Living the green dream - Page 2

Conservation (and good storytelling) inspire Ann and Steve Dunsky

Ruth Williams of Animal Ocean used Photoshop to recreate how protestors altered South San Francisco's iconic sign in the 1970s.

SD It's really a success story, despite the compromises that were made. As we say in the film, it is one of the largest open spaces in any urban area in the United States. Most of the mountain, 2,000 acres, is state and county park. And that was the result of these protests, as well as the political and legal processes that went on in the 1970s behind the scenes. [Currently] a developer wants to build on some sand dunes that are on the west side of the mountain, so that's a fight going on right now.

SFBG Do you hope the movie will inspire people to take up the fight?

SD For people in the Bay Area, what I would like them to do is — when they drive by San Bruno Mountain, they don't look at it as a big, ugly, brown lump, but actually realize that it's a haven for biodiversity, and also that there was this 50-year ongoing struggle to save it. I think it's important for people to know the history of their surroundings.

From a national perspective, we really hope that it gets people to think about these deeper issues of conservation, questions about compromise, and questions about development versus preservation.

AD One of my favorite Leopold quotes is "Conservation without a keen realization of its vital conflicts fails to rate as authentic human drama; it falls to the level of a mere utopian dream." I love that because I think it's so easy to say "No development anywhere!" A lot of us would like things to be that easy, but they're not. And I think this film, hopefully, will help people recognize that it's not that simplistic. 

Green Fire screens March 5 at the Green Film Festival ( and March 8 at the Randall Museum ( For more information on Butterflies and Bulldozers, visit; DVDs available for institutional and home use at



The Bay Guardian’s December 11, 1996 cover story was The Sack of San Bruno: San Bruno Mountain development was a national model for decimating the Endangered Species Act: What’s next? Yet, in your recent interview (2/20/12) with filmmakers Steve and Ann Dunsky, Steve claims that the San Bruno Mountain compromise is a success story, and the clip from “Butterflies and Bulldozers” features one of the compromise’s chief proponents.

San Bruno Mountain Watch worked closely with the Dunskys and their partners Keith and Sam Moreau on that film, and we’re pleased that audiences see the beauty and drama of the mountain and surrounding communities. However, the story is flawed. We disagree with Ann’s statement that “...our voices aren't in there trying to tell the viewer what to think.” It is true that Ann and Steve don’t speak in the film, but the material is carefully constructed to put their spin on the story.

The fact is that the so-called Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) compromise on San Bruno Mountain was a precedent-setting loophole in the Endangered Species Act that allowed development on endangered species habitat. These HCPs are now so common around the nation that the US Fish and Wildlife Service, charged with protecting endangered species, has a whole section on their website on how to apply for an HCP.

It is not scientifically credible to claim that the San Bruno Mountain HCP is a success, and the sack of the mountain continues. The San Bruno Mountain HCP is slated for renewal next year without further review. The intent of the endangered species act is the recovery of the imperiled species, and no one -- not even the HCP’s proponents -- are claiming that the Mission Blue and Callippe silverspot butterflies are anywhere close to recovery.

Posted by Ken McIntire, David Schooley on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

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