Since 2011, Bay Nature Institute has been honoring remarkable local conservation and nature leaders and activists at our annual Local Hero Awards. We recognize these heroes and their organizations in the magazine, online, in social media and at an in-person celebration, which will take place in early Spring.
Bay Nature heroes reflect the diverse communities around the Bay Area and have made significant contributions to protecting our local environment. The 2023 Local Heroes will be announced in the Fall.
- Community Hero Award – This award celebrates an individual whose grassroots activities have had a transformative impact on his or her community—which can be defined broadly or narrowly—and the natural world of the Bay Area.
- Environmental Educator Award – This award recognizes the achievements of an individual 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.
- Young Leader Award – This award will celebrate an environmental leader, 25 years old or younger, who is making significant contributions towards understanding, conserving, and/or connecting people to the natural world of the Bay Area. The Young Leader will receive a gift of $500 to support their professional development.
- Conservation Action Award – This award goes to an individual who has made or is currently making significant contributions to the conservation of the natural landscapes, wildlife, and/or flora of the San Francisco Bay Area, through leadership, advocacy, legal action, acquisition, and/or stewardship.
Watch our 2022 Local Hero Awards
Meet the 2022 Heroes
Founding Member, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District; Board Member 1972-2018
In 1970, Nonette Hanko helped spearhead a two-county initiative to form the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and then served on the board from 1972-2018, six terms as president. During this period, Midpen protected more than 63,000 acres in 26 preserves. Nonette also helped create sister organizations Peninsula Open Space Trust and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, which together with Midpen play a vital role in Bay Area land conservation. The undeveloped open spaces surrounding many of our communities, from the baylands to the foothills and forested mountains, exist in large part because of Nonette and her fellow conservationists. You can find the Nonette Hanko San Andreas Fault Trail at the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve.
Founder/Executive Director, Saved By Nature
Richard founded Saved By Nature in 2018 to acquaint underserved South Bay communities with the healing power of nature experiences – and to share his own story of how fishing, and time in nature, helped him overcome a South San José childhood marred by gang violence. His nonprofit offers both in-person and virtual nature hikes to youth of color, boys and girls clubs, seniors, and people living with disabilities.
A cum laude graduate of San Jose State University with a BA in Environmental Studies, Richard has a decade of experience developing natural and cultural educational programs for parks organizations like the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, where he created and delivered hands-on field trips for special needs and K-12 students. Through his years of fishing South Bay creeks, he also became a champion advocate for steelhead, rainbow trout and Chinook salmon.
Co-Founder/Executive Director, River Otter Ecology Project
Megan Isadore grew up loving the wild and studied English at the College of William and Mary. After 10 years of studying wildlife and watershed ecology and working with the Marin County nonprofit SPAWN, Megan co-founded River Otter Ecology Project (ROEP) in 2012 to investigate the under-the-radar return of river otters to the Bay Area after their numbers had dwindled. ROEP has grown into a robust organization that supports watershed conservation by researching and linking otter recovery to the health of watersheds through education, research, and their community-based otter sighting tool, Otter Spotter. Megan says it’s fun to transmit her love for the earth through teaching, which helps her understand her subject more thoroughly and “find those all important linkages to … everything.”
Watershed Restoration Field Crew Manager, Urban Tilth
Born and raised in Oakland, Solwazi leads Richmond-based Urban Tilth’s efforts to restore often-neglected riparian habitat in West Contra Costa County while helping young people connect with their local waterways. Since joining as an apprentice in 2019, Solwazi’s initiatives have helped link Urban Tilth’s creek-based program to its urban farms and gardens program, notably his 2021 watershed stewardship-focused curriculum for Urban Tilth’s Summer Youth Apprenticeship program. With a degree in environmental studies (aquatic ecosystems) from UC Santa Cruz, Solwazi is an avid fisherman as well as a passionate Bay Area sports fan, foodie, and loving brother and son.