Save Mount Diablo’s accomplishments this past year cap a half-century of success in protecting land on and around Mount Diablo. December 7 marks our 50th anniversary of working to save this precious region for future generations.
When Save Mount Diablo was formed on December 7, 1971, the mountain was home to just one 6,788-acre park. Today, thanks to Save Mount Diablo and our partners, there are more than 50 parks and preserves around the mountain north of Altamont Pass, totaling over 120,000 conserved acres. What a legacy—and thanks to you we continue to build on it in important, lasting, and visionary ways!
We offer this year’s impact report in gratitude to our donors, who have made it all possible, and as a pledge to the next generation, who will carry the torch of land protection for those yet to come.
With your help, this year we completed our Forever Wild Campaign, which raised $15 million to save 1,681 acres amid a surge of development in the East Bay.
The campaign has also seeded a robust new Stewardship Endowment Fund while substantially growing our Legal Defense Fund. These investments will help sustain our organization’s land conservation work for years to come.
By the end of 2021, Save Mount Diablo will have exercised its option to permanently protect 154 acres of private land on North Peak’s face with a perpetual conservation easement on a scenic sweep of oak woodland and meadow owned by the Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association. The new conservation easement will preserve sensitive habitat, maintain views for public enjoyment, create links with other protected properties, and keep a mile-long corridor safe for wildlife to forage, reproduce, and migrate on in perpetuity, which is a long time!
With your support, we are standing up against powerful interests on behalf of our Diablo natural lands.
It took years of active advocacy by Save Mount Diablo and its partners to keep off-highway vehicles out of Tesla Park. Finally, in September of this year, California’s governor signed a law protecting the park’s 3,100 acres of pristine open space near Livermore from OHV development. Now, this important part of the Diablo Range wildlife corridor can continue to sustain incredible wildlife like golden eagles and mountain lions.
After years of using public advocacy to fight the Faria Project—a housing development that would destroy the scenic ridgetop between Concord and Pittsburg—Save Mount Diablo was forced to file a lawsuit. We are challenging the City of Pittsburg’s unlawful approval of a proposal by a Seeno company to build more than 1,600 houses on over 600 acres atop the prominent hills between Pittsburg and Concord, above the new regional park that Save Mount Diablo successfully advocated for over many years. This is an ongoing, critical issue. Stay tuned.
Thanks to you, we designed and launched a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to address climate change on multiple levels.
Land trusts play a key role in the struggle to confront our warming climate. Because grasses and trees help keep carbon from entering the atmosphere, land trusts like Save Mount Diablo are in the vanguard of climate action. Shouldering this responsibility, in 2021 Save Mount Diablo moved climate action to the top of our agenda. Our new Climate Action Plan sets goals for every facet of our work, from advocacy and acquisition to stewardship and education. It also serves as a model for peer organizations.
As a start, this summer we launched our 10,000 Trees and Plants Project by committing to protect or plant 10,000 native trees and plants in the next 10 years. Thanks to you, we will reach our target of 1,000 plantings for this first year of the project, and we are eager to meet the challenge for the coming years.
With your help, our staff and our dedicated stewardship volunteers (who volunteered more than 700 hours in the field this year) bolstered our lands’ defenses against drought, fire, and public misuse.
With unprecedented wildfires engulfing California, Save Mount Diablo took extra steps to “fire-proof” our properties. We not only applied fire-abatement measures to control fuels, but this year we also assisted Contra Costa Fire with access and grading of fire roads on our Anderson Ranch property.
Extended drought means thirsty plants. Save Mount Diablo’s hardworking volunteers installed hundreds of drought-resistant, native bunchgrasses, shrubs, and trees and then kept the new plantings alive by hauling water to them in the summer heat and keeping them free of invasive weeds.
The pandemic continued to push people out of their houses and into nature last year. To keep both people and outdoor spaces safe and healthy, Save Mount Diablo stepped up property monitoring and management, maintained trails, and did lots of cleanup. We removed graffiti from rock-climbing sites in Pine Canyon, for example, and on Coastal Cleanup Day we hauled 250 pounds of trash out of Kirker Creek.
We gave a helping hand to wildlife throughout the year, working with our partners at Lindsay Wildlife to find good habitat for ground squirrels and to release kestrels and other raptors into suitable territory. We joined the Bay Area’s monarch mapping project, and we remained vigilant over all listed species that call Mount Diablo home.
With your support, our Education and Outreach programs offered welcoming and vibrant opportunities for people to learn about and connect with the natural world. We are building the bench for nature!
Our Conservation Collaboration Agreement programs reached 200 students in 2021, providing hands-on experiences on our properties and nurturing the students’ connection to the outdoors. When COVID prevented in-person field days, students completed environmental service projects such as planting natives and picking up trash around their neighborhoods or local parks.
We developed and taught a land conservation course for the fall semester at California State University, East Bay. History of Land Conservation Nationally and in the Mount Diablo Area, the Original and Future Stewards, and Careers in the Field was so popular that it will be offered to students again next spring (and is already fully enrolled).
Our Nature Heals and Inspires online program continued with an impressive roster of scientists, naturalists, artists, eco-therapists, and other experts. More than 2,076 people registered to join the community of enthusiasts who gather to learn and connect around nature online.
Save Mount Diablo’s new series, The Diablo Range Revealed: Insights from the Fire Zone, explores life in the Diablo Range after 2020’s huge SCU fires. The series received more than 12,000 pageviews on our website this past year.
We’ve been preparing to open our first-ever educational preserve! The Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve will open to the public in spring 2022. Groups (local schools, churches, photography classes, yoga classes, etc.) will be able to reserve the property free of charge for educational purposes in an intimate nature setting.
New offerings have expanded the Discover Diablo free hikes program. Bilingual hikes, rock climbing, mountain biking, and more are now available to connect a wider circle of outdoor user groups to Diablo’s natural lands. More than 350 people took advantage of Discover Diablo this year.
Save Mount Diablo awarded four small grants supporting important research through its Mary Bowerman Science and Research Program. Awardees explored the worlds of kestrels, ground squirrels, and fish in the Diablo area—deepening the knowledge base that supports our work.
Our annual BioBlitz revealed striking post-fire findings within the footprint of the 2020 SCU (Santa Clara Unit) fires. More than 100 researchers and citizen scientists participated in the two-week event. Although more than 1,900 observations were recorded, the discovery of a rare fire poppy east of Mount Diablo marked the high point. This California endemic plant is a rare gem and one of the most sought-after fire followers.
Thanks to you, we earned national recognition this year!
In August, Save Mount Diablo earned an important recognition and distinction, receiving its renewed national land trust accreditation—something only a minority of our country’s nonprofit land trusts have achieved. Save Mount Diablo provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission prior to receiving accreditation. This award, which is good for five years, proves again that Save Mount Diablo is committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in its land conservation work. Save Mount Diablo first earned national accreditation in 2016.
We are so grateful for you, and we hope you take pride in what you helped us accomplish this year. With you by our side, we move into the new year knowing we can continue to do great things to further the amazing 50-year legacy of Save Mount Diablo!
Top photo by Scott Hein.