San Francisco Department of the Environment

Biodiversity Program

The vision of the City's Biodiversity Program is that San Francisco is a place where our local biodiversity thrives in climate-resilient ecosystems that integrate healthy native wildlife and plant habitats throughout our city’s physical environment, connecting ALL San Franciscans to nature daily and inspiring stewardship of our unique natural heritage in every neighborhood.

Biodiversity Goals
Background and Need
Citywide Biodiversity Policy
City Biodiversity Programs

The Biodiversity Program advances collaboration for interagency conservation planning and management toward a comprehensive watershed- and ecosystem-based natural resources management and stewardship program. We facilitate ecological restoration of our wildlands and wildlife habitats and educate the public about our living natural heritage and local ecological stewardship opportunities.

Biodiversity Goals

  • Biologically Rich Ecosystems
  • Equitable Access, Awareness and Experience of Nature
  • Community and Ecological Stewardship
  • Ecological Planning and Design
  • Resilience in a Living City

Background and Need

In June 2005 the City and SF Environment hosted World Environment Day (WED), which was attended by delegates from dozens of cities around the world. Among the inspiring events was the Nature in the City Symposium, which showcased how conversations about urban ecological sustainability were missing the critical element of conservation of local ecology. Until that time, implementation of our sustainable city vision had not really included comprehensive planning for nature, wildlife and biodiversity.

The City has significant conservation-oriented policies, such as the Sustainability Plan, and the Environmental Protection and Open Space Elements of the General Plan, but open and natural lands in San Francisco are a fragmented patchwork owned by multiple different city departments. Many lands are unmanaged. Invasive species and other impacts threaten the biodiversity and web of life that remains in our wild lands.

View San Francisco's Biodiversity and Natural Resources Policy History >

A critical need existed for the City to create a collaborative biodiversity program to facilitate:  nature conservation and sustainable urban greening; restoration and management of our wild lands, flora and fauna; education of the public about our living natural heritage and the need and opportunities for stewardship, for the benefit of all future generations of San Franciscans.

A New Program

The City Charter, SEC. 4.118, which created both the Commission and the Department of Environment in 1996, states that the Commission may perform work in the area of “natural resources conservation” and “habitat restoration.” On November 22, 2011, the Commission adopted Resolution 2011-05-COE, which specifically acknowledged the importance of protecting, restoring, and enhancing the city’s biodiversity and directed SF Environment staff to seek funding for biodiversity staffing and programs. In December of 2012, SFE hired its first ever biodiversity staff person, who is working with the Department to create a robust biodiversity program for the City.

San Francisco Biodiversity Policy

On May 23, 2017, the Commission on the Environment unanimously adopted a resolution that articulates a citywide vision and five long-term goals for San Francisco's nature and biodiversity. The resolution establishes the tremendous need for urban biodiversity work, illustrates some of the ongoing colloborative initiatives by the City and its community partners, and articulates strategies for the Department of Environment to employ to implement the five citywide biodiversity goals.

2018 Board of Supervisors Resolution on Biodiversity

On April 17, 2018, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the San Francisco Biodiversity Policy, Resolution Establishing Local Biodiversity as a Citywide Priority, with a Framework for Interagency Collaboration for Nature-Based Initiatives. Supervisor Fewer's office issued a press release.


SF Environment Staff on June 15, 2006, just above Clipper Cove on Yerba Buena Island.

City Government and Biodiversity

The Biodiversity Program periodically convenes City employees from multiple City Departments to collaborate on the implementation of our City's biodiversity goals. If you are interested in learning more about this exciting collaborative work on behalf of San Franciscans, please contact [email protected]. The Department of Environment also staffs the Urban Forest Council.

Below are some City of San Francisco Departments that have biodiversity related programs:

Natural Resources Program (RPD)

The Natural Resources Program is the branch of the Recreation and Park Department responsible for managing the City’s Natural Areas. The mission of the Program is two-fold: to preserve, restore, and enhance remnant Natural Areas, and to develop and support community-based site stewardship of these areas.

Environmental Programs (Port of San Francisco)

The Port of San Francisco embraces environmental and community stewardship of the San Francisco Waterfront. To meet this commitment, the Port has dedicated a staff of professionals to manage environmental and land use planning activities.

Yerba Buena Island (Treasure Island Development Authority)

The Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) in collaboration with the Departmetn of the Environment is implementing the Habitat Management Plan for Yerba Buena Island as part oft he larger Treasure Island Redevelopment. Watch this short video of the natural treasures of Yerba Buena Island.

Green Connections (Planning Department)

Green Connections is a two-year project of the San Francisco Planning Department and will increase access to parks, open space and the waterfront, by re-envisioning City streets and paths as ‘green connectors’ and wildlife corridors. This project builds on current efforts to create sustainable corridors that enhance mobility, green neighborhood streets, and improve pedestrian and bicycle access to community amenities and recreational opportunities. The Green Connections plan comes with a useful community resource guide.

Recreation and Open Space Element

The Planning Department facilitated an update to the Recreation and Open Space Element of the City’s General Plan, which provides a 20 year vision and plan for open space in the City.

San Francisco's Urban Watersheds (SFPUC)

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has several programs in which nature and biodiversity play a significant role.

Street Parks Program (Public Works)

Sreet Parks is a partnership between DPW, the San Francisco Parks Alliance and the residents of San Francisco to develop and create community managed gardens on public rights of way owned by DPW. The Street Parks program transforms vacant lots into gardens, trash and illegal dumping spots into greenery, and hillsides into parks. Since its inception in 2004, 100 community gardens have been developed and many more are in progress.

Urban Forest Plan

The Planning Department, in collaboration with the Department of Public Works and Friends of the Urban Forest, is creating a plan to promote San Francisco's urban forest with a primary focus on street trees. The Urban Forest Plan will identify policies and strategies to proactively manage and grow the City’s street tree population.

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco International Airport's West-of-Bayshore property is approximately 180 acres of undeveloped land across the Bayshore Freeway from the airport. Nearly the entire parcel was at one time part of the San Francisco baylands supporting extensive tidal salt marshes, sloughs and seasonal wetlands. The property now supports populations of two federally listed endangered species; the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog.