Thursday, November 17, 2011
Elkhorn Slough Foundation
Year Founded: 1982
Staff: 30 paid, 60 volunteers.
Budget: $2.2 million ($1 million funds the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve)
The Big Idea: The Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s award-winning Visitor Center was last updated in 2002. Maybe that’s because ESF’s been busy restoring and managing nearly 4,000 acres of conserved land. In 2012, it’s time for a new view for the slough. Community support will allow the nonprofit to update its multimedia equipment and create displays with live, streaming video and interactive technologies. This will let visitors see how wildlife behaves when people are not around – as opposed to when visitors come face-to-face with otters, terns and other species as they often do on and around the slough. The funds will also pay for EFS’s naturalists, the real experts who help visitors explore the endangered species and threatened habitats that make the Elkhorn Slough a unique and vital ecosystem.
seven generations: “Elkhorn Slough Reserve is an important resource for our children. There is no reason any child in Monterey County should miss this amazing opportunity.”
LandWatch Monterey County
Year Founded: 1997
Staff: 2 paid, 20 volunteers
The Big Idea: The California Public Utilities Commission approved the Regional Water Project in 2010 – the project anchored by a desal plant to end all water projects – but since then it’s been sputtering, closer to death each day. What happens to the Peninsula when it finally implodes and the state makes Cal Am stop over-pumping the Carmel River? LandWatch is working with other local groups to make sure we don’t die of thirst. In 2012, the nonprofit will promote a contingency plan for the Regional Project, which includes an expanded aquifer storage and recovery program, groundwater replenishment, an expanded recycled water program and maybe a desalination plant within the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District boundaries. It needs funding to educate county residents about all of the above.
Land Battle: “Our members influence land-use decisions. LandWatch works to keep the public informed and engaged about major decisions regarding our community so they can be participants in those decisions.”
MEarth at the Hilton Bialek Habitat
Year Founded: 1995
Staff: 7 paid, 20 volunteers
The Big Idea: A seemingly small five-a-day serving of fruits and vegetables adds up to very big things – healthier bodies, brains, communities and gardens. MEarth’s new initiative, Thrive with $5, asks everyone to donate $5 (or more) to provide students with fresh veggies in classrooms and school cafeterias. Donating just $5 will provide resources to cultivate and deliver enough organic lettuce and veggies to feed five students fresh salad through the school lunch program. And, as school budgets continue to be cut to the bone, this model could be used county – and statewide to support healthy eating programs for kids. In other words, we all thrive, with $5.
Yes, Kids Love Fresh Veggies, too: “MEarth strives to lead by example. Our center and our programs are designed to impart the knowledge, skills and inspiration to become active and engaged citizens dedicated to the stewardship of the earth.”
The Offset Project
Year Founded: 2007
Staff: 4 paid, 121 volunteers
The Big Idea: Finding ways to reduce our carbon output – both personally and institutionally – is a necessity if we are to slow global climate change. But most institutions can only reduce their emissions by so much (we still need to get the kids to school, after all, and not all cars are zero-emission). That’s where offsets come in and soften our environmental footprint – all while stimulating investment into renewable energy and jobs. Instead of purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Carbon Offsets from out-of-state sources, The Offset Project has set course to invest in local and regional projects and see our dollars at work around the Monterey Bay. The Monterey Bay Fund is raising money for their first public school project: putting solar panels on Bonny Doon Elementary School in Santa Cruz County. In 2012, The Offset Project wants to extend the Monterey Bay Fund into the residential market and set up different segments of the fund to further localize the money.
Solar Powered Jobs: “Another significant contribution is our developing partnership with local community colleges and universities to provide workforce training opportunities to local students and professionals. For example, Monterey Bay Fund is working with Cabrillo College students and members of the Monterey Regional Energy Efficiency Consortium to offer on-the-ground training at our Bonny Doon installation site.”
Otis Park Neighborhood Association
Year Founded: 2010
Staff: 81 volunteers
The Big Idea: Otis Park Neighborhood Association, a grassroots group formed to restore Seaside’s Highland-Otis Park, has a plan to install a rainwater collection system to allow year-round watering of plants and landscape without depending on scarce municipal water sources. It will consist of a catchment and containment system, collecting and storing seasonal rainwater runoff within the park for use in a drip irrigation system. The catchment area will be incorporated into the proposed picnic area at the higher-elevation terraced area. A sloped drain system will direct water to an underground cistern for storage. A low-pressure pump powered by solar energy and a filter arrangement will supply the drip irrigation system, which will be triggered by rain sensors and moisture meters. City of Seaside engineers say it will cost $50,000; the association asks the community to pitch in.
Neighborhood Pride: “We are determined to create a safe recreational gathering place in our multicultural, low – to middle-income neighborhood.”
The Otter Project
Year Founded: 1998
Staff: 4 paid, 60 volunteers
The Big Idea: Quick, name the two prides of Monterey County? If you said otters and artichokes, then you’re on the right track. The Otter Project’s big idea combines both our loves – and explains the connection between the two. W-otter (Get it? Sounds like “water”) highlights the links between ocean wildlife and inland water quality. The 2,700 threatened otters are struggling to survive in water whose quality is often toxic, a result of agricultural pesticide runoff plus home chemicals finding their way into our bay. The Otter Project will launch W-otter at farmers markets throughout Monterey County with a campaign-specific message that gives shoppers a local real-world example of why buying less polluting, chemical free organic produce makes a difference. It will also expand the program to home and garden shows, giving people specific actions and choices they can make to improve water quality.
Being So Darn Cute Doesn’t Hurt, Either: “Monterey is the sea otter center of the universe. Benefiting sea otters directly contributes to the tourism economy and the enjoyment of our residents. Improving water quality benefits us all. It’s all connected.”
Return of the Natives Restoration Education Project
Year Founded: 1993
Staff: 2.2 paid staff, 2,500 volunteers
The Big Idea: For the first time, Return of the Natives (RON) will focus its habitat-restoration programs in Seaside. Its new program, Seaside Parks Go Native, partners with Sustainable Seaside and neighborhood park associations to create native habitat gardens in five Seaside parks. It will start with an all-day RON Cycle of Restoration Workshop in early 2012, at which teams of five neighbors from each of the parks will learn basic native plant identification, propagation and planting techniques, garden design and maintenance procedures. Each team will receive 80 native plants – 400 total – from RON for immediate planting in February. The Natives staff will assist in coordinating weekend planting events as the native gardens take shape. Additionally, each team will receive set-up materials – seeds, soil, pots, etc. – to grow an additional 200 native plants at their homes for early 2013 out-planting in the parks.
Healthy Humans and Planet: “Return of the Native’s work in creating the Creeks of Salinas Parks has supplied green corridors in east Salinas where residents peacefully exercise, picnic, and walk to school while providing habitat for 70-plus bird species, beaver, fox, and frogs.”
Save Our Shores (SOS)
Year Founded: 1978
Staff: 6 paid, 9,000 volunteers
The Big Idea: Data cards – old school, yet effective. SOS has used them in other communities to change people’s habits and pass legislation. Now it’s bringing them to Monterey and using them at beach cleanups to pinpoint the sources of local trash and to motivate communities to be cleaner. Data cards inspired Santa Cruzans to fight for bans on polystyrene containers, and the cards brought about a cigarette butt abatement campaign. After Santa Cruz banned polystyrene, data cards showed Half Moon Bay volunteers how much more Styrofoam showed up on their beaches, and in May, city leaders enacted a similar ban. In Monterey, SOS volunteers have begun using data cards at every cleanup. The nonprofit is asking the community to help fund the program, which makes long-term results of beach cleanups last more than a few days. Data tell us what items are trashing our beaches and how to prevent it.
Sanctuary Designation, What What: “The most important effort to protect our coastline could not have happened without Save Our Shores.” – Leon Panetta, Chairman of the 2003 Pew Oceans Commission.
Ventana Wilderness Alliance
Year Founded: 2000
Staff: 3 paid, 50 volunteers
The Big Idea: It’s easy to get kids interested in the environment, conservation and all the joys of running around the wild – just get them to the redwood forests and gorgeous canyons. But this opportunity should not be just for the lucky ones; every child should have the opportunity to spend time splashing in a Big Sur creek, looking for condors or watching shooting stars. For many kids, going outside is a way of life, but for some, getting away from the familiar and into the wild is life-changing. Ventana Wilderness Alliance’s Youth in Wilderness program works in partnership with local schools and provides youth a chance to get outdoors, free of charge, and experience the joy, wonder and freedom of wild places. It builds tomorrow’s stewards today through meaningful outdoor adventures. And the community reaps the benefits of free (child) labor: Participants improve local trails, clean campsites and restore wildlife habit.
Into the Wild: “Everyone benefits when today’s youth value a healthy environment and recognize their ability to directly impact – both positively and negatively – the land, water and wildlife around them.”