San Francisco, CA – In a vote that will breathe new life into one of the Western Hemisphere’s most important natural places, voters in nine Bay Area counties today passed Measure AA, which will raise approximately $500 million for wetland restoration throughout San Francisco Bay. The measure, dubbed the “Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure,” needed a two-thirds vote by all voters in the nine Bay Area counties, and passed by a 69 percent margin.
“The outpouring of support for Measure AA shows the deep love that Bay Area residents have for this globally significant bird area,” said Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California, which endorsed the measure. “Now we can get to work creating a better bay that can meet the challenges of the future.”
Historically, San Francisco Bay consisted of more than 200,000 acres of wetlands. But now it has about 40,000 acres. A recent study commissioned by the California State Coastal Conservancy estimated that San Francisco Bay needed at least 100,000 acres of wetlands to support the needs of wildlife, properly clean its water, and provide adequate protection from sea-level rise associated with storms and climate change.
The Clean and Healthy Bay ballot measure will create a $12 per parcel tax for the next twenty years. The $500 million it is expected to raise will leverage additional state and federal funding for bay restoration.
“Restored wetlands and cleaner water will support shorebirds and waterfowl that use the bay, which is one of the anchors of the Pacific Flyway,” said McCormack. “Increased public access to the bay shoreline will provide recreational and educational opportunities.”
Save the Bay, the Bay Area Council and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group – along with Audubon California – were part of a broad coalition of environmental and business groups supporting the measure. All eight Bay Area Audubon chapters endorsed the measure, as well.
More than a million shorebirds and waterfowl use San Francisco Bay habitat at the height of migration, and the area includes twelve spots designated as Important Bird Areas due to the high number of rare and endangered bird species as well as the sheer number of birds supported by the bay and surrounding wetlands.
Perhaps the most numerous of these birds are the Greater and Lesser Scaup, along with Bufflehead and Ruddy Ducks. Surf Scoters – with their white, red, yellow and black bills – were once plentiful in San Francisco Bay, but have declined considerably in recent years. Wetlands restoration will also greatly help the recovery of the federally-endangered Ridgway’s Rail. Other birds include Western and Clark’s Grebes, Wigeon, Pintails, Coots, Cormorants and Loons.
San Francisco Bay in 2013 was designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention. It has also been recognized by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, which ranks it as being of “Hemispheric Importance” to shorebirds.
Tidal marsh restoration funded by the measure will improve water quality and control pollution by reducing the trash and other toxins that flow into the Bay and ocean. Measure AA also includes several strategies to reduce pollution and trash in San Francisco Bay.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. With more than 150,000 members and supports in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of the National Audubon Society.
More information is available at www.ca.audubon.org.