Wild Habitat Conservation

The Open Space Element of the City’s General Plan (as amended in 1991) requires the City to preserve and protect the Significant Natural Resource Areas (Policy 13). Policy 13 includes natural resource areas and naturalistic areas as potential protection and preservation areas. The policy identifies the following criteria used to determine a Significant Natural Resource Area: (1) relatively undisturbed remnants of San Francisco’s original landscape that either support diverse and significant indigenous plant and wildlife habitats or contain rare geologic formations or riparian zones; (2) sites that contain rare, threatened, or endangered species or areas likely to support these species; and (3) areas that are adjacent to other protected natural resource areas.

The policy further stipulates that management plans be developed for each of the natural areas. Specifically, the policy describes the need to:

  • identify natural areas and inventory them;
  • identify the presence of natural resources;
  • describe practices such as exotic plant species removal; and
  • identify policies governing access and recreational uses to ensure that natural resource values are not diminished by public use.

If a plant or animal species, plant community or specific wildlife habitat of sufficient import is discovered that is not identified in the management plan, then the Recreation and Park Commission must approve any significant change in allowable uses or tree removal or approve any change in allowable access deemed necessary for protection or enhancement of the newly identified area.


Mission Blue Butterfly

With U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s permission, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) successfully released a group of 60 Mission blue butterflies from San Bruno Mountain on top of Twin Peaks in 2011, part of a wildlife restoration project to replenish the butterfly’s population in its native habitat in San Francisco.

In spring of 2009, RPD’s Natural Areas Program transferred 22 female Mission Blue Butterflies from San Bruno Mountain to Twin Peaks. Two years after the initial relocation, RPD has documented the presence of Mission blue eggs, larvae and adults during surveys conducted in 2011 demonstrating that habitat on Twin Peaks can successfully support the full life cycle of the butterfly.

SFRPD has been in partnership with the California Native Plant Society, Nature in the City, REI and many nature advocates to repair the habitat for the Mission Blue on Twin Peaks. Many thousands of lupines and other native wildflowers, crucial host and nectar plants were planted for the butterflies, and weeds were removed from grassland habitat, which contributed to restoration of the native grasslands that have been necessary for the Mission Blue Butterflies’ survival in San Francisco Twin Peaks.

Urbanization and the spread of invasive plant species have severely reduced the viable Mission blue habitat within San Francisco. In 1976, the federal government listed the Mission blue butterfly as an endangered species and granted it special protection under the law. While the initial success in establishment of the Mission blue butterfly on Twin Peaks is encouraging, the status of the population will remain tenuous until the population grows large enough to sustain itself. The Department’s goal is to reach population sizes comparable to those observed in the past – on the order of several hundred butterflies 1980s. Larger numbers of butterflies are necessary to avoid a genetic bottleneck from damaging this small, fragile population.

The public are encouraged to walking on designated paths and not trampling vegetation, riding bicycles on paved paths and roadways only, keeping pets on leash when walking on trails and preventing them from digging and defecating in Mission Blue territory.

Mission Blues are an exceptionally striking butterfly breed. The upper wings of the males a vivid iridescent blue, a color rarely found in nature. Tiny—with a wingspan just over an inch—their habitat niche is very windy hilltops in a few Bay Area locations, notably San Bruno Mountain and the Marin Headlands. The decline of lupine on Twin Peaks contributed to their disappearance from San Francisco.

More on the release of the Mission Blue Butterflies on Twin Peaks, please visit SF Chronicle’s Photo Documentary.


SFRPD partnered with San Francisco Animal Care and Control, and Project Coyote to host special educational events to help the City’s residents living with coyotes. At these events, residents learn about coyote biology, their behavior, and the beneficial role coyotes play in our urban ecosystems. More about the partnerships, please read SF Chronicle’s Article: Coping with Coyotes in ‘Wilds’ of San Francisco.

The goals of the partnerships are to explain the reason why lethal coyote control does not work, and the common causes of negative encounters and how residents can avoid them. More about Project Coyote, please visit http://projectcoyote.org/

Red-Tailed Hawk

During the fall of 2011, SFRPD partnered with Wild Rescue to search and rescue an injured red-tailed hawk. The bird was captured and nurtured under the care of Wild Rescue. When the bird recovered, it was released at SFRPD’s Botanical Garden. Since then the bird has been seen around Golden Gate Park. More about Wild Rescue, please visit http://wild-bytes.blogspot.com/