SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Bay has lost one of its staunchest defenders with the death Tuesday of Sylvia McLaughlin, co-founder of the non-profit Save The Bay Foundation.

McLaughlin along with friends Kate Kerr and Esther Gulick launched their pioneering environmental organization in 1961 to protect the San Francisco Bay Area shorelines from development.

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Because of the women’s activism, the California Legislature in 1965 created the Bay Conservation and Development Commission to regulate development and shoreline access.

The wife of a mining company executive on the UC Board of Regents, she used her charm, to make her case to protect the Bay.

The San Francisco Bay Area “is a national treasure, and yet we’re losing it,” she told the Contra Costa Times in 2005.

Their very first victory was to stop Berkeley’s plan to double the size of the city by filling in 2,000 acres of the bay.

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A few years later Governor Reagan signed into law the first coastal zone management agency to protect the bay.

“The fact that we still have a bay today is due in large part to Sylvia’s leadership in a time when there weren’t environmental leaders and there certainly weren’t women leading that kind of an effort,” Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis said.

McLaughlin also co-founded Urban Care and Citizens For East Shore Parks.

In 2012, the East Bay Regional Parks District designated McLaughlin Eastshore State Park” along an eight mile stretch through Berkeley and four other cities.

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Sylvia McLaughlin was 99.