Yerba Bioadvocacy - aka YerbaBio - is a fledgling non profit organization committed to raising awareness and appreciation of biodiversity, and to engaging everyday people for its conservation, protection, and restoration - what we call EcoCPR!
Conceived in 2016, YerbaBio engaged in only limited activities that year, with 2017 being our target for launching a formal website and ramping up efforts to extend our reach, build up our volunteer base, and increase our overall impact. Today we're still small, unincorporated, and entirely volunteer run, though our intent is to incorporate as a fully qualified 501c3 non profit in the future. And our goals are to grow year on year from our current level of a few hundred annual volunteer hours to somewhere in the thousands down the road, while enhancing the knowledge and effectiveness of partner organizations also engaged in EcoCPR.
Based in San Mateo County, California, YerbaBio operates primarily in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bioregion - roughly the area from San Francisco to San Jose to Santa Cruz and back to San Francisco. Limited activities also occur near Traverse City, Michigan, and Sarasota, Florida, during annual visits to those areas.
While we at YerbaBio value all forms of biodiversity, our background and experience includes a strong emphasis on native plants, including their identification, documentation, and conservation, as well as on habitat restoration through control of non-native plants. As a result, most of efforts are associated with plant related issues - see our Efforts page to learn more about what we do!
Biodiversity - in essence the vast, dizzying range of genetic, species, and ecosystem variations that bless our planet - lies at the heart of YerbaBio's philosophy and work. This amazing, complex, interconnected web of organisms and processes is both the foundation and full expression of life on Earth... and it's critical to our own existence as well!
Nourishing not just our bodies, this rich legacy of diversity is crucial in nourishing mind and spirit as well. Research consistently links exposure to and interaction with nature to improved mood, concentration, creativity, memory, and overall health - at our core we're built to recognize, and be sustained and exhilarated by, the biodiversity that surrounds us!
Alas, awareness of biodiversity's role in sustaining and enriching us and our planet is generally not on par with its true importance, with the result that human activities far too often have lasting negative impacts on biodiversity. And while some amount of ecosystem change is normal over time, research clearly shows that the immense scope and speed of change due to human activity far exceeds the norm, rivaled only by events like the mass extinction of the dinosaurs (and loads of other species) 65 million years ago!
Whether it's decimation of elephants for ivory, loss of ancient forests to unsustainable logging, or disappearance of native butterflies and bees from our own neighborhoods, the signals are clear - the biodiversity passed into our care by past generations is being pushed to the brink.
At YerbaBio we believe humans have a vital interest and moral responsibility to reverse this trend... to protect and restore biodiversity not just for our mere survival, but to ensure all future generations, human and non, the opportunity to experience the nourishment, wonder, and exhilaration of biodiversity at its fullest. In short, we believe Earth's biodiversity is precious and irreplaceable - in fact sacred - and its loss makes us, and all life, poorer for all generations to come.
These principles are the inspiration for YerbaBio's existence, and its efforts to advocate on behalf of biodiversity. Through such bioadvocacy we hope to raise awareness about biodiversity, its importance, and how we can all take steps to preserve it!
YerbaBio strives to inspire people to preserve biodiversity through three primary actions:
Conservation: Actively and intentionally setting aside natural resources to ensure their continued existence for future generations. This spans the range from establishing parks and other protected open spaces to minimizing negative impacts of land development to establishing areas and practices in our own yards that benefit biodiversity.
Protection: Working to protect biodiversity wherever it occurs. This includes protecting already conserved natural resources from future threats, establishing public policies that minimize impacts on the environment, and encouraging personal practices that benefit biodiversity.
Restoration: Taking steps to repair damaged or degraded natural resources and enhance their biodiversity and resilience. This includes work to restore the population sizes/ranges of rare species, repair of damaged resources such as streams and lakes, woodlands, and grasslands, which provide habitat for biodiverse ecosystems, and efforts to control non native species, which generally have a long term negative impact on overall biodiversity.
Together, YerbaBio calls these EcoCPR... their goal being to restore and maintain the natural rhythms of our biodiverse ecosystems when they've gone out of whack!
YerbaBio's strategic goal is to make biodiversity and EcoCPR both engaging and relevant to people from all walks of life - from every day citizen to land manager to policy maker and beyond. Our motto, Engaging People For EcoCPR, stresses our goal to not only engage others in our efforts, but also be engaging ourselves in how we do our work... the natural world fills us with exuberance and youthful wonder, and we hope it's contagious!
Ultimately we believe human impacts will only be changed for the benefit of biodiversity by harnessing the interest and energy of the public. And while global issues are important, we feel exposure to local nature stories and information, and involvement in local, hands on EcoCPR, are crucial to engaging people and enabling them to see the bigger picture as well.
In tandem with this we feel it's vital to directly engage and educate land managers and policy makers, to ensure they're as knowledgeable and effective as possible in protecting our local biodiversity and explaining the importance of such protection to their constituencies.
With an engaged public and knowledgeable decision makers, biodiversity stands a much better chance!
Drew Shell is YerbaBio's founder, leader, and Chief Biodiversity Advocate. In his own words:
"Though my education and professional background are in physics, math, electrical engineering, and computer science, I've also had a lifelong fascination with the natural world, dating back to childhood visits to the Detroit Zoo, or reading Ranger Rick magazine and learning the amazing story of Michigan's federally Endangered Kirtland's warbler.
This love of nature led to trips in the 1990s to far off places like the Himalayas, the Serengeti, and the South Pacific, but it was only in the late '90s and early 2000s that I really put down roots on the local landscape and got involved with conservation. Since then my activities have included:
All these activities have been deeply rewarding for me - I can't wait to build on them and add to the list through the work of YerbaBio!"
YerbaBio can be reached at...