By Alissa Patterson
Marin Park Stewardship Intern
In honor of Pride month in June, let’s emphasize and celebrate the importance of healthy people and healthy ecosystems! When we cannot be ourselves, we are not in our healthiest state. The same goes for ecosystems.
Although the LGBTQ+ community should be appreciated every day, June is a time to recognize the impact this incredible community has had on the world, while honoring its diversity and resiliency. LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. According to the United Nations, human rights are connected, and the freedom of one person supports the freedom of another, “whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination.”
We can extend these rights to ecosystems as well, especially the right of self-determination, which allows them to go through natural successionary phases. Four countries have already done so. Ecuador and Bolivia grant nature rights to restoration, regeneration, and respect, India’s Ganges River was recently granted human rights, and New Zealand’s Whanganui River is a person under domestic law. We’ve already extended human rights to animals by way of the Endangered Species Act, so is it really such a stretch to apply them to ecosystems? The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and our partners like the National Park Service (NPS) have extended some of these rights by saving and stewarding habitats in our national parks, returning them to thriving states.
One particular ecosystem in the Bay Area that has been restored after a lack of self-determination is the beloved Muir Beach and Redwood Creek, which is home to many imperiled species such as coho salmon, steelhead trout, California red-legged frogs, and western pond turtles. Decades of redwood logging, grazing, and farming, introduction of invasive species, and development at and near Muir Beach took a severe toll on the area, particularly at Redwood Creek.
All this interference caused habitat fragmentation, poor flow and sediment conveyance, flooding, and inadequate habitat for juvenile salmon and trout. In 1972 the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was founded, and the federal goverment began purchasing land in the watershed. Cattle grazing and farming within the watershed was put to an end in 1995. Since then, restoration projects such as creating side backwater channels, adding large woody debris to newly created ponds, and removing invasive species have helped improve the ecological functionality of Redwood Creek and surrounding floodplain and riparian areas. Through love, stewardship and community care, Muir Beach continues to move towards a better thriving state for its original species. The Parks Conservancy, NPS, and other partners have done so much to restore the salmon habitat at Muir Beach, and the population numbers we are seeing now are reflective of that.
Similarly, Pride is such a positive time for the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the Bay Area where there are dozens of political advocacy, safety, and youth organizations such as LYRIC, a center for LGBTQ+ youth that work towards a better thriving environment for the community.
Preservation of diversity allows for more resilient communities and ecosystems. By supporting LGBTQ+ people you know and volunteering in the parks, you can play a role in creating healthy communities and ecosystems by protecting their freedom. Let us rip away harmful criticisms of identity and originality, like the invasive plants they are. May the native plant in you bloom and grow up towards the sun just as the ones we plant and protect in our Bay Area parks.