REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Since 1962, Green Foothills has served as a guardian for the open spaces, farmlands, and natural resources of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. If it wasn't for their advocacy, much of the nature and wildlife that's characteristic of these areas wouldn't exist.
"It's critical to protect nature in this area because once it's gone, it's gone, we can't bring it back," said Ian Bain, the Board President of Green Foothills. "That's why when open space is up for development we do everything we can to protect that open space and make it accessible to the public."
The nonprofit organization is on the pulse of emerging and ongoing local land use issues involving open space. When a threat or opportunity arises, Green Foothills rapidly engages and educates decision-making leaders, while mobilizing community members to preserve nature.
As a result, land management agencies and organizations are better able to permanently protect natural areas at risk of development.
"To date, we've protected more than 185,000 acres in the two counties," said Bain. "When good people step up and advocate for things that they believe in, our local elected leaders listen."
The organization's many environmental victories help promote a regional "greenbelt," providing places where community members can connect with nature and threatened wildlife can find homes.
Inspired by the organization's historic legacy and its Legislative Advocate, Lennie Roberts, who has championed causes with Green Foothills for 50 years and counting, Bain decided to join the team.
"I grew up here in this beautiful Bay Area, and I've always connected with nature. We all need that time to be out there in nature and take a break," said Bain. "We have a program called 'Healing in Nature,' so people go out, and they can meditate and do guided tours, and just really experience everything that nature has to offer."
He added, "And then, when they really appreciate it, they go out and they advocate for it."
Currently, Green Foothills is working to restore the Redwood City salt ponds and protect Juristac, a sacred site for the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band located in Santa Clara County.
Salt companies once used the ponds to harvest salt. However, now that this process is no longer needed, a massive city-size development has been proposed for the 1,400-acre salt pond area.
Green Foothills is working to restore the ponds to wetlands, which would serve as a wildlife habitat for hundreds of species. Associate Marketing Director for Green Foothills, Jenny Green told ABC7 that wetlands also act like sponges, soaking up rising seas and protecting nearby communities from flooding.
In addition, the nonprofit is combating an open-pit sand and gravel mine that has been proposed for development on Juristac or Sargent Ranch.
"Juristac is 400 acres of rolling hills and grasslands that are sacred to the Amah Mutsun tribe," said Bain. "Our advocates, following the lead of our tribal partners, go to local jurisdictions, provide facts to elected officials, and have conversations with them."
He added, "And our hope is that they will pass resolutions in support of keeping Juristac (an) open space."
This week, Alice Kaufman, the Green Foothills Policy and Advocacy Director, spoke at a Mountain View City Council meeting regarding the future of Juristac. The council unanimously adopted a resolution urging Santa Clara County officials to deny permits for an open-pit mine.
The resolution is one step in a long campaign that Green Foothills hopes will result in the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors denying the mining permit in favor of the permanent protection of Juristac.
The year 2062 marks the 100th anniversary of Green Foothills. Looking ahead, the non-profit envisions a greener future as a result of its advocacy.
"As we look at where it makes sense to build things, we have to take a look at where it doesn't make sense to build things," said Bain. "We've always got to make sure that as the region changes that we're doing it in harmony with nature."
To learn more, visit the Green Foothills website.
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If you're looking to amplify your environmental advocacy, apply for the Green Foothills' leadership program.
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