Green days

An expurgated history of some key moments in Bay Area environmental history

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John Muir and a group of UC Berkeley professors fought to maintain Yosemite National Park in 1892

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1892: The Sierra Club is established by John Muir and a group of professors from UC Berkeley and Stanford in San Francisco. In its first conservation campaign, the club leads efforts to defeat a proposed reduction in the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.

1902: After two years of intense lobbying and fundraising, the Sempervirens Club, the first land conservation organization on the west coast, is successful in establishing Big Basin Redwoods State Park — the first park established in California under the new state park system.

1910: The first municipally owned and operated street car service commences in San Francisco.

1918: Save the Redwoods League is established in San Francisco. A leader in proactive land conservation, SRL would go on to assist in the purchase of nearly 190,000 acres to protect redwoods and help develop more than 60 redwood parks and reserves that old these ancient trees in California.

1934: The East Bay Regional Park is established as the first regional park district in the nation. This radical Depression-era idea would much set the tone as the Bay Area land conservation vision expanded.

1934: The Marin Conservation League is founded by wealthy Republican women. Three years later, at the league's behest, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopts the first county zoning ordinance in the state in 1937. Over the next 10 years, the league helps create State Parks at Stinson Beach, Tomales Bay, Samuel P. Taylor, Angel Island, and expand Mt Tamalpais State Park.

1956: San Francisco activists, led in party by Sue Bierman, launch a campaign to stop a freeway that would have run through Golden Gate Park. It marks the first time city residents successfully block a freeway project and launches the urban environmental movement in America.

1958: Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks is founded. It becomes People for Open Space in 1969 and morphs in 1987 into the Greenbelt Alliance. Their efforts lead to the creation of the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District in 1972 and Suisun Marsh in 1974.

1960: Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower launches a brand new organizing and educational concept, the exhibit format "coffee table" book series, with This Is the American Earth, featuring photos by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhalland. These elegant coffee-table books introduced the Sierra Club to a wide audience. Fifty thousand copies are sold in the first four years, and by 1960 sales exceed $10 million. The environmental coffee table book emerged as part of a campaign to persuade Congress to enact the Wilderness Bill, legislation that would guarantee the permanence of the nation's wild places.

1961: Save San Francisco Bay Association is founded by Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr and Ester Gulick to end unregulated filling of San Francisco Bay and to open up the Bay shoreline to public access.

1961: Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announces plans to build a nuclear power plant at Bodega Bay. Rancher Rose Gaffney, UC Berkeley professor Joe Neilands and others mount what will become the first citizen movement in the country to stop a nuclear plant. The Bodega Bay campaign marks the birth of the antinuclear movement.

1965: Responding to Bay Area citizens' demands for protection of the bay's natural environment, the California state legislature passes the McAteer-Petris Act, which establishes the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and charges it with preparing a plan for the long-term use and protection of the Bay and with regulating development in and around it.

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