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Frequently Asked Questions about Save Mount Diablo and Mount Diablo

Save it from what? Isn’t it saved yet?
What is Save Mount Diablo?
When was Save Mount Diablo founded?
What is Save Mount Diablo’s mission?
How does Save Mount Diablo accomplish its mission?
Is Mount Diablo a volcano?
Where does the name "Mount Diablo" come from?

What is Save Mount Diablo’s position on growth and development?

Q: Save it from what? Isn’t it saved yet?

  • Although it’s commonly believed that Mount Diablo State Park covers all of Mount Diablo, in fact nearly 50% of the mountain and its surrounding foothills and adjacent grasslands are privately owned. Privately owned land is potentially subject to development.
  • In order to preserve this land as public open space, Save Mount Diablo works with landowners to acquire private land and then transfers the land to a public entity such as Mount Diablo State Park or the East Bay Regional Park District.

Q: What is Save Mount Diablo?

  • Save Mount Diablo is a San Francisco Bay Area tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Our Tax ID is 94-2681735. We are hikers, bikers, equestrians, bird watchers, and people who just love to look at the mountain.

Q: When was Save Mount Diablo founded?

  • The organization was co-founded in 1971 by Art Bonwell and the late Mary Bowerman.
  • Since 1971, Save Mount Diablo has been instrumental in increasing preserved natural lands on and around the mountain from 6,788 acres to more than 110,000 acres.

Q: What is Save Mount Diablo’s mission?

  • Save Mount Diablo's mission is to preserve Mount Diablo's peaks, surrounding foothills and watersheds through land acquisition and preservation strategies designed to protect the mountain's natural beauty, biological diversity and historic and agricultural heritage; enhance our area's quality of life; and provide recreational opportunities consistent with protection of natural resources.

Q: How does Save Mount Diablo accomplish its mission?

  • The organization engages primarily in the following activities:
  • Protects natural lands through purchases, gifts and cooperative efforts with public and private entities.
  • Educates the public regarding threats to the mountain's flora, fauna, and rugged beauty, and to the history and heritage of the mountain and its surrounding foothills.
  • Works with landowners to preserve their property and to ensure that they receive fair value in any transaction aimed at preserving natural lands.
  • Partners with Mount Diablo State Park, East Bay Regional Park District, and other public and private entities to increase and manage natural lands and to identify mitigation opportunities.
  • Participates in the land use planning process for projects that could impact Mount Diablo and its surrounding foothills.
  • Aids in the restoration of habitat and the preservation of rare species.
  • Offers technical advice to community and neighborhood groups regarding preservation of natural lands.
  • Raises funds and sponsors events to build public awareness and to carry out our programs.
  • Temporarily owns, and manages, lands prior to their transfer to a public agency for permanent preservation.
  • Encourages recreation and public enjoyment of Mount Diablo's park lands, consistent with the protection of their natural resources.

Q: Is Mount Diablo a volcano?

Mount Diablo is not a volcano but it sure looks like one. If not volcanic, how was the mountain formed? Geologists are still trying to unravel the complicated history of the mountain -- its rocks are old, but the mountain itself is very young.

The oldest rocks are located in the central and highest peaks. As you proceed downslope, away from the summit, the rocks are younger. The older core rocks were formed far at sea at a spreading ocean rift zone, as much as 165 million years ago. As a part of moving tectonic plates, they were brought to the North American continent and into a subduction zone. Part of this ocean crust and overlying sediments were scraped off the subducting plate and forced under some sedimentary material already here. This area was later uplifted, pushing up the coastal range. Meanwhile, before that happened, much of California was an inland sea, rising and falling from one ice age to the next, and into which rivers deposited the sediments. Ultimately these sedimentary layers were compressed into solid rock, typically sandstone and shale. About four million years ago the Diablo region was low rolling hills.

About two million years ago, the same pressures that break the earth along the San Andreas fault began to form a large-scale compressional fold. The raised sedimentary layers were eroded away and tilted up and now they wrap around the harder, older mountain core. The tilted sedimentary layers now stand almost vertically in places such as Rock City, Castle Rock, Fossil Ridge, and Devil's Slide. Erosion has removed thousands of feet of what was overlying material, exposing the core as we know Mount Diablo, and carving fascinating features like wind caves and tunnels.

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Q: Where does the name "Mount Diablo" come from?

What's in a name? Like many other isolated peaks, Mount Diablo is steeped in lore -- much of it involving the mountain's name.

The reference to "diablo" or devil can be traced back to 1805, when Spanish military troops searched for Indians that had runaway from a mission. At a willow thicket near present-day Buchanan Field in Concord, the soldiers encountered a camp of Chupcan people and surrounded it. During that night, the Indians escaped unseen and unheard.

Angry and confused, the Spanish called the site, "Monte del Diablo", or "Thicket of the Devil". Later, English-speaking newcomers mistakenly assumed the word "monte" meant "mountain" and applied the title to the prominent nearby peak. A linguistic accident thus gave California its Devil Mountain.

Q: What is Save Mount Diablo’s position on growth and development?

  • Save Mount Diablo supports preservation of sensitive areas balanced with “smart growth” elsewhere.
  • We work with local developers and public agencies to preserve open space and with private landowners who want to preserve their land but need a fair price. Local citizens have made it clear that they favor land preservation, and elected officials and developers understand that growth must be managed.
  • Save Mount Diablo plays an important role in bringing all parties to the table and spearheading viable solutions.
  • Save Mount Diablo supports the Urban Limit Line.

Q: How big is the organization?

  • Save Mount Diablo has professional staff members as well as relies extensively on volunteers to carry out its mission. It is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.
  • The organization has over 8,000 members and supporters.
  • We also work with elected officials, community groups, developers, and individual and business sponsors.

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Q: What kind of volunteer opportunities are available?

We need volunteers for the following types of activities:

  • Office (SMD office or home)
  • Event planning and execution (pre, during, and post)
  • Outreach (represent SMD at events and trail heads, newsletter distribution, presentations)
  • Phone calls to members, event participants, or auction item solicitation
  • Hike leaders
  • Volunteers to help with our response to proposed developments
  • Stewardship (restoring, monitoring and caring for SMD land holdings)

Please visit our Volunteer page to learn more.

Q: How is Save Mount Diablo organized?

  • A Board of Directors oversees the organization.
  • Board Committees include Land, Fund Development, Stewardship, Finance, and Audit.

Q: What are some of the organization’s major achievements?

  • Since 1971, Save Mount Diablo has been instrumental in increasing preserved natural lands on and around the mountain from 6,788 acres to more than 110,000 acres.
  • Also, see our History page.

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Q: Trail usage questions:

  • Save Mount Diablo is frequently asked whether we endorse recreational uses such as mountain biking, horse back riding, etc. given that they may damage trails or resources. Although it should be noted that SMD is not the land manager of most of Diablo's park lands, SMD holds many events and popularizes recreational activities. We believe appropriate management and education are necessary to balance impacts with resource protection. Park General Plans usually designate resource protection areas while other areas are designated for more intense recreational uses. All recreational uses have impacts on park resources, but recreational users also become park defenders and support expanded parks.
  • We support appropriate restrictions to protect sensitive resources such as avoidance or fencing of especially sensitive areas, careful trail design, seasonal trail or area closures (to protect nesting eagles and falcons for example). We also support restoration of over used areas and facilities.
  • Most importantly, we support expanded land preservation to balance increased population and use.

Q: What’s SMD’s position on grazing?

  • We’ve supported grazing in some places including on  many of our properties, and supported limiting it in others. 
  • Without a doubt grazing impacts resources  and affects recreational uses but it also helps with resource management--some endangered species require grazing and associated stock ponds, for example--and provides cost effective fire management in urban areas where other means (such as controlled burns) are  impossible or more difficult.  Impacts can be lessened with careful management; for example we often fence creek areas and encourage seasonal rather than year-round grazing. Ultimately the most over grazed parcel is better for resources than development and we try to maintain good relationships with ranchers from whom we buy most of our land.

Q: What does Save Mount Diablo do for local wild life?

  • Our top priority is to preserve land and wildlife corridors between parks. Secondly, we restore and enhance habitat through creek restoration, tree planting, etc.  The larger an area we can preserve the more wildlife benefits.  We sometimes reintroduce rare species, as we did with the endangered peregrine falcon.  We avoid trail building in some areas, and remove redundant fire roads in others.  We fence creek and springs.  We leave dead trees in place, which benefits many species. 
  • In development projects we work to decrease impacts on wildlife and to require wildlife benefits such as road undercrossings, new ponds and native revegetation.
  • One of the most significant things we do is to get involved in policies affecting management of parks to benefit wildlife.  When a piece of ranchland becomes parkland, for example, the primary purpose of grazing shifts to resource management.  Habitat is enhanced.  Did you know, for example, that despite all the development and habitat loss that has taken place in the past forty years, Diablo's parks have more robust wildlife populations now than they did then - primarily because of management changes.


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  Credits | Legal StatementCopyright 2012 Save Mount Diablo. Designed by Alison Martin. Funded by Clif Bar.