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SAN FRANCISCO BAY NWRC: A Fitting Return to the Refuge He Helped Create
California-Nevada Offices , September 11, 2012
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Gil Bailey, former reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News and advocate for the restoration of the San Francisco Bay
Gil Bailey, former reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News and advocate for the restoration of the San Francisco Bay - Photo Credit: Janet Bailey
Janet Bailey, widow of Gil Bailey, prepares to scatter his ashes over the waters of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Janet Bailey, widow of Gil Bailey, prepares to scatter his ashes over the waters of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge - Photo Credit: Molly McGinnis

By Doug Cordell, Public Affairs

More than 60 years ago, before the modern environmental movement had even taken shape, a determined newspaper reporter in San Jose, Calif., published a series of stories that made the case for the restoration of a severely compromised San Francisco Bay. In June of this year, his ashes were scattered over the waters of a Bay Area National Wildlife Refuge his efforts helped create.

Gil Bailey was a reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News in the late 1960s when he wrote a series of articles that portrayed a San Francisco Bay in serious decline. At the end of the decade, he published a piece in the journal Cry California—a clarion’s call to action—titled “1969: The Year We Win or Lose San Francisco Bay.” The piece got attention from activists and environmental advocates throughout the Bay Area, as well as from a California member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Don Edwards. Congressman Edwards was so impressed with what he read that he hired Bailey as a legislative assistant in his Washington, D.C. office, where the erstwhile reporter worked to help pass legislation that, in 1972, created the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge—the first urban wildlife refuge in the United States. Today that refuge encompasses more than 30,000 acres stretching around the southern reaches of the Bay.

After his time with Congressman Edwards, Bailey returned to journalism and continued his distinguished work for another two decades. In April, 2012, he died at his home on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

Following his death, Bailey’s widow Janet worked with the staff of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay refuge to arrange an appropriate occasion for his return to the bay lands he championed so fiercely.

On a bright Saturday morning, June 30 2012, Janet Bailey and other family members gathered to distribute her husband’s ashes into the waters that run along the refuge’s Tidelands Trail in Fremont, Calif. Fittingly, a reporter from the San Jose Mercury-News was there to cover the story.


Contact Info: Doug Cordell, 510-774-4080, doug_cordell@fws.gov



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