As I hike along the Stockton Creek Preserve trail on a winter day (or what we call winter on this 75 degree Junuary day), I’m reminded of all the incredible work we’ve achieved together at Sierra Foothill Conservancy. I hear the ruckus of an acorn woodpecker colony and catch fleeting glimpses of brilliant Western Bluebirds feasting on mistletoe berries, and it gets me every time — the tremendous gift of knowing that this place is conserved and will remain habitat for those birds, a place for people to connect to the outdoors, and a beautiful open landscape forever.

 I grew up in Mariposa just down the road from a ranch to which my mother and I would walk. We’d bring carrots and feed the horses through the fence, talking with the cowboys about their cattle work. We drove by that ranch every day going to school and watched the seasons transition on its rolling hills from fields of wildflowers, to golden hills, to green pastures and running streams. In my early 20’s, when I found out Sierra Foothill Conservancy had worked with the Long family to ensure that that ranch would always remain the beautiful open space I grew up admiring, I couldn’t believe we had an organization doing such incredible work in my own little community and I knew this work was critical and that I wanted to contribute to local land conservation.

I started as a SFC member and volunteer inspired to get the word out about the work and I quickly moved into a staff position, starting in outreach and then becoming SFC’s Conservation Director developing our land acquisitions. Over the last seven years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with landowners, agencies, policy makers, donors, members and volunteers to conserve and steward beautiful central Sierra lands.    

One of the things I love most about Sierra Foothill Conservancy is that we are bridge builders. In a world that is increasingly polarized, SFC spans the gap between groups that are often divergent.  We work with individuals from diverse communities across agencies, as well as with ranchers, environmentalists, utility districts, non-profits, foresters and others. SFC’s work is to find the links between these groups and to meet the common goal and shared value of saving land.

SFC has grown tremendously over the last 19 years. We’ve developed from an all-volunteer organization in 1996 to a staff of 13 today, with a 14 member Board of Directors. We are recognized throughout the local region, our state, and even at the national level as a leader in land conservation.  While we were sad to say goodbye to our outgoing Executive Director, Jeannette Tuitele-Lewis, we are extremely grateful for her tireless work to develop our organization. Under Jeannette’s leadership, SFC achieved National Land Trust Alliance Accreditation and was hand-selected for the Land Trust Alliance Western Leader’s Cohort. I am delighted to take up the torch as Executive Director and to carry forward the good work of Sierra Foothill Conservancy into its next phase. 

SFC has a skilled and inspired staff, and a dedicated Board of Directors. 2015 is certain to be another year of great conservation success. I look forward to working with all of you and our partners to contribute to the conservation and improvement of the central Sierra region, SFC’s mission, and the lands we’ve conserved together that inspire me daily. It is a great honor to lead this organization into the next phase of growth and achievement for the land and people of my home region.