The following are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions regarding the Baylands Ecosystem Goals. The first five address generally the who, what, when, where, and why of the Goals. These are followed by more specific questions regarding the recommendations made by the Goals.
Question: What are the Baylands Ecosystem Goals?
Answer: The Goals are a vision of the types, amounts, and distribution of wetlands and related habitats needed to sustain diverse and healthy communities of fish and wildlife in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are intended to provide a biological basis to guide public and private efforts seeking to preserve, enhance, and restore the integrity of the baylands ecosystem.
Question: Who developed the Goals?
Answer: The Goals are the product of the San Francisco Bay Area Wetlands Ecosystem Goals Project, and they were developed by more than 100 scientists from local, state, and federal agencies, private consulting firms, and universities. Development of the Goals was co-sponsored by nine state and federal agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Coastal Conservancy, State Department of Fish and Game, State Department of Water Resources, State Resources Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional participants included the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, the San Francisco Estuary Project, and the San Francisco Estuary Institute.
Question: When were the Goals developed?
Answer: Human activities during the last 150 years have filled or otherwise altered over 80% of the tidal marshes in the San Francisco Bay estuary. This has resulted in the extinction and threatened extinction of many species of plants, fish, and wildlife. At the same time, new wetlands habitats, such as salt ponds and seasonal wetlands, have been created, and many wildlife species have come to rely on them. Efforts to restore wetlands have been frustrated by uncertainty regarding how to restore tidal marsh while continuing to provide suitable habitat for species that depend on salt ponds and seasonal wetlands.
In 1993, the Governor of California and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed a comprehensive conservation and management plan (CCMP) for the San Francisco Bay estuary. The CCMP identified the protection and restoration of wetlands among the highest priorities for the estuary, and recommended that wetlands habitat goals be developed as part of a focused regional wetlands planning effort.
Question: When were the Goals developed?
Answer: The Goals Project started in 1995, and the Goals will be completed in the Fall of 1998.
Question: Where do the Goals apply?
Answer: The geographic scope of the Goals Project includes all of the San Francisco Bay estuary downstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Within this nine-county area, the Project focused on and developed goals for the baylands - the lands within the modern and historic extent of the tides - and the immediately adjacent lands.
Question: Will the Goals require anyone to change existing land use or management, or to sell their property for wetlands restoration?
Answer: No. The Goals are recommendations by scientists that describe the kinds of habitat changes needed to provide support for fish and wildlife. The Goals do not require
anyone to change land use or management, or to sell land. They have no regulatory authority, and are designed only to inform public and private efforts aiming to improve the Bay Area's wetland habitats.
Question: When should the recommended habitat changes occur?
Answer: Restoring the baylands ecosystem should begin immediately and proceed gradually over a period of many decades. Proceeding slowly will enable landowners to identify and exercise their best long-term options, scientists to test and improve restoration techniques, and the public to develop the necessary mechanisms to fund restoration.
Question: What do the Goals recommend for farming in the baylands?
Answer: The Goals recommend that, in the coming decades, much of the farmed and grazed baylands should be restored to tidal marsh, and those farmed and grazed areas not restored to tidal marsh should be managed to improve seasonal wetlands habitat for wildlife. The Project refers to these future seasonal wetlands areas as managed seasonal pond habitat
to highlight the shift in management objectives from agriculture to wildlife support. Today's farmed and grazed baylands already provide extensive seasonal wetlands habitat as a byproduct of current management practices. The Goals recommend that, in the future, the seasonal wetlands on these lands should be purposefully enhanced, and suggest that farming and grazing could still be valuable as a primary management technique.
Question: What do the Goals recommend for salt ponds?
Answer: The Goals recommend that, over the long term, most commercial and inactive salt ponds should be restored to tidal marsh, and others should be managed as complexes of shallow saline ponds to provide support for shorebirds and waterfowl.
Question: What do the Goals recommend for duck clubs in Suisun?
Answer: The Goals recommend a 15%-25% decrease in managed marsh habitat (duck clubs) to allow restoration of tidal marsh. They also recommend enhancing the remaining managed marsh habitat to increase its ability to support waterfowl, thereby maintaining or increasing current populations of waterfowl in the region.
Question: What will happen after the Goals are completed?
Answer: Once the Goals are completed this fall, private and public efforts will begin to implement them. To ensure that there is adequate coordination among these entities, some kind of interagency body likely will succeed the Goals Project's Resource Mangers Group; one of its main tasks will be to work with landowners and others to develop a long-term implementation plan for the Goals.