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.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Love: a temporary insanity, curable by marriage. -Ambrose Bierce

1.   The Future of Transit in San Francisco forum Saturday 18 August
2.   From Creek Dams to Cormorants - a Modern Ecology of San Francisco Bay Aug 9
3.   Knowland Park update - Zoo board members are now park supporters
4.   Special Glen Canyon field trip Sat Aug 11 to prepare for RecPark Commission hearings
5.   Protect wildlife from cruel traps/ban hound hunting/who will speak for the wild?
6.   Will CA Assembly gut DHS's Secure Communities program?
7.   LTE:  "Sustainable development" is drivel
8.   DIY native plant propagation by Greg Gaar at Kezar Gardens
9.   Notes & Queries
10. Climate change takes its Toles

Note:  Mars is beginning to appear in our skies low above the horizon in the southwest (along with Saturn).  I am very moved to look at it and think of the rover Curiosity that successfully landed yesterday and will soon begin its lengthy scientific examination and exploration.  I identified with the people who put this enterprise together, but whose hearts were maybe in their throats as they wondered whether a tiny malfunction would bring an expensive and embarrassing disaster.  I am looking forward to gorging myself on months or years of yummy scientific goodies it will be sending our way.  I am deeply impressed by their accomplishment.



SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 2012, 10:30 AM TO 4:00 PM
At the Koret Auditorium, Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, S.F. will be holding a Forum on the Future of Transit in San Francisco at the Koret Auditorium, SF Main Library, on Saturday, August 18.  Registration starts 10 am;  program begins 10:30 am.

The morning session deals with the current state of transit in San Francisco, and the afternoon session takes up ideas for improvements in Muni service and financing.

Speakers include transportation engineer Gerald Cauthen, disabled rights activist Bob Planthold, Tom Rubin CPA who has been the chief financial officer of two of the largest transit agencies in the United States, public policy consultant Bob Feinbaum, architect Howard Wong and foreperson Linda Clardy of the 2010-11 SF Civil Grand Jury.

Co-sponsors of the Forum include the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, San Francisco Tomorrow, Sierra Club and TransForm.

The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam often comes first and then the lesson.      Unknown author

2.  San Francisco Naturalist Society meeting - Free and open to everyone.

Thursday, August 9
From Creek Dams to Cormorants--a Modern Ecology of San Francisco Bay
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto and Kathleen M. Wong discuss the natural and human forces that have shaped California's largest estuary, from the bay's stealthy currents to the developers and environmentalists who have altered its shores. Longtime local science writers, Okamoto and Wong are the authors of Natural History of San Francisco Bay(2011), part of the California Natural History Guides series published by the University of California Press. Ariel Rubissow Okamoto is the author of books and articles about San Francisco Bay, California water history, and national parks. Her articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Nature, and other publications. Kathleen M. Wong is the science writer for the UC Natural Reserve System. She was formerly editor of California Wild, the wonderful magazine of the California Academy of Sciences.
Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco CA 94114. 7:30-9 pm.

For more information, go to


3.  Knowland Park update

Scroll down for:
Who Knew? Zoo Board Members Are Knowland Park Supporters!
The parcel tax measure—11th hour political shenanigans
What You Can Do

Dear Knowland Park Supporters,
Who Knew? Zoo Board Members Are Knowland Park Supporters!

A warm welcome to our Zoo Board Member supporters! As many of you know, we have had such a flurry of people joining us that we have hardly had time to do more than keep adding the email addresses to our database. But recently, going through the list in preparation for our campaign, we discovered that zoo Board President Steve Kane and Board Member B. Reid Settlemier, among others, had signed up as Friends of Knowland Park supporters! Mr. Settlemier had signed up with an email address that didn’t happen to include his last name, but an automatic vacation message let us know who he was. What a great development! Maybe this indicates a change of heart? Fortunately, there is room for ALL the members of the zoo board and its foundation board to join up—room even for the zoo CEO, Dr. Joel Parrott, to sign on and help save the Park--because we have always run a completely transparent campaign.

But seriously…The parcel tax measure—11th hour political shenanigans
We’ve now finally found a copy of the zoo’s proposed parcel tax ballot measure, which the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to place on the November ballot. It was first discussed at a secretive retreat back in June, detailed documents from which were not available on the county website. We only heard about it from a news report:

Despite numerous requests, no one we contacted at the county after we read this news story could tell us anything or give us a copy of the measure or the materials distributed at the retreat. Then it was placed on the ballot at the 11th hour by the supervisors, as we reported late last month (see . The measure, if passed, would allow the zoo to do pretty much anything it wants with the more than $112 million-plus the tax would raise over 25 years—in fact, it explicitly says that as long as it is used for any of the extremely broad things listed, the zoo can delete or add or ignore any of the specific projects mentioned as examples, since the tax goes on after the projects mentioned may be completed.

To see the draft ballot measure (the zoo has not yet filed the final version, probably to minimize the time the public will have to view it before arguments against are due for the voter’s guide), go to  and click on July 24, Regular Meeting, Item 73A attachment. 

What You Can Do

We need your help to aggressively oppose this money grab. Time after time, the public was reassured that the expansion development was a “done deal,” all taken care of, no worries about public funds amidst the biggest financial crisis in decades. Now we find out that once again, politicians and zoo executives are working behind the scenes to make us pay again and again, and to destroy our own Park in the process.

Volunteers needed: Please email us at  if you can volunteer. We are working on flyers and should have something posted by Monday (we hope) that can be printed for use in letting people know about the issue. We could use someone to help us with some online research, to do tabling in the coming weeks at various events, and to do an assortment of other things. Even if you only have a little bit of time, working together it adds up to a lot.

Remember, the two brave women who led the efforts decades back to save San Francisco Bay from being filled in by the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t save the bay overnight. They worked for years and years and faced many setbacks. These are long-haul battles, especially when we are working against opponents (or secret supporters?) as intransigent and arrogant as the zoo’s executives seem to be.

The most important thing is to talk to your friends and neighbors who vote! Explain to them why you oppose this measure—it’s bad for the environment, but also just sleazy politics at its worst. Hand them a flyer and ask them to visit our website for more information. (

WE NEED TO RAISE $7500 this month to get some skin in the game on this campaign. Can you help? We have less than three months and we’ve heard the zoo foundation plans to spend $750,000 just to promote this measure, so we are truly David against Goliath here. All funds go toward our efforts to save the Park—we are all unpaid volunteers and the money goes for our legal and campaign expenses only. Send checks made payable to CNPS (California Native plant Society) to our treasurer, Lee Ann Smith, 111 Shadow Mountain, Oakland, CA 94605. Or donate online at our website, using PayPal.

THANKS TO ALL—it’s a long haul but you always, always come through!


4.  Special field trip in preparation for Recreation-Park Commission hearings on the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan

GLEN CANYON – August 11, Saturday, 10:00 am to 12:30 pm
     Meet behind the Glen Park Recreation Center, at beginning of the wild part of the canyon
Leaders: Jake Sigg and Ruth Gravanis

This field trip is focused on issues which the SNRAMP addresses, such as trails, erosion, tree removal and replanting, herbicide use, etc. Please note that we will not talk about the specifics of the management plan or DEIR, but rather the background issues and problems. Prior to 1997, when the newly approved Natural Areas Program began hiring staff, there was no management at all of the City's 32 undeveloped open spaces. People did more or less whatever they wanted to, and even trash wasn't picked up. Obviously that situation couldn't continue, so the Natural Areas Program was created, with the primary purpose of preserving these last fragments of our natural heritage. However, the Program became contentious, partly because of misunderstanding and confusion, but also partly due to hidden agendas.

Never mind that spring bloom is over; there is lots to see in our grasslands even in summer, and as always, we will celebrate nature and nature's endlessly fascinating ways.


5.  Some legislative/regulatory issues

Protect California Wildlife from Cruel Traps
Urge Assembly Members to Vote “Yes” on SB 1480!

In a major victory for wildlife and the public, the California Senate recently passed S.B. 1480, the Consumer and Wildlife Protection Act. The bill, which was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), would benefit both animals and consumers by restricting certain wildlife killing methods and establishing disclosure practices for trappers. S.B. 1480 is now under consideration in the Assembly, where it has passed the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife and is pending in the Committee on Appropriations.

S.B. 1480, if enacted, will protect California’s treasured wildlife from indiscriminate and inhumane killing, reduce costs for animal control agencies and wildlife rehabilitation centers, help to prevent the inadvertent killing of family pets in traps, and protect consumers from misinformation.

Key Provisions of S.B. 1480:
    •    Require that before setting traps, trappers provide each client with a written contract outlining relevant laws governing trapping and wildlife in California.
    •    Require trappers to take steps to avoid orphaning dependent young and leaving them to die.
    •    Prohibit the most heinous methods of killing wildlife, which include drowning, chest-crushing an injection with chemical solvents such as nail polish remover.
    •    Require that special precautions be taken when dealing with bats, of which there are many imperiled species in California.
    •    Place additional restriction on the use of killer-type traps, thereby reducing the risk that family pets will be inadvertently killed.
Please call or write your Assembly member today and ask him or her to vote YES on S.B. 1480. You can find your representative’s contact information here.


Help Ban Hound Hunting of Bears & Bobcats in California!
Your Voice Needed in Support of S.B. 1221

A critical bill – S.B. 1221– that will ban the cruel and unsporting practice of hound hunting of bears and bobcat is moving through the legislature and needs your support! "Using dogs to hunt bears and bobcats is cruel to the dogs," said bill sponsor California Senator Ted Lieu of Torrance (7/22/12/ Sacramento Bee). "It is cruel to the bears. It is cruel to the surrounding wildlife, and it violates what is known as fair chase."

Please call and write your Assembly member TODAY and urge him or her to vote YES on S.B. 1221.

From California Wilderness Coalition

OHV Enthusiasts, Snowmobilers, and Mountain Bikers Barrage Forest Service With Comments On Lake Tahoe Basin Plan, But Who Will Speak For The Wild?
Off highway vehicle enthusiasts, snowmobilers, and mountain bikers barraged the Forest Service in support of expanding their respective pursuits on public lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin at recent public meetings. Those concerned about protecting wilderness and wild rivers need to comment to ensure that the Forest Service adopts a plan that fully protects the Lake Tahoe Basin’s wild places.
The public has the opportunity to comment on the future of wilderness and wild and scenic rivers on 150,000 acres of National Forest lands surrounding beautiful Lake Tahoe. The Forest Service is soliciting written comments until August 30 in response to its Lake Tahoe Basin Draft Forest Plan Revision. The plan will determine the future management of the federal public lands that ring Lake Tahoe for the next 15-20 years.
The Forest Service is the largest land manager in the Lake Tahoe Basin. How much of this public land is allocated to uses that allow new road building, logging, and ski area development, and how much is protected as wilderness or wild and scenic rivers will be determined in the new revised forest plan.

John Muir thought Lake Tahoe should have been a National Park. Instead, much of the Basin was logged over in the 1800s to provide timber for Nevada’s mines. In more modern times, Lake Tahoe has suffered from helter-skelter development of casinos, ski areas, strip malls, and commercial resorts. Most of the remaining natural land surrounding the lake is National Forest. With the release of the draft forest plan, the public now has the opportunity to ensure that at least the public lands surrounding this national icon are protected for the enjoyment of present and future generations and to protect the lake’s outstanding clarity.

The Forest Service considers four different alternatives to manage the public lands around Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately, none of the alternatives, including the agency’s preferred management plan, go far enough in protecting Wild & Scenic Rivers and Wilderness. In addition, none of the alternatives provide sufficient protection for ancient forests, threatened and endangered species, and special areas in the Basin. In addition, the plan does little to control snowmobiling and other activities that threaten natural resources.

Snowmobile enthusiasts in particular have mobilized to pressure the Forest Service to open more sensitive public lands around Lake Tahoe to their noisy and intrusive recreation, including sensitive wetland areas that provide crucial habitat for the Sierra yellow-legged frog. The impacts of snowmobile noise alone on wildlife have been well documented by scientists. In addition, snowmobiling is incompatible with Wilderness and Wild Rivers and ruins the outdoor experience of less intrusive winter pursuits like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Speak out in favor of protecting more Wild and Scenic Rivers, Wilderness, ancient forests, threatened and endangered species, and non-motorized recreation on the public lands around Lake Tahoe by sending an email TODAY to the Forest Service. Email comments may be sent to The deadline for written comments is August 30, 2012.


6.  Alert! Assembly to vote on TRUST Act to undercut Secure Communities program!

The California legislature has returned from its summer recess, and the Assembly will consider legislation that would gut the DHS’s Secure Communities program. AB 1081, the TRUST Act, by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would bar the police from detaining illegal aliens for ICE unless the alien has a previous “serious or violent felony” conviction.

Even illegal aliens with multiple drunken driving convictions or a history of domestic violence could be released rather than deported. The Congressional Research Service recently reported that illegal aliens released by the Obama administration went on to commit thousands  of crimes, including charges of 19 murders, 3 attempted murders and 142 sex crimes.

CLICK HERE to learn more and to take action

"The comfort of the rich depends upon the abundant supply of the poor."  Voltaire

As Edward Abbey said about immigration, “The conservatives love their cheap labor; the liberals love their cheap cause.”


7.  LTE, Guardian Weekly

Damage to biodiversity

George Monbiot has touched a tender nerve as he applauds the poetry of John Clare and despairs at the destruction of our countryside (John Clare, the poet of England's rural crisis, 20 July). Gilbert White evokes similar sentiments, albeit in a more prosaic way, in his book The Natural History of Selborne (1789). White speaks of species such as polecats and landrails (corncrakes), which have long since been eliminated from Hampshire's fauna.

We are painfully aware of the irreversible damage being wreaked on our biodiversity by the intolerable pressures that we are putting on our natural resources. We learn from the last census that Britain's population is growing faster than ever before. And yet our chancellor announces that growth in the UK economy will not be hampered by prioritising green issues. 

James Lovelock (of Gaia fame) has wisely pointed out that "sustainable development" is "meaningless drivel" and yet the only message that reverberates from the captains of our economy is that more growth is needed to sustain our burgeoning population and extract us from our bank-made recession. It seems that no thought is given to the environmental destruction and extermination of biodiversity that are the inevitable concomitants of such short-sighted policies.

Future generations will be dismayed at our astonishing proclivity for self-destruction.

Brian Sims
Bedford, UK


8.  DIY Native Plant Propagation
by Kezar Gardens

Greg Gaar is the fiery leader of this camp of kids, showing (and telling) them how to propagate native plants for themselves.  Watch them collect seeds from the Frederick Triangle and prep them to grow at Kezar Gardens.  After, hear them talk about what they learned.  Thanks so much to Celsius & Beyond for being a part of this earthy DIY video!  And thanks to Charlie Lamar for taking some snaps of the whole thing.  Finally, kudos to Greg for taking charge of these 6-8 year old mini gardeners!  Stop by Kezar Gardens sometime soon.


9.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

How British am I? Is there any way of knowing?

Britain is a union of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. To be 100% British you'd need parents who are 25% English, 25% Northern Irish etc. Anything else means you fall short. To find out, engage a good genealogist.

Alan Williams-Key,
Madrid, Spain

• I'm sure I don't know as I feel more British when in Australia where I live than in Britain where I grew up. When in Britain I feel more Australian. No wonder I'm confused! 

Margaret Wilkes,
Perth, Western Australia

• Yes, but nationality is not quantitative. You either are or are not; your passport will tell you.

Dick Hedges,
Nairobi, Kenya

• You know how British you are by the number of times you say sorry when something happens that is not your fault. The British have mastered the art of the unnecessary apology.

David Isaacs,
Sydney, Australia

• Yes, just try to have a mixed sauna in Germany: if you are getting hot and bothered you'll feel British.

Jens Heitmann,
Hanover, Germany

• This can be gauged by your level of appreciation for Morris dancing.

Roger Morrell,
Perth, Western Australia

• Born in England within sight of Windsor Castle, raised and educated in the historic wealth of Wales wearing the kilt of my Scottish family, who could doubt that I am British to the core?

A 40-year US citizenship (continuing), Canadian immigrant status and Belgian residency have merely confirmed that I am 100% British when, on occasion, I need to be.

John Graham,
Hoogstraten, Belgium

• How far back you can trace your ancestry (eg sheriff of York in the 14th century)?

Edward Black,
Church Point, NSW, Australia

• You know you are truly British when you prefer Marmite to Vegemite, can recognise all old school ties, military badges and university scarves, refer to the wife and children as "the Missis and the nippers", wear socks with sandals and, most tellingly, live in another country for decades while still referring to Britain as home and never taking out citizenship.

Ursula Nixon,
Bodalla, NSW, Australia

• In the putative words of Lady Bracknell: "I have always been of the opinion that if one needs to ask, one is most probably not."

Noel Bird,
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

Don't think, just build it!

What was Noah thinking when he took a pair of woodworms on to the Ark?

An alibi to cover all the holes in his fabrication.
Brian Richardson,
Stavanger, Norway

• He thought they said bookworms.
James Carroll,
Geneva, Switzerland

• When God talks, you don't think.
Daan Zwick,
Rochester, New York, US

Any answers?
What is a widow's peak, and who was (or is) the widow who had (or has) it?

William Emigh, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
What is the perfect analogy?
Barbara Goodwin, Ensenada, Mexico

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