This spring marks the 13th year Bay Nature Institute shines a spotlight on four inspiring locals whose work and ideas are shaping Bay Area conservation. They will be honored at our Local Hero Awards celebration on March 26, and you’re invited to join us. These are folks who speak with their actions and choices over days, years, and decades and motivate us all to do the same.
We are humbled and delighted to honor Omar Gallardo, this year’s Community Hero, for his efforts in cultivating a community garden in Santa Rosa’s Roseland, a neighborhood with primarily Latinx and working-class residents. Bayer Farms has become a hub of connection, a place to give back, and an opportunity to learn more about the natural world. A project of the nonprofit LandPaths, the garden is a model for diversifying access to the outdoors and one that other environmental organizations should investigate.
Recognizing someone 25 years or younger, our Young Leader award celebrates Alexii Sigona, who is already helping shape tribal land stewardship in the Bay Area. A member of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, an emerging scholar studying at UC Berkeley, and an activist, Sigona is a name you will hear for years to come.
This year’s Environmental Educator, Blanca Hernández, embodies the kind of clarity of vision and passion that changes lives. When she builds programs at YES Nature to Neighborhoods, a nonprofit with programs for Richmond-based youth, she does it for the many families lacking backyards or a patch of nature to call their own. With a hand in various Bay Area environmental organizations, Hernández speaks for those who don’t yet have a seat at the conservation table.
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Last and by no measure least, biologist Stuart Weiss is the 2023 Conservation Action awardee. As chief scientist at Creekside Science, Weiss’s research on checkerspot butterflies and their habitat has provided the bedrock on which efforts to protect Bay Area lands have been anchored. He has extended his expertise to help build out the Conservation Lands Network, a set of tools for assessing the conservation value of land anywhere in the Bay Area, enabling strategic conservation choices.
Join me in thanking these four outstanding individuals for making the Bay Area more inclusive, joyful, and filled with nature.