Campus wins environmental accolades


A student impersonates a spoonbill at a campus event organized to raise awareness of the endangered bird.

16 January 2002 |

The Berkeley campus has received high marks for environmental achievements from two organizations, the National Wildlife Foundation and Goodthings, Inc., an online publication that highlights positive ideas.

In its first-ever “national report card” on environmental performance of U.S. campuses, the National Wildlife Federation lauded Berkeley for its exemplary lands and grounds management. And a group organized by students and faculty at Berkeley and the National Taiwan University received Goodthings’ first “Little Engine That Could” award for its persistent efforts to protect the endangered black-faced spoonbill.

Exemplary grounds management
Schools honored by the National Wildlife Federation excelled in at least four of the following programs: habitat restoration, native landscaping, identification and removal of invasive exotic species, integrated pest management, and provision of food and shelter to attract wildlife.

The Berkeley campus is known for its natural beauty, hillsides of native trees and meandering creek. It has also been a leader in integrated pest management since the 1970s, noted Margaret Hurlbert, acting director of pest management for the campus.

Hurlbert said campus crews rely on innovative methods of pest control, using the least toxic and least harmful pesticides to maintain vegetation and landscaping.

The campus also strives to protect its natural assets, such as Strawberry Creek, by preserving them as an educational resource for the public, said Jim Horner, the campus’s landscape architect.

The creek is enjoyed by the public and is used as an outdoor laboratory by elementary and high school classes to examine environmental issues and issues of landscape design, engineering and ecology. Landscape and facililties management crews take great care to remove invasive, non-native plants where possible along the creek and replace them with native plants.

A walking guide to plant and animal life, as well as man-made landmarks along the creek, is available on the Web at

Saving the spoonbill
SAVE International — a small but feisty group founded by students, faculty and staff — received a “Favorite Good Things of 2001” award, one of 25 issued by Goodthings, Inc., for work on behalf of the world’s 800 remaining black-faced spoonbills.

“SAVE confirms late anthropologist Margaret Mead’s prescient words: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,’” the magazine wrote.

Founded in 1997, SAVE has crusaded relentlessly to protect the odd yet elegant black-faced spoonbill from the projected harms of a petrochemical plant, proposed for construction near its wintering habitat of wetlands, ponds and mangrove forests in southwestern Taiwan. Plans call for constructing the Bin-nan plant a few kilometers from the spoonbills’ roosting area, considered the most critical habitat for the bird’s survival.

SAVE enlisted the assistance of grassroots groups in Taiwan, including fishermen and environmentalists, and a key Taiwanese legislator just elected a province magistrate in the spoonbill region of the country.

The organization proposes setting aside much of the wetlands as a preserve and promoting ecotourism as an economic alternative to the Bin-nan project.

Group leader Randy Hester, a Berkeley professor of landscape architecture, said he is heartened by the enthusiastic response from fishermen and entrepreneurs in the region around the spoonbill’s winter home. When SAVE began, he said, about a dozen birdwatchers could be found searching for the spoonbill on winter weekends.

Boat tours, he said, now take passengers out to look at crabs, explore salt mines, buy fresh fish, visit temples, and see the spoonbills.

“It’s become a major destination for day tourism,” Hester said.

Last year, more than a million-and-a-half people came to watch the bird during its stopover in Taiwan.


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