The Sonoma County Conservation Council was founded by a federation of local groups with the aim of pooling resources to protect and restore our environment. In 1984, SCCC became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit. The Environmental Center of Sonoma County is a project of the SCCC. It is operated jointly with the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter, Sonoma Group, mainly by volunteers.
SCCC is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the quality of the environment for the general public in Sonoma County. To this end, members share organizational resources and coordinate study and action. Objectives shall include, but not be limited to, the protection of the natural environment, and the publication and dissemination of educational information relative to environmental concerns of its member organizations.
Susan Keller, President
In 1982, a group of environmental community leaders began meeting on Cleveland Avenue in a donated office in the Santa Rosa Indian Center. These leaders and their organizations committed to pursue what became the SCCC and incorporated it as a nonprofit in 1984. During the process, annual weekend Environmental Advances were held at Wellspring Renewal Center in Philo and Valley of the Moon Camp Glen Ellen to refine the SCCC and focus the issues.
Founding members included the Milo Baker Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the Network for Appropriate Technologies, and COAAST (California Organized to Aquire Access to State Tidelands.) More than 40 environmental organizations have been members of SCCC since its inception. Additionally SCCC has served as fiscal sponsor or seeded development of twelve other groups.
SCCC was crafted and sustained by the historic figures of the early Sonoma County environmental movement, among them Iva Warner, Ken Stocking, Len Swenson, Bill Kortum and Ernie Smith. Susan Keller served as pro bono staff given her career as a public interest planner and network developer. Peeter Vilms was instrumental in keeping track of finances and creating the first SCCC website.
The SCCC Board has always been composed of representatives from member organizations. One guiding principle in SCCC evolution was that all agreed that the SCCC would not take positions on issues and no one could speak in the name of SCCC without approval. That was the glue and catalyst that held us together as such diverse groups committed to our mission. Early on it was agreed that a political action arm was needed and SCCC Board members Bill Kortum, Dick Day and others went on to create Sonoma County Conservation Action.
SCCC was created to connect member organizations and community members and empower them with state of the art information provided by the organizations actively engaged as SCCC members. That information sharing and the ability to mobilize informed advocates to take action on the full spectrum of things shaping Sonoma County made the SCCC unique and powerful. SCCC’s first major efforts involved organizing around the General Plan Update in the late 80s and later around creating the Open Space District and identifying important properties and coastline to preserve.
The Environmental Center, established in 1985, has served as the physical hub for SCCC member groups’ activities. Bequests from Iva Warner and Ernestine Smith have helped to keep the Center open over the years. At the annual Environmental Awards Dinner (1990-2015) SCCC has recognized Ernie Smith’s longstanding service by awarding the Environmentalist of the Year Award to activists engaged in current and lifetime work to protect the environment of Sonoma County.
Going forward, SCCC will continue and expand these efforts as it works to enhance and support electronic connectivity and information sharing for member organizations. Today the SCCC maintains an interactive website and directory, hosts an annual holiday networking party and summer picnic, and organizes issues forums based on need and interest.