Bay Nature’s 2023 Local Hero Awards

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. Bay Nature heroes reflect the diverse communities around the Bay Area and have made significant contributions to protecting our local environment.

Environmental Educator

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.

Blanca Olivia Hernández
Director of Programs & Partnerships, YES Nature to Neighborhoods

Blanca grew up observing nature and wildlife on her family’s farm in Mexico. This practice and love for the natural world led her to pursue a career in the Outdoor and Environmental Education field and focus on increasing access and breaking down barriers for those historically excluded from this human right.

As the Director of Programs & Partnerships at YES, she uses a healing-centered approach to develop nature-based programs that cultivate the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals. She enjoys presenting on topics that promote culturally responsive environmental programs, and on organizational best practices that increase equity and belonging in the field. 

As an avid environmentalist, she serves on ChangeScale’s Steering Committee, on the Board of Directors for TOGETHER Bay Area, and for the Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators (AEOE). Her self-care practices include exploring the great outdoors and going on walks with her Shepsky pup, Bella.

Community Hero

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.

Omar Gallardo
New Audiences Manager, LandPaths

Omar Gallardo joined LandPaths in 2012. He is the New Audiences Manager within the Branching Out Conservation for Everyone initiative, which includes programming for Vamos Afuera Con LandPaths, general outings at preserves and partner properties, and two active community gardens in southwest Santa Rosa.  

“LandPaths has been a leader and a trailblazer, locally and nationally, for our pursuit of equity and inclusion as core to our mission to foster a love of the land in Sonoma County,” says Gallardo. “With Vamos Afuera, we minimize or eliminate the experience of not feeling included, or even unwelcomed, to participate in conservation, stewardship, and exploration of the natural world.” 

Gallardo grew up in northern Sonoma County and received a B.A. in History from Sonoma State University. In his off-time, Omar is an Aztec Dancer and teacher for Danza Azteca Xántotl.

Photo by Paige Green Photography

Conservation Action

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.

Stuart B. (Stu) Weiss
Chief scientist and Founder, Creekside Center for Earth Observation

Stu moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia in 1978 to attend Stanford University, where he spent the next 20 years in Paul Ehrlich’s lab chasing checkerspot butterflies through fields of serpentine wildflowers, learning and developing a palette of quantitative methods at the interface of population biology and microclimatology. In 1999, he set out on his own.  His work on nitrogen deposition and grassroots rabble-rousing prompted the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan. As Science Advisor to the Conservation Lands Network since 2006, he continues to synthesize the collective successes of the Bay Area conservation community. Creekside Center for Earth Observation (a.k.a Creekside Science) engages with some of the most imperiled species in the Bay Area and California—translocating endangered butterflies, seeding diminutive wildflowers, designing forest habitats for overwintering monarch butterflies—creatively applying best-available science, turning it into conservation action, and sharing a deep love of the beauty of nature.

Young Leader

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.

Alexii Sigona
Youth Group Leader, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band

Alexii was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and became involved with his community, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, in his teens. As a Native Steward for the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, he joined a team of young-adult tribal members whose work consists of native habitat restoration, cultural resource surveys, and ethnobotany. Inspired by the work of the Native Stewardship Corps, Alexii entered into a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley to better understand Indigenous land access and collaborative stewardship using his community as a case study and is currently in his fourth year of the program. 

Alexii and other young-adult tribal members created the Amah Mutsun Youth Group in 2020 to support community building and cultural education for young tribal members. He also serves on the Lands Committee of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust and is involved in the Protect Juristac campaign to protect an Amah Mutsun sacred site from a proposed sand and gravel mine.

2023 Local Hero Award Sponsors:

Individual Sponsors:

Barbara Bessey
Robert & Kim Carroll
Claudia & Scott Hein
Jorgen Hildebrandt
David Loeb
Mia Monroe
Maryann Rainey
Don Weden
Nancy & Bart Westcott

In-Kind Sponsors:

Commerce Printing Services
Federation Brewing
Fieldwork Brewing Company
Frey Vineyards
Heyday Books
Jacqueline Gauthier
Jane Kim/Ink Dwell
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
Susan Scandrett
Westbrae Nursery

Watch our 2022 Local Hero Awards

Meet our past Local Heroes!