In 1920, Bair Island in Redwood City was part of a cattle ranch owned by Fred Bair. At 3,000 acres, the island today is made up of three small islands and is one of the largest islands in the bay. As it was in the 1920s, it is also a large inter-tidal wetland habitat that acts as a natural water filtration system and a buffer against flooding. By 1982, the island had long been used as a Cargill salt plant and a residential development called South Shores had been proposed and approved by the Redwood City Council for the site. If it had passed, the island today would look much like Redwood Shores. A group of local activists led by the late Ralph Nobles and his wife Carolyn put a citizen’s referendum on the ballot and narrowly defeated the project.
POST recognized immediately that Bair Island was one of the last remaining restorable wetlands in the Bay Area and started a campaign to raise money to save Bair Island. To date, it was one of our most broadly popular fundraising campaigns with over 5,500 donors participating. We purchased the property in 1997, preserving this amazing piece of marsh that is a haven for harbor seals, great egrets and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Soon after, property ownership was transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) so that it could be managed as part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge that stretches across 30,000-acres and provides a safe haven for millions of migratory birds and endangered species.
After 14 years of hard work, the Bair Island restoration project is nearing completion. The successful restoration is expected to invite the return of several native plant, bird, and mammal species and dramatically increase habitat for the California clapper rail, California least turn, salt marsh harvest mouse to name a few.
POST was thrilled to be at today’s levee breach, which means that we are close to the end of one of the largest wetland restoration projects in California history.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 79,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more