The Bay Nature Institute
The Bay Nature Institute

Bay Area Institute selects four 2017 “Local Heroes” for conservation, environmental education

The Bay Nature Institute has recently completed its review of more than fifty nominations for the Bay Nature “Local Heroes” for 2017 and has selected four recipients for the three awards. David Loeb, publisher of Bay Nature magazine recently summed up succinctly the reason the institute and the magazine annually honors conservationists in the Bay area saying, “Many of us live in the Bay Area because of its rich natural heritage. And once a year we like to recognize just a few of the many people who are responsible for protecting and stewarding it.”

The honorees will be recognized at the Bay Nature’s Annual Awards Dinner on Sunday, March 26, 2017. The event is to be held at the Fisher Banquet Room, Mission Bay Conference Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

The Conservation Action Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the conservation of the natural landscapes, wildlife, and/or flora of the San Francisco Bay Area, through advocacy, legal action, acquisition, and/or stewardship. The recipient of the 2017 Conservation Action Award is being awarded to David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay.

Lewis has been described as an effective advocate, tireless organizer, and articulate spokesperson for San Francisco Bay for more than 18 years. As executive director of Save The Bay, David has brought together environmental experts, public officials, business leaders, and grassroots activists to forge regional solutions to the Bay’s most pressing challenges. He has helped build Save The Bay into a regional political force, culminating with his leadership of the successful campaign for Measure AA, the first ever voter-approved region-wide funding measure in the Bay Area. Measure AA, passed in June, secures $500 million for the restoration of San Francisco Bay wetlands and shoreline over the next 20 years.

Lewis has also testified before Congress on oil spill prevention measures and helped block expansion of runways at San Francisco International Airport into the Bay. Under Lewis’ leadership, Save the Bay has engaged thousands of Bay Area residents in volunteer habitat restoration projects around the Bay shoreline. Lewis comments that, “It’s such a privilege to work for a healthy Bay with a large and growing community of people who care for this remarkable natural treasure and produce results that we can see and touch.”

Two scientists are the recipients of the 2017 Environmental Education Award. Rebecca Johnson & Alison Young, co-coordinators, of the California Academy of Sciences Citizen Science Project are the creators and co-leaders of the highly-regarded Citizen Science program at the California Academy of Sciences. They engage volunteers – “citizen scientists” – in discovering, observing, and documenting biodiversity at various places around the Bay Area.

From monitoring species at local rocky intertidal sites along the Central California coast, to organizing bioblitzes in San Francisco parks and open spaces and even creating a complete current record of the plants on Mount Tamalpais, provide opportunities for Bay Area residents and volunteers to connect to the outdoors and science as well as build invaluable knowledge of the region’s biodiversity and understand how it is being impacted by climate change. Johnson and Young are also cofounders of the Bay Area Citizen Science Coalition; their work serves as a model for citizen science programs around the country seeking to engage their own communities and gather critical biodiversity data.

Inasmuch as the Environmental Education Award is designed to recognize the achievements of an individual(s) who has made significant contributions to public understanding and awareness of the natural history and ecology of the San Francisco Bay Area — through research, teaching, field trips, journalism, and/or other media — Johnson and Young are well qualified to receive the 2017 Environmental Education Award.

The Youth Engagement Award, which recognizes individuals, 25 years old or younger, who are making significant contributions in the fields of natural history, stewardship of the natural world, conservation action, and/or environmental education, is being awarded to Uriel Hernandez, community forestry coordinator at Canopy.  Originally, Hernandez worked as a volunteer with Canopy, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit that plants and cares for street trees in several South Bay communities.

Hernandez was hired as a full-time Community Forestry Coordinator in May 2015 to help Canopy establish the Branching Out neighborhood tree-planting program in the underserved community of East Palo Alto. The goal of the program is to plant 500 trees along streets and around homes in East Palo Alto by 2020. These trees are a natural resource that provide numerous community benefits, including improved water quality, decreased air pollution, reduced greenhouse gases, improved public health, and enhanced wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Once the trees are planted, Hernandez provides support and bilingual education materials to the community to ensure that the trees are maintained and cared for.

Additional information about the Bay Area Institute 2017 “Local Heroes” awards can be found at:  Information regarding the upcoming Bay Nature Annual “Local Hero” Awards Dinner can be found at:

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