College of Science

About Habitat Stewardship Project, Monterey Bay



Habitat Stewardship Project, Monterey Bay (HSPMB), formerly known as Return of the Natives, began in 1994 as the brainchild of a small group of Salinas educators who believed that schoolyards should be covered in less asphalt and more greenspace. These educators saw a trend towards school grounds becoming cold and lifeless spaces, large expanses of asphalt and cement and sought to change that. HSPMB began with a vision of schools that were as vibrant and interesting on the outside as they were on the inside, with opportunities for outdoor learning. Somehow, opportunities for kids to enjoy and play in nature had nearly disappeared.

Around the same time, a small group of scientists from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories began to document changes in the bay. Red tides, invasive species, saltwater intrusion, and pollution were signs that the watersheds that drain into the bay were suffering. As the saying goes, “all water flows downhill” bringing with it pollutants, seeds, and garbage. These scientists knew that the only way to reverse the damage was to travel up into our watersheds, work to restore them, and teach local communities about the importance of watersheds in our daily lives. This was the beginning of the Watershed Institute.

As luck would have it, these two groups of teachers and scientists found each other and decided that they could achieve great things by working together. The Watershed Institute was founded at the new University on the old Fort Ord Army Base. What better place for a new institute devoted to environmental science and education than California State University Monterey Bay?

Teachers, students, and community members participating in HSPMB would help the scientists of the Watershed Institute by growing native plants for restoration, learning about local ecology and watersheds, and becoming environmental stewards. Local schools began replacing asphalt landscapes with greenhouses and gardens, teachers started attending workshops on the HSPMB “Cycle of Restoration”, and students got to bring their lovingly grown seedlings to plant in local parks and public lands on restoration field trips.

HSPMB volunteers continue to clean up and restore our creeks, rivers, and streams, improving not only our watersheds and marine sanctuary but quality of life for all who live in the communities across Monterey County. Many of HSPMB’s restoration sites are located within the Bureau of Land Management Fort Ord Public Lands, the Creeks of Salinas, CA State Parks, and Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District lands.

2022-2023 Projects

Yippee! Habitat Stewardship Project, Monterey Bay (HSPMB) is looking forward to a busy year of "bringing people to nature and nature to people". Here's what we are we will up to:

We are really going to need weekend volunteers to plant thousands of natives at Ft. Ord National Monument, at the Marina Dunes Preserve, on the CSUMB Campus.  Our Creeks of Salinas and Carr Lake sites will also need hands for clean-up, weeding, and some planting.

HSPMB will be "Getting Back to our Roots" as we help schools create outdoor learning environments/gardens on their school sites.  

Eco-Ambassadors, all 4th and 5th graders in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School Districts will be exploring their school sites and going on HSPMB field trips to the dunes.  

Back at the greenhouse, we will be propagating about 15,000 native plants ready for the HSPMB stewardship field trips and weekend events.  DONS, our Tuesday, volunteer crew will be super busy.  And we eagerly await the return of our Green Thumbs Volunteer Groups.

We couldn't do anything with our student crew of HSPMB Assistants, who work in the greenhouses, go to schools, lead field trips and weekend events.