Letter from the Executive Director
Our hearts sing out gratitude to all of you who helped us successfully protect more of the precious remaining natural places of the Mount Diablo area and connect our community to them this past fiscal year (which was a transition fiscal year from January 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, as we move to an April–March fiscal year going forward).
This past fiscal year, you helped us win protection for more than 1,200 acres in Antioch’s beautiful and ecologically significant Sand Creek Area next to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. After years of work, we achieved a huge victory last summer when the Antioch City Council adopted complementary initiatives, which we helped lead with the community coalition we built, thereby protecting more than 1,200 acres of hills, creek, woodland, and rare wildlife habitat in south Antioch, west of Deer Valley Road. Developers are now trying to undo those hard-won protections through litigation, and your support has enabled us to join that fight to keep that land protected for the benefit of all.
In the 2018–2019 fiscal year, your support helped us address “nature deficit disorder” in our young, wired generations through our Conservation Collaboration Agreement program with local schools and businesses. We completed Conservation Collaboration Agreements with various schools this past fiscal year: California State University–East Bay, Concord Campus; De La Salle High School; Pittsburg High School; Campolindo High School; and Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School.
In this program, we gave the students, educators, and participating businesses the critical facts and figures about land conservation in our area. We also took the participants out to our conserved lands for meaningful experiences that developed a direct relationship between them and nature through environmental service projects, interpretive nature hikes, and contemplative solos in nature.
This past fiscal year, your support enabled us to steward thousands of acres rich in conservation values. We have about 500 dedicated volunteers who support our staff team. Last year, our stewardship volunteers donated well over 4,000 work hours to our stewardship of the thousands of acres in our care. We only have two full-time stewardship staff, and our important stewardship work, like planting native trees, removing invasive species, and fire prevention work, would simply not be possible without these incredible volunteers who support our talented but limited staff.
Our annual Discover Diablo free public education hiking series offered 27 well-attended hikes last year, connecting hundreds of people in our community to the beautiful Mount Diablo natural area.
Thank you for helping us protect more of the remaining natural places of the Mount Diablo area and connect our community to them so we can all be transformed for the better.
Edward Sortwell Clement, Jr.
Board of Directors
Effective April 1, 2019
Malcolm Sproul, President
Burt Bassler, Treasurer
Claudia Hein, Secretary
Land Conservation Director
Director of Annual Giving & Events
Land Programs Director
Finance & Administration Director
Stewardship & Outreach Associate
Juan Pablo Galván
Land Use Manager
Development Administrative Assistant
General Office Manager
Accounting & Administration Associate
Land Stewardship Associate
Protecting Diablo’s Wild Lands
Mapping Our Area of Impact
This map shows the expansion of protected lands on Mount Diablo from 6,788 acres in 1971, when Save Mount Diablo was founded, to over 110,000 acres that have been protected by Save Mount Diablo and our great partners.
Save Mount Diablo’s area of interest is bounded by I-680 to the west, I-580 to the south, Carquinez Strait and Suisun Bay to the north, and the Delta to the east. Save Mount Diablo continues to monitor development projects proposed in the area, focusing on connecting and expanding new and existing parks and preserves while working with our allies to preserve, protect, restore, and promote enjoyment of these natural lands.
Scaling Up Stewardship & Building a Strong Foundation for Land Acquisition
2018 was a year of enhancing how we manage our properties while continuing long-term, complex negotiations to protect several very high-priority areas of land.
For decades, Save Mount Diablo was able to buy properties and then quickly transfer them to a public park agency.
That model kept our land management responsibilities very limited, and the projects we undertook were mainly focused on trash removal, fire abatement, and some restoration work. About a decade ago, the transfer time started to slow down. In part, the slowdown in transfer time was because California State Parks stopped acquiring new land in order to focus on maintaining the parks it already owned.
It has been more than 13 years since a property was added to Mount Diablo State Park, something we have been working diligently to change. However, as our ambitions about preserving the Diablo wild lands grew, we began to buy more land farther away from existing parks with a strategy to connect them in the future.
As a result of the slowdown in property transfers, we had to step up our long-term stewardship efforts. Scaling up our land management operations over the last several years has allowed us to deepen opportunities for people to get involved with caring for our properties and enjoying their beauty. We now oversee multi-year restoration projects, an all-star stewardship volunteer pool, a year-round free public hike program, research in action, a conservation-based grazing program, and a field station at Curry Canyon Ranch.
We hired two caretakers who now live at our Wright Canyon property and support all of our stewardship obligations. This step enabled us to move forward with plans to transform the house at Curry Canyon Ranch into the Curry Canyon Ranch field station—a hub for researchers, our partners, and our supporters to connect more closely with and deepen our understanding of Mount Diablo. Multi-year research projects are underway at Curry Canyon that are focused on the identification and behavior of insect populations in Curry Creek. And on dry land, we began the early stages of a streamflow monitoring program.
We continue to negotiate complex property transactions, the fruits of which will be brought to bear in the coming year. Our partners, especially the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy and East Bay Regional Park District, have continued the work to encircle the Marsh Creek and Morgan Territory areas in open space and place critical protections over essential habitat corridors. We meet with landowners and developers alike to push for high-quality mitigation associated with new developments. We coordinate closely with our partners on strategic additions to the overall network of preserved lands on and around Mount Diablo.
As part of our Forever Wild Capital Campaign, we are working to establish a Land Acquisition Opportunity Fund to ensure we are ready and able to act on a transaction quickly.
For now, we continue to build up a strong foundation for future land conservation.
Land Use Planning & Advocacy
LAND USE PLANNING
As development heats up, so do we. We defended Mount Diablo and its foothills by monitoring over 50 planning agendas weekly. We attended numerous meetings and had significant involvement in more than a dozen projects and policy issues. Although we responded in some way to about 20 projects and testified at numerous hearings in 2018, by far our deepest involvement was a grassroots campaign to protect three square miles of land threatened by large-scale suburban development in eastern Contra Costa County.
2018 could rightly be called the “Year of Antioch” for Save Mount Diablo land use advocacy. We drafted the “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative to protect three square miles of grassland, creek, and wildlife habitat in the Sand Creek area west of Deer Valley Road in south Antioch. From March through early June, hundreds of Save Mount Diablo supporters and Antioch residents collected nearly 10,000 signatures to qualify our initiative for the city ballot.
We also organized walks along Sand Creek and many neighborhood talks and community forums to inform residents and get them involved. We spoke with the Antioch City Council and the developers to try and protect the area’s most important natural resources and scenic views. We even created this special publication to get the word out and help educate Antioch residents.
Our hard work paid off in August 2018, when the Antioch City Council adopted our initiative. Although the council had adopted a developer’s initiative a month earlier, that initiative basically copied ours and achieved 70 percent of what our own initiative would do, while allowing an improved version of their own development project to occur.
Save Mount Diablo led this fight, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the hundreds of individual residents and supporters who volunteered to help collect signatures, and the contributions of our partners at Greenbelt Alliance, Sierra Club, and other organizations.
After the adoption of both initiatives in August, other developers sued. Your support has enabled us to join the litigation and work to defend the adopted initiatives that provide important protections to over 1,200 acres of the Sand Creek Focus Area.
The beautiful hills that lie southwest of Pittsburg and separate central Contra Costa County from eastern Contra Costa County face a huge threat. A Seeno company is proposing the Faria project, which would build 1,500 houses on top of this beautiful scenic ridgeline and next to a new regional park.
We responded to Faria’s inadequate Environmental Impact Report with substantial legal-quality comments while laying the groundwork for grassroots advocacy in Pittsburg to inform residents about what’s going on. The best way to follow updates is to like the Save Pittsburg’s Hills Facebook page and sign up for our special Save Pittsburg’s Hills e-Newsletter. We’re just starting to ramp up our efforts, so make sure you are in the loop now!
On June 5, California voters approved Prop. 68, the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018. Several years ago, Save Mount Diablo started working with our legislators and partners to advance legislation that would allow for the first statewide parks bond in almost 15 years. Eventually, we and our partners were successful and got the legislation passed that paved the way for Prop. 68.
SMD contributed funds to the Prop. 68 campaign and also served on the campaign committee that worked to pass Prop. 68. And through television, online video, social media, and other efforts, we helped get the word out.
Contra Costa and Alameda Counties ended up having higher approval ratings for the Prop. 68 bond than the statewide approval rate. Now that Prop. 68 has been passed, there are millions of dollars available for local, regional, and state parks, as well as restoration and climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Defending Diablo’s Wild Lands Through Advocacy
Land use advocacy is one of our most effective and important tools to protect the natural lands on and around Mount Diablo, but each victory must be defended as threats reappear again and again. Your support makes it possible for us to continue to defend natural lands like Sand Creek or Pittsburg’s hills before it’s too late.
Stewardship & Habitat Restoration
Save Mount Diablo currently owns or manages 18 properties—totaling nearly 2,000 acres. These properties include perpetual conservation easements on two properties, totaling 22 acres. We also restore sites on two properties we don’t own.
Here are some of the accomplishments we are especially proud of this fiscal year:
• We created a management plan for Anderson Ranch, purchased in 2017.
• We have 35 property monitors and 90 volunteer stewards (or 125 total volunteers dedicated to stewardship).
• We worked on five restoration projects on 23 Diablo Restoration Team (DiRT) workdays, engaging more than 500 volunteers, including local schools and community groups.
• We completed an additional 22 workdays to treat non-native, invasive species on Save Mount Diablo properties using an Integrated Pest Management approach, as well as 26 stewardship workdays.
• We began restoration of our Marsh Creek 7 property with a Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Committee grant, seeding native bunchgrasses in the footprint of the modular home that was removed in 2017, and planting more than 150 trees and shrubs in the floodplain.
• We hosted three Eagle Scout projects on several different properties, including a bench installation at both our Marsh Creek 4 and Marsh Creek 6 properties, a gate installation at Wright Canyon, and a shed covering for the water system at the Curry Canyon Ranch field station.
• We developed key features of the field research and education station at Curry Canyon Ranch. We made major improvements to the interior of the ranch house, constructed a donor-recognition seat wall, and added a new perimeter fence and pathways.
• We tended to fire and storm damage. Three of our properties on Marsh Creek burned last summer. We’re working on cleanup, fence and water system replacement, and restoration plans. Following up on storm damage from 2017, we replaced a washed-away footbridge at Big Bend (our Marsh Creek 8 property).
• We organized a Coastal Cleanup workday in Kirker Creek. Students from Pittsburg High and other community members removed all sorts of trash from the macro to the micro, including cigarette butts, fast food waste, and packing material. This year, we were able to remove 16 extra-large garbage bags full of debris (about 960 gallons), enough to fill our whole trailer!
Outdoor Recreation & Activities
Each year, we invite people to enjoy the beauty of the Diablo wild lands through different types of recreational events.
We hosted numerous events on the mountain to share the area’s wildlife and cultural history with our supporters and to encourage recreation consistent with the protection of natural resources.
• Save Mount Diablo and Brazen Racing partnered again to host the Diablo Trails Challenge, with a distance for nearly every interest: a 50K, half marathon, 10K, and 5K. More than 1,200 trail runners enjoyed a beautiful day out on the trails.
• Cyclists put their climbing skills to the test riding up Mount Diablo’s slopes to the summit. For the 37th annual Mount Diablo Challenge, over 530 cyclists rode 11.2 miles, climbing 3,249 feet in elevation. Thanks to the support of CA Technologies and the Nathan M. Ohrbach Foundation, SMD added over 500 new and renewed members to our organization who participated in this year’s challenge.
• Twenty participants in Four Days Diablo, our annual backpacking tour, enjoyed learning more about Mount Diablo’s treasures while hiking and camping along the 31-mile Diablo Trail. Dedicated volunteers set up the campsites and local restaurants—including Postino, Forbes Mill Steakhouse, and Sunrise Bistro & Catering—prepared delicious meals for the adventurers.
• Over 500 guests attended our 17th annual Moonlight on the Mountain celebration, our signature gala with live music, dancing, silent and live auctions, and a gourmet dinner by Sunrise Bistro & Catering. Moonlight on the Mountain is held at China Wall in Mount Diablo State Park, a stunningly gorgeous and intimate venue that creates a special atmosphere for our guests. Over $450,000 was raised to support Save Mount Diablo.
• We published an updated 2018 edition of our free Mount Diablo Regional Recreation Map featuring the Diablo Trail. For the first time, we also made this fourth edition map available online and on mobile devices as a downloadable geospatial PDF that is compatible with phone map systems like Avenza. Basically, this means you can use your phone with our map to track yourself on it with your device’s built-in GPS system. You can request a hard copy by contacting our office by email or phone. This update was made possible with support from Fremont Bank.
Education & Outreach
Save Mount Diablo connects people to and inspires people with nature in a myriad of ways.
Here are some of our efforts and accomplishments in education and outreach between January 2018 and March 2019:
• Save Mount Diablo granted more than $12,000 via our Dr. Mary Bowerman Science and Research Program. The program supported research and discoveries about the Diablo region by awarding grants to researchers working on all sorts of topics, including Marsh Creek’s volcanic domes, golden eagle populations, aquatic insect and native bee diversity, ground squirrel behavior, and cyanide resistance in certain beetle species. Grants have been awarded to organizations such as UC Berkeley, the Northern California Geological Society, the United States Geological Survey, CSU Stanislaus, and Mills College. Seven grants were given between January 2018 and March 2019. We hosted our fifth annual colloquium in December to present the findings of recently conducted research.
2018 BioBlitz Results
• Save Mount Diablo hosted its 11th annual BioBlitz in Arroyo Del Cerro. With the help of scientific experts, naturalists, and enthusiastic volunteers, we recorded 419 total species. You can read more about the results from last year’s BioBlitz here.
• We filmed two television segments—A Vision for Mount Diablo and An Interview with Seth Adams: Defending the Pittsburg Hills, Youth Advocacy, and Imagining a Summit-to-Sea Trail— featured on NBC Bay Area’s OpenRoad with Doug McConnell, reaching tens of thousands of viewers.
• We sponsored and released two new Audible Mount Diablo Guides to the Outdoors series—Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve: the Rocks, the Boom Towns and Natures Remarkable Recovery and Harvest of Fire: A Hiker’s Guide to Mount Diablo Plants—and placed the next guide into production. We also held two sold-out screening events to premiere the two new series featuring Q&A panels with special guests, and published the Audible Guides to a new mobile podcast platform.
• To honor the three decades of service given by Save Mount Diablo’s Land Conservation Director, Seth Adams, we organized a special 30th anniversary celebration at the Lesher Center of the Arts in Walnut Creek, attended by nearly 300 guests.
• From land management projects to supporting events, office operations, community outreach, and recreation, about 500 volunteers completed more than 7,500 hours of service.
• We held numerous speakers series events and gave multiple presentations to the public.
• We launched a newly updated modern and mobile-friendly website. (We hope you’re enjoying it!)