For Immediate Release, December 31, 2007


Brent Plater, GGNRA Endangered Species Big Year, (415) 572-6989
Nancy DeStefanis, San Francisco Nature Education, (415) 205-0776
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

Bay Area Conservation Groups Launch
Big Year Event to Protect Local Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO— Bay Area conservation groups are launching an exciting program in 2008 to reconnect residents with the natural resources and values of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) with the first-ever GGNRA Endangered Species Big Year, to be kicked off with a celebration at 1 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008 at the entrance to the San Francisco Zoo. Following the opening ceremonies, attendees will cross the street to see western snowy plovers at Ocean Beach.

The year-long event is aimed at connecting GGNRA visitors with the 33 endangered species found in the Recreation Area through individual exploration and guided expeditions, as well as to encourage participation in conservation action items that will prevent species from going extinct. In addition to being an educational program, the inaugural Endangered Species Big Year will be a competitive event, awarding the individual who sees and helps the most species from January 1 through December 31, 2008 with the Big Year Award.

“We are fortunate to have the diverse landscapes of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in public ownership,” said Brent Plater, director of the GGNRA Endangered Species Big Year. “This astounding array of imperiled biodiversity in the midst of the Bay Area is a source of wonder and celebration, but also a cause for concern. The dire status of so many native species indicates we should reexamine our relationship to our local ecosystems, and the Big Year will allow Bay Area residents to make this connection.”

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area — specifically, within the legislative boundary including federal, state, and locally managed park and watershed lands in coastal Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties — contains more endangered species than any other unit of the national park system in continental North America, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia national parks combined.

Participants in the Big Year can join scheduled trips to observe endangered species or explore the park on their own. They can also log on to the Big Year Web site,, which features a page for each of the 33 plants and animals detailing their natural history, threats, likely observation locations, an action item, and a comprehensive checklist. In order to check a species off the list, participants must observe it alive within the Recreation Area legislative boundary, complete a specific conservation action item for that species, and comply with the Big Year’s ethical wildlife viewing principles to protect species and habitats. The public can then go online to post their sightings, compare their checklists with others’, and sign up for email alerts to be alerted of species-related occurrences — like a southern sea otter sighting off Ocean Beach — or to gain information, such as whether or not the San Bruno elfin butterfly is flying.

The endangered animal species that can be seen within the Recreation Area include the San Francisco garter snake, California red-legged frog, southern sea otter, Steller sea lion, humpback whale, salt marsh harvest mouse, marbled murrelet, western snowy plover, brown pelican, California clapper rail, California least tern, northern spotted owl, San Bruno elfin butterfly, Bay checkerspot butterfly, mission blue butterfly, California freshwater shrimp, tidewater goby, coho salmon, steelhead trout, and chinook salmon. Listed plants in the Recreation Area include the Presidio manzanita, Tiburon paintbrush, fountain thistle, Presidio clarkia, San Mateo woolly sunflower, Marin dwarf-flax, San Francisco lessingia, white-rayed pentachaeta, California seablite, and showy Indian clover.

“The Xerces blue butterfly once thrived only on the San Francisco Peninsula, but the species was last seen in the 1940s and is now considered extinct,” said Plater. “The Xerces blue is gone forever, but we hope Big Year participants may find something more than the recovered brown pelican, a few oiled snowy plovers, or the last Presidio manzanita. The event should lead us to the humility, compassion, and hope necessary to ensure that the Xerces blue’s fate doesn’t befall the Bay Area’s other endangered species.”

Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, added: “From the gray whale and southern sea otter off our coast to the California least tern and western snowy plover on our beaches to the American peregrine falcon and California brown pelican in our skies, the Endangered Species Act has saved at least a dozen Bay Area species from extinction. The Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most successful conservation laws. The GGNRA Big Year celebrates several Bay Area species that are on the road to recovery and highlights those close to extinction that need the strong protections of the Act.”

“This is a perfect way to engage youth in the Bay Area,” asserted Nancy DeStefanis, director of San Francisco Nature Education, an environmental education program for underserved students. “Big Year is designed to teach an interactive lesson and young people of the Bay Area can have an impact on protecting these endangered species.”

The Endangered Species Act is America’s safety net for plants and animals on the brink of extinction, protecting over 1,200 species and the habitats they depend on. A classic success-story example is the recovery of the bald eagle, due in large part to the San Francisco Zoo’s successful breeding and reintroduction of more than 100 birds over the past 20 years.

The Big Year is supported by the following non-profit organizations: Center for Biological Diversity, Nature in the City, Sierra Club Wildlife and Endangered Species Committee, San Francisco Zoo, National Parks Conservation Association, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Yerba Buena Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, San Francisco Nature Education, San Francisco Naturalist Society, and the Xerces Society.

Event Details:
WHO: Bay Area conservation groups, GGNRA visitors
WHAT: Kickoff for 2008 GGNRA Endangered Species Big Year Competition
WHEN: 1 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 6
WHERE: Entrance to the San Francisco Zoo, Sloat Boulevard and Great Highway, San Francisco
WHY: To see and protect the GGNRA’s 33 endangered species

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