Twenty Years of Bay Nature Magazine

The first issue of Bay Nature magazine entered the world exactly two decades ago. It was born from a vision held by David Loeb and Malcolm Margolin, aiming to “create a luminous and intelligent publication that would reflect the natural beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area.” That idea persists after 20 years (and counting) thanks to individual donors, our biggest source of income; advertisers; and subscribers. All of you make Bay Nature. Thank you.

This anniversary issue cheers on the passions and endeavors that have inspired many readers over the last 20 years—particularly in 2020—and looks ahead to themes that will inform and shape the Bay Area for the next 20. In a nod to our love of Aves, we asked science writer Kathleen Wong to follow a small, devoted team of birders who survey the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in the East Bay and are collecting a fascinating data set on bird-plant interactions. Bay Area native plants are fundamental to all that Bay Nature covers, so it’s fitting to highlight San Bruno Mountain’s four species of endemic manzanitas, that most Californian of genera in that most Bay Arean of landscapes. And because the region’s dynamic conservation community is Bay Nature’s raison d’être, we asked Robert Doyle, retiring general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District, to talk about his 47-year career and conservation’s future, which he says will face the challenges of climate change and need for inclusivity.

We couldn’t agree more with his take. When the pandemic dominating our lives is under control, climate change and racial and economic inequities will endure. Warmer and drier weather is quite literally fueling fires in California, and so are centuries of laws and choices geared to suppressing wildfire. Plains Miwok pyrogeographer Don Hankins has spent the last 20 years using fire to care for and cultivate different habitats throughout California, guided by Indigenous practices and science. His essay in this issue conveys insights from his culture and research and how we can harness some of the fires in 2020 as the first burn on landscapes that will need to be maintained with more fire.

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The state’s current struggle with fire is inextricably linked to its decimation of Indigenous peoples and their traditional methods of stewarding the land. While today many Bay Area activists, organizations, institutions, and elected officials readily acknowledge this history, fewer than approximately 1,100 acres of land have been returned to local tribes and communities. To examine why, we talked to tribe members, leaders of land trusts, and landowners.

This mix of stories both celebrates Bay Nature’s founding principles—inspiration, information, discussion of problems—and looks ahead to the stories we’ll be exploring in our next 20 years.