For almost forty years the Sonoma County Conservation Council and the Sierra Club Sonoma Group have held an annual Environmental Awards Dinner to honor the visionary men and women who work to protect the environment in Sonoma County. This year, there are nine nominees for three awards and one special awardee. Fuller descriptions of the awards and of each nominee’s work can be found here.
Nominees for Environmentalist of the Year
John Branscome, aka Jurassic John, volunteers his knowledge and love of nature several times a week to introduce students to the natural world around them, and contributes his many handyman skills to the upkeep of facilities for nature-oriented nonprofits.
Richard Dale, director of the Sonoma Ecology Center, has an impressive talent for creating partnerships to tackle difficult local problems. One example of these imaginative partnerships is Team Sugarloaf, a five-nonprofit coalition that has kept Sugarloaf Ridge State Park open and maintained during the state’s budget crisis.
Stephen Fuller-Rowell is a co-founder of the Sonoma County Water Coalition. The Coalition has successfully brought together water activists throughout the county, no simple task. Together they work on forging and advocating solutions for the complicated and controversial problems of local water. Stephen’s skills of research, writing, engagement and collaboration provide an essential support for the Water Coalition.
Chris Poehlmann, president of Friends of the Gualala River, has worked for decades to protect the watersheds and forests of the northwest County, which are threatened by the expansion of vineyards into hilly forested land. His perserverance and leadership were essential to stopping two recent projects – the huge ‘Preservation Ranch’ project, now a conservation preserve, and the Artesa vineyard near Annapolis.
Nominees for Environmental Education Program Award
STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed), based in Petaluma, trains teachers how to teach their students about watershed health and stream restoration. Classes then go out into the field and carry out restoration projects, showing students how environmental problems can be solved using knowledge and direct action. Under director Laurette Rogers, almost 35,000 students have participated in restoring over 450 sites and 30 miles of habitat.
Ceres Community Project (Cathryn Couch, director) is an innovative program based in Sebatopol which combines teaching teens how to cook and grow food with bringing meals to low income cancer patients at home. Ceres teaches more than 300 youth annually the broad and deep connections between the health of our community and planet.
Nominees for the Ernestine I. Smith Award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement
Guy Conner worked side-by-side with his late wife, State Senator Pat Wiggins to achieve many advances in environmental protection, and has been a persistent, skilled advocate for the environment in the Sonoma County political arena. Guy is a long-time board member of many important environmental groups, helping to forward their work in the county. He has been active in every significant environmental campaign in Sonoma County since 1984, such as the passing of funding for the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and the Urban Growth Boundary for Santa Rosa.
Jim Doerksen was one of the first people in the county to protect his land through the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District in 1990. He has restored his property over decades, planting over a million trees on it, and opened it for use by the public interested in nature conservation since 1970. He is now fighting to protect the watershed of Mark West Creek from vineyard overdevelopment, in order to keep water and fish in the creek.
Anne Teller is the matriarch of Oak Hill Farm near Glen Ellen, which has been owned and operated as an organic, sustainable farm since 1955. She and her husband Otto were involved in founding the Sonoma Land Trust, to protect special areas in Sonoma County from development. Anne’s children are carrying on the environmental commitment of the family. Her daughter Arden helped start a nonprofit in San Francisco which teaches students about the environment through school gardens, son Will dry-farms organic grapes, and daughter Kate is a conservation geneticist.
Queen Bee Award
Wendy Krupnick has been nominated for a special award as the Queen Bee of the environmental movement in Sonoma County. Wendy motivates and connects many of the nonprofits that are interested in sustainable agriculture, gardening and habitat conservation. She doesn’t use Facebook but networks with everyone face to face, and unlike a real queen bee, is working and pollinating all the time. We at Sonoma County Conservation Council are especially grateful to her – in particular, the Awards Dinner would not happen without her!