Butterflies & Bulldozers
David Schooley, Fred Smith and the Fight for San Bruno Mountain
The fight to save San Francisco's San Bruno Mountain speaks to the global dilemma of economic growth versus species preservation.
Directed by Ann Dunsky
Produced by Ann Dunsky and Steve Dunsky
Written by Steve Dunsky
Editor: Ann Dunsky
Co-producers: Keith Moreau, Sam Ellis Moreau, David L. Brown
Videographer: Keith Moreau
This film deals with the global dilemma of economic growth versus species preservation.
"A brilliant film portrayal of environmental politics in America." Jeffrey K. Stine, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
San Bruno Mountain provides a context to explore these complex questions. The mountain is San Francisco's lost landscape, a mostly intact remnant of the ecosystem that once covered the city's hills. It is the site of the nation's first Habitat Conservation Plan, a controversial compromise that trades development for additional habitat preservation and management.
For fifty years, people have fought to protect San Bruno Mountain and its rare butterflies. Told with humor and insight by participants and observers alike, BUTTERFLIES & BULLDOZERS is a story about the rights of nature and the rights of people, about compromise and commitment, and the tough choices we all have to make.
Grade Level: 9-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2011
Copyright Date: 2010
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-902-X
"A wonderful retelling of one of the creation stories of American environmentalism, Butterflies and Bulldozers documents the vision, activism and compromise which led to the preservation of San Bruno Mountain...Through the lens of this one struggle, the film captures themes in the broader transformation of our approach to nature over the past half-century. Against the background of breathtaking beauty, the filmmakers capture first-person accounts of the fight to save the mountain. This is a story that will speak to our grandchildren long after we are gone."
Federico Cheever, Professor of Law, University of Denver, co-Author, Natural Resources Law: A Place-Book of Problems and Cases
"San Bruno Mountain is the nation's largest undeveloped urban area, yet for many it remains hidden in plain sight on the San Francisco peninsula. Butterflies and Bulldozers captures the drama, passion, and commitment of the ongoing citizen-led efforts to protect this natural oasis and its endangered species. A brilliant film portrayal of environmental politics in America."
Jeffrey K. Stine, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
"Butterflies and Bulldozers offers a rare glimpse inside the persistent challenges that confront efforts to protect the natural environment of a particular place...The film tells the engaging story of one mountain, but its lessons apply to preservation efforts everywhere. Most vividly, Butterflies and Bulldozers shows the struggle to balance the competing desires for special ecosystems and new homes--a struggle that is evident from the film's opening quotation of Aldo Leopold's reminder that it is never clear how much to compromise to its concluding reflections on the tradeoffs between more development and more conservation funding."
John Copeland Nagle, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame, Author, Law's Environment: How the Law Shapes the Places We Live
"A primer on habitat protection and the role of compromise for citizen and environmental activists. This is a classic David and Goliath tale of grassroots activism that pits the future of an endangered species against a community's need for housing and developers' efforts to bulldoze an urban ecosystem. The archival footage, personal interviews with activists, and contemporary satellite mapping provide incredible context for this story."
Dr. Jacqueline Vaugh, Professor of Political Science, Northern Arizona University, Author, Conflicts in Natural Resources
"Informative and poignant...Gives a real sense of the space at issue, the protagonists who have made its cause their own, and why they have done this. It also shows how this very local case became involved in the evolution of the federal Endangered Species Act and gives insightful perspectives into the operation of this act...I recommend it strongly."
Dr. Geoffrey Heal, Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility, Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School, Director, Union of Concerned Scientists, Author, Nature and the Marketplace and When Principles Pay
"A compelling story about people and pollinators, and an inspirational force of Bay residents determined to stop the senseless desecration of nature. The San Bruno State and County Park is an ecological jewel surrounded by a sea of 10 million people. Yet its ants, bees and rare butterflies work in concert enabling this exquisite sliver of wildlands the opportunity to exist--providing healthy air while its trillions of soil fauna and flora miraculously filter fog-drip and rainwater supporting the perpetual, timeless dance within nature's tapestry of life."
Earth Dr. Reese Halter, award-winning broadcaster, scientist at California Lutheran University, Founder of Global Forest Science, Author, The Insatiable Bark Beetle
"Butterflies and Bulldozers offers no uplifting resolutions, nor should it. It accepts as a given the tangled process whereby we struggle to integrate ourselves into natural systems even though our efforts invariably come up short. It reveals the paradoxes that motivate impassioned environmental activism, and that can also make it such a disruptive force. The documentary suggests, too, that while Homo sapiens are nature's most invasive species, we may be its only hope."
Char Miller, Director and Professor, Environmental Analysis, Pomona College, Editor, Cities and Nature in the American West, KCET.org
"A compelling story that captures the sometimes painful choices that the local conservationists have to make. Though the film is about a local issue, it is a national story told well."
Forest History Today
"Butterflies and Bulldozers questions the morality of compromise. Is it acceptable when a threatened species is at risk? Can a valuable species be saved if part of its habitat is destroyed? Where do you draw the line? It's very likely that this film's audience will be left contemplating these questions for a long time after the credits stop rolling."
The Wildlife Society
"Inspiring...An engrossing tale that demonstrates the the myriad issues informing modern conservation practice...Brimming with humor and visual beauty...The story presents the wide-reaching challenges to federal laws and the damaged alliances and friendships in a balanced way that allows viewers to arrive at their own conclusions about the best direction forward. Highly recommended for public library collections, high school science and service learning programs, and college-level media collections."
School Library Journal
"In a city where environmentalism and conservationism go hand in hand, nothing has been more controversial than San Bruno Mountain...[Butterflies and Bulldozers is] an entertaining yet poignant film about compromise and commitment in the environmental movement."
Brad Eden, University of California-Santa Barbara, Educational Media Reviews Online
"[A] captivating, even-handed documentary enthusiastically recommended especially for high school and public library DVD collections."
The Midwest Book Review
"Local groups concerned with maintaining environmental quality should see this film and it should be shown in college classes on environmental science and conservation."
Frank M. Truesdale, Louisiana State University, Science Books and Films
Includes SDH Captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
The Film's Website
Awards and Festivals
2012 Science Books & Films Best List
Best Mountain Film Award, Mountain Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
Environmental Film Festival In The Nation's Capital
Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival
Ekofilm, Czech Republic
American Conservation Film Festival
Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival
Sacramento International Film Festival
Wine Country Film Festival
San Francisco Green Film Festival
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Blue Planet Film Fest
Citizenship and Civics
Urban and Regional Planning
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"The film has extraordinary depth and nuance, rare these days when people feel they have to scream to be heard."
Malcolm Margolin, Publisher, Heyday Books
"Filmmakers Ann and Steve Dunsky describe the ultimate conservation dilemma...Butterflies and Bulldozers is a case study for conservation leaders who struggle every day over decisions that can literally affect the survival of a species."
Bill Meadows, President, The Wilderness Society
"A story that illustrates how deeply the land affects the people living on and around it. Rarely has this story been told so beautifully...as in this treasure of a film."
Sally D. Collins, Director, USDA Office of Environmental Markets