May 9th, 2012 by

San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWS Pacific Southwest Region/ Flickr

You may have noticed that we have a strong female presence on our blog. It got me thinking about all the environmentally minded women that have blazed a trail for us, the likes of Rachel Carson, Vandana Shiva and Wangari Maathai. I recently heard about another woman who should be on that list. Her life’s work has been dedicated to improving wetlands and wildlife habitat in the San Francisco Bay area. Her name is Florence LaRiviere. Tomorrow, the 88 year old will be presented the 2012 National Wetlands Award for Wetland Community Leader of the Year by the Environmental Law Institute.

Florence and her family would frequently visit the San Francisco Bay area in the 1950s to watch the birds and wildlife in the tidal marshes. Over the years, she noticed that the wetlands were diminishing as a result of nearby development. The thriving habitat once full of wildlife was quickly disappearing, making way for golf courses and an airport. Recognizing the need for wetland protection, Florence and her husband Philip helped coordinate a group that advocated for what would become the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in 1972. It was the nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge. The refuge is now part of a complex of seven national wildlife refuges and protects 30,000 acres of wetlands in the San Francisco Bay area, including the LaRiviere Marsh Trail that’s named in her honor.

Florence and Philip walk through the LaRiviere Marsh. Credit: San Francisco Chronicle/Darryl Bush

Thanks to Florence’s efforts to restore the refuge, wildlife is slowly returning to the area. The refuge serves as critical habitat to species like the endangered California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. Located along the Pacific Flyway, the refuge also hosts hundreds of migratory bird species throughout the year. Even at the seasoned age of 88, LaRiviere says there’s no stopping her now. “Despite the years I’ve put in, I still look forward to working on the wetlands,” LaRiviere told Palo Alto Online. “The refuge is not yet complete, and there are remaining issues to be addressed. Today, some of the beautiful marshlands of Newark and Redwood City are being threatened.”

It appears, like the old saying goes, that a woman’s work is never done.