Refuge Acquires Bair Island

Bair Island

This short story originally appeared in the fall 1999 issue of Tideline, the newsletter of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

After many decades of struggle by local environmentalists, on July 2, the Fish and Wildlife Service finally completed acquisition of the largest privately held areas of Bair Island from the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST).  These lands will be included in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Bair Island, located within Redwood City, encompasses three islands separated by tidal slough channels totaling approximately 3,200 acres.  Bair Island was historically tidal marsh and tidal mudflats.  It was diked in the late 1800s and early 1900s for farming and cattle grazing.  Leslie Salt Company converted the majority of the island to salt evaporation ponds.

Various proposals for commercial and residential development were proposed and rejected.  In 1982, voters of Redwood City rejected Mobil Development Company's development plans through a local referendum.  Over time portions were acquired by the State of California and the Don Edwards Refuge.  In 1997, POST purchased the majority of the remaining 1,626 acres to turn if over to the refuge for restoration.

Don Edwards Refuge Manager Clyde Morris announced, "Bair Island is an important addition to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge because it is the largest, remaining, restorable wetland in the south San Francisco Bay.  We look forward to restoring habitat for endangered species-the California Clapper Rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse, and other wetland-dependent species."

Management goals of Bair Island will include enhancing the public awareness of the unique resources at Bair Island.

The San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and increasing the public awareness of natural resources of the San Francisco Bay Area, is playing a significant role in the restoration of Bair Island.  The San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society has developed a Request for Proposal and will be hiring consultants for developing a restoration and management plan.  Implementation of the plan will be executed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

We are pleased to support the refuge in a different, important way," said Cecily Harris, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society.  "Traditionally, the Society has provided support by funding environmental education and interpretive programs.  We have never been involved with restoration planning before and look forward to both the process and the end result."