By Philip Gerrie
In May, Golden Gate Audubon representatives met with the new Superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Laura Joss. GGAS has a long history of meeting, and working collegially with, GGNRA superintendents and professional staff. Also attending the meeting from the GGNRA were Michael Savidge, GGNRA Director of Strategic Planning and Partnerships, and William Merkle, GGNRA Supervisory Wildlife Ecologist. The GGAS delegation included Executive Director Cindy Margulis, GGAS Board Member and Co-Chair of GGAS SF Conservation Committee, Sharon Beals, GGAS’s Director of Volunteer Programs, Noreen Weeden, and two active volunteers: Matthew Zlatunich, and Philip Gerrie.
GGNRA Superintendent, Laura Joss, heads the team managing the National Park Service’s most visited site, a collection of more than 80,000 acres of federally managed historic and ecologically significant properties around the San Francisco Bay, including the Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, Ocean Beach, Fort Funston and the Presidio. She is a 27- year veteran of the National Park Service with a background in resource management. Her current focus is on the safety of staff and visitors, sustaining an environment of respect and transparency, and working to preserve cultural and natural resources.
Over the past 10 years, GGAS has met with and maintained a solid working rapport with GGNRA’s most recent series of Superintendents, Brian O’Neill, Frank Dean, and Chris Lehnertz. So, we welcomed the chance for a discussion with the newest superintendent in this prestigious seat.
It struck me at this meeting how similar the mission, intent, and sensibilities of these two organizations really are. Cindy Margulis said that GGAS’s commitment runs deep in working positively to assist GGNRA. Golden Gate Audubon’s mission is to engage people to experience the wonder of birds and to act in support of birds and their habitats. GGAS fulfills its purpose by engaging in local environmental education, undertaking habitat maintenance and restoration projects, and being a consistent voice for protecting public spaces for both people and birds. The same passionate conservation mindset created the GGNRA and Golden Gate Audubon: both of which were founded 100 years ago. Both share commitments to the values of stewardship, education, sustainability, and have deep reservoirs of knowledge and expertise which they share for the public’s benefit.
There are several ways that GGAS connects its own membership to the GGNRA. GGAS enables people to experience nature and wildlife; educationally through field trips and programs. GGAS also does community service for the GGNRA by participating in community (citizen) science through research and wildlife/habitat monitoring projects. Also, and crucially, GGAS has demonstrated a commitment to helping with habitat restoration and maintenance of GGNRA properties, especially at the Crissy Field beachfront
There are several ways that GGNRA and GGAS have partnered for the benefit of the GGNRA and the visiting public. The San Francisco Christmas Bird Count (CBC) each year provides data and indicates trends in resident, overwintering and vagrant bird species. Rare bird documentation is another contribution of GGAS’s San Francisco area bird censuses. Every month, GGAS marshals a volunteer cleanup crew at the Crissy Wildlife Protection Area to ensure one of the most iconic beaches in the nation remains beautiful and safe for its priceless wildlife cohort, including threatened Snowy Plovers. All of the data and reports GGAS provides, as well as the recent bioblitzes on GGNRA habitats, demonstrate how GGAS works positively to provide beneficial information and resources to the GGNRA.
Of all the national parks, the GGNRA is just steps away from the City of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. Visitors come from our urban, suburban and rural areas and from around the globe. The GGNRA has more than 38 site-based and other community partners. Golden Gate Audubon’s active participation in documenting wildlife presence and promoting the shared values of good stewardship and public education consistently helps the GGNRA fulfill its own mission, too.
Superintendent Joss expressed optimism that a way forward could be found to balance preserving habitat for wildlife and providing visitor enjoyment.
We look forward to future meetings with Superintendent Joss and continuing to work with the GGNRA staff, as well.
Philip Gerrie is a long time volunteer with Golden Gate Audubon. He recently served as secretary on the SF Animal Control and Welfare Commission for six years while also attending GGAS Conservation Committee meetings. He is a mediator and trainer with Community Boards in SF. He volunteered with PRBO for several years banding birds caught in mist nests in Palomarin.