Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife oasis in an urban sea.

In the heart of California’s high-tech industry lies a 30,000-acre oasis for millions of migratory birds and endangered species. The nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge sits on the southern end of San Francisco Bay. The refuge, created in 1972, was largely the result of grassroots efforts by the local community to protect the San Francisco Bay ecosystem.

Major changes occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area following the California gold rush in 1849, creating a population boom explosive growth and development on sensitive lands surrounding the bay. The newly introduced salt industry, for example, converted tens of thousands of acres of salt marsh into commercial salt ponds. Conversion of wetlands to support development continued well into the 20th century, and today, nearly 85% of the bay’s original marshes and shorelines have been altered.

Congressman Don Edwards, responding to local citizens who made up the South San Francisco Baylands Planning, Conservation and National Wildlife Refuge Committee, worked with Congress to create the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This group later became the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge and in 1988 helped add additional 20,000 acres, doubling the size of the refuge. The Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge along with other Bay Area organizations work tirelessly to protect and enhance the Bay’s remaining wetlands.

The refuge was later renamed to Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in 1995 to honor Congressman Edwards’ dedication to the refuge and its mission, which is to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat; protect migratory birds and threatened and endangered species; and provide opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation and nature study for the surrounding communities.

San Francisco City Guide © Simon Newbound

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