live its own life. Just hope one day there is something that comes and kills us humans in the same manner.  Oh lookie here another thing to wipe out!
"...astonishingly similar to the first eels that swam some 200 million years ago" Was someone around 200 million years ago to compare the two?  I bet that makes one hell of a sushi eel roll.
So this eel essentially stayed the same for 200 million years, while lots and lots of other more "advanced" eels came and went. Is that about right?
"Just hope one day there is something that comes and kills us humans in the same manner."
Another self-loathing human.


13.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

The two ages of women

According to Shakespeare, man has seven ages. How many ages do women have and what are they?

Two only: one when they don't know how old they are and one when they lie about it.

Tony Mount, Nakara, NT, Australia

• As even William Shakespeare knew, a woman's age is, has and always will be highly classified information.

John Reynolds, Auckland, New Zealand

• Just three: LM, M and HM – Low Maintenance, Maintenance and High Maintenance.

Cynthia Dummett, Basingstoke, UK

• Oh, woe, woe, woe. Shakespeare was a woman in man's attire, didn't you know? Women are all part of humankind. Seven ages equals seven faces.

Elizabeth Wagner, Featherston, New Zealand

Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

When and where did ironing originate?

Astonishingly when my grandmothers – one English, the other American – were asked what was the most impressive thing they had seen in their very long lifetimes (93 and 97, respectively), they both answered the same: "No-iron sheets!"

In the early 1900s washing and ironing sheets was an arduous four-day task that fell to the ladies of the house from an early age. They started with chopping wood to heat the water, rinsing, bluing/bleaching them, rinsing again, mangling/wrangling them to squeeze the excess water out before hanging them outside to dry, to chopping wood again to heat the stove to heat the irons, making sure they were not too hot and constantly moving the iron or they burned them, to folding them.

If the sheets touched the ground during any part of this process they had to start over.

They never said when ironing originated, but they both sang Hallelujahs when it ended for the rest of their lives.

James Carroll, Geneva, Switzerland

Any answers?
Has any politician ever made several things perfectly clear in one speech?

Andre Carrel, Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

Do ants ever sleep?
Dan Morrison, Ottawa, Canada

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