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from Legacy: 50 Environmental Elders (2006)

It seems at times as though some green-plumed guardian angel were hovering over the San Francisco Bay Area, protecting its environment from harm.

Granted, as population in the nine counties touching the bay has risen to 6.7 million, the usual penalties of growth have been incurred. Farm and woodland have given way to cities; pollution constantly challenges our efforts to control it; a sprawling style of development, which consumes much land to house relatively few people, has become the unfortunate norm. Many natural values have been irrevocably lost. Yet what strikes visitors from other burgeoning regions is not our failure but our success—how well we’ve done here at hanging on to some of the best features of the place we live in.

 We have always in view—even when we don’t take time to enjoy—the shimmering expanses of San Francisco Bay, not land-filled for urban expansion as once was planned. North from San Francisco we have the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore, composing a vast, accessible greenbelt that hardly another American metropolis can match. We have a comparable greenbelt under construction in the south, in the Santa Cruz Mountains and along the San Mateo coast. We have the superlative East Bay Regional Parks. We have numerous state and federal wildlife refuges, and a roster of native plants and animals that, despite enormous pressures, has suffered rather few outright deletions.

And we have all these things, not in most cases because a benevolent government provided for them, but because certain stubborn individual citizens felt called upon to work for them, often against great odds.

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