Awards 2023

SCCC Awards 2023

Watch the video of the 2023 public awards ceremony honoring Sonoma County environmentalists.

Environmentalists of the Year 2023

Sustainable Development Advocacy

Kathy Pons & Sonia Taylor

Kathy Pons (Glen Ellen) is a founder and current president of the Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA), a group that advocates for wise stewardship of the natural resources and sustainable growth in the Valley of the Moon corridor, and provides oversight of major development projects, water issues, and winery/event venue density.

Kathy was involved in forming the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Management Plan before the state mandate of GSAs, measuring water levels in volunteer wells to collect data about local groundwater levels. She focuses on the community impacts from development of traffic along Highway 12 through Sonoma Valley as well as planning for wildfire evacuation plans. Kathy’s long term and continued commitment to preserving and protecting the Valley of the Moon from on-going development pressures has led to tangible results in achieving these goals. Kathy and her allies will continue to express the concerns of the community with projects such as Kenwood Ranch, Sonoma Developmental Center, Hanna Housing Project and the Elnoka development.

Sonia Taylor (Santa Rosa), environmental, affordable housing and sustainable development advocate, will be recognized for her activism on many fronts. An indefatigable researcher with an insider’s knowledge of how government operates, Sonia works behind the scenes in the permit and planning process and has been involved with crafting policy positions on – among others – the Santa Rosa General Plan, Chanate Road development, and fire safety. Her graphic design skills have benefited many progressive campaigns. Sonia’s defense of CEQA, insistence on government transparency and enforcement of environmental protections have enlightened the public as well as decision makers.

Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award

Margaret Briare (Bodega Bay): According to her colleagues at Bodega Bay Concerned Citizens, Margaret Briare has been an unsung heroine of the Bodega Bay environment for more than 30 years. Her many accomplishments include helping protect a heron rookery on Bay Flat Rd from destruction, mapping wetlands, resolving code violations by the Harbor View development, and pressuring legal council for the California Coastal Commission Counsel to address violations of Coastal Act regulations. “Saving the Sonoma Coast (especially Bodega Bay) has been a longtime goal of mine since spending time here as a child when the bay was being dredged and the marina was being built.”

Norman Gilroy (Glen Ellen) is a tireless champion of the environment. “Retired” to the Sonoma Valley after 30 years with The Institute for the Human Environment, where he worked on environmental problem solving internationally, he has defeated proposals for a huge Amazon warehouse and a LPG tanker storage yard.

At the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), he served on the local Policy Committee and on CAFF’s statewide Board. He helped implement new earthquake-compliant facilities for Sonoma Valley Hospital, served for nine years on the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, and now serves on the Advisory Committee for the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA). His current passion is saving the land and resources at the former Sonoma Developmental Center from over-development.

After decades of experience as an architect and planner, leading projects from design to completion, Norman has a brilliant capacity for synthesis of concepts and finding breakthrough solutions to complex issues. He is a team player who can gracefully bring people together by focusing on common goals and long-term impacts.

Youth Environmental Award

Galen Freed-Wilhelm: According to Tony Passantino of the Sonoma Ecology Center, Galen Freed-Wilhelm, is “An exceptional young individual whose unwavering dedication to environmental conservation, profound passion for reptiles, and remarkable accomplishments within our community warrant the highest recognition.”

Galen’s fascination with the natural world and his special interest in reptiles, set him apart as a contributor to understanding local biodiversity. He has documented an impressive 1,145 individual species on the Sonoma Developmental Center property, and he conducts regular naturalist walks at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, captivating audiences of all ages with his expertise and infectious passion. Demonstrating his commitment to the safety of both humans and animals, Galen relocates rattlesnakes from the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park campground to safer habitats.

In his own words, Galen says, “I have loved exploring and learning about nature since the time I could walk. I really like teaching people about animals and their behaviors, especially helping them overcome their fears.”


2022 Environmental Awards

2021 Environmental Awards

2020 Environmental Awards


The Sonoma County Environmentalist of the Year Award, initiated in 1975, recognizes people who made outstanding efforts to protect natural resources in Sonoma County, directly or indirectly, or advanced their better stewardship. The Ernestine I. Smith Lifetime Environmental Commitment Award initiated in 1994, was granted to persons recognized by the SCCC as having devoted a major part of their lives working for the conservation and improvement of the natural environment. Additionally the SCCC has made awards for Young Environmentalist of the Year; for Outstanding Educators, Projects and Programs; and for Special Recognitions.

Ernie Smith at the 2006 Environmental Dinner
Ernie Smith in 2006 at the Environmental Awards Dinner.

In 2016 the SCCC Board merged the Sonoma County Environmentalist of the Year Award with the Ernestine I Smith Lifetime Environmental Commitment Award. This award is now called the Ernestine I. Smith Sonoma County Environmentalist of the Year Award. Ernie Smith was one of the key early Conservation Council leaders and a long-standing Sonoma County environmentalist. This award recognizes Ernie’s inspirational legacy, her generation of trail-blazing environmental leaders, and environmental trail-blazers of today.


Ernestine I. Smith Sonoma County Environmentalists of the Year

2023 Kathy Pons and Sonia Taylor
2022 Marylee Guinon, Judith Olney & Deborah Eppstein
2021 Don McEnhill
2020 Rick Coates, Chris Poehlmann and Maya Khosla
2019 Woody Hastings
2018  Chris Brokate
2017  Teri Shore
2016  no award
2015  Kimberly Burr and Larry Hanson
2014  Stephen Fuller-Rowell
2013  Dennis Rosatti
2012  Steve Birdlebough
2011  John Herrick
2010  Jane Neilson
2009  David Keller
2008  Daisy Pistey-Lhyne
2007  Anne Hudgins and Suzanne Doyle
2006  Dave Henson and Keith Kaulum
2005  Rue Furch
2004  Peter Ashcroft
2003  Pavitra Crimmel
2002  Margaret Pennington
2001  Diane Hichwa
2000  “Look around, there’s on within 10 feet”
1999  Peeter Vilms
1998  Christa Shaw
1997  Mark Green
1996  Sandra Elles
1995  Krista Rector
1994  Juliana Doms
1993  Richard Charter
1992  Dick Day
1991  Joan Vilms
1990  Elizabeth Eddins
1989  Dee Swanhuyser
1988  Helen Libeu
1987  Carol Vellutini and Brenda Adelman
1986  Bill and Lucy Kortum
1985  David and Shirley Thatcher and Len Swenson
1984  Clark Nattkemper
1983  Barbara Meyn
1982  Joel Hedgpeth
1981  Ken Stocking
1980  Ernie Smith, Martha Bentley and Iva Warner
1979  Virginia Hechtman
1978  Chuck Rhinehart
1977  John Crevelli
1975  Chuck and Jean Hinkle

Special Recognitions
2020 Janina Turner and Jamie Nakama, Inspiring Youth; Duskie Estes, Local Produce Rescue
2018 Caitlin Cornwall and Betty Young, Leadership in Post-Fire Ecosystem Regeneration
2014  Wendy Krupnik, Queen Bee
2012  Duane De Witt, Outstanding Grassroots Environmentalist
2008 Iva Warner
2007 City of Sebastopol Sustainability Program
2006 Portia Sinnott, Environmental Innovator of the Year (LITE Initiatives)
2005 Pat Wiggins and Keith Kaulum (COAAST founders)
2004 Ann Hancock
2003 Ann Stroberger
1998 Frances Tanti
1997 Teresa Ramondo

Sonoma County Young Environmentalist of the Year
Initiated in 2011, this award is granted to younger people who are stepping up to help protect and restore our environment.

2023 Galen Freed-Wilhelm
2011  Jessica Jones, Student Vice President of Santa Rosa Junior College

Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award
Initiated in 1994, this award is granted to persons who are recognized by the SCCC as having devoted a major part of their lives working for the conservation and improvement of the natural environment in Sonoma County.

2023 Margaret Briare and Norman Gilroy
2022 Willard Richards
2021 Cea Higgins, Michele Luna, Richard Retecki
2019 Pat & Ted Eliot
2014  Anne Teller and family, Oak Hill Farm
2012  Roger Raiche
2009  Betty Guggolz and Betty Burridge
2008  Brenda Adelman
2007  Bernie Album
2006  Peter Leveque and Phyllis Schmitt
2005  Marty Griffin and Ken Stocking
2003  Barbara Biebush
2002  Martha Bentley
2001  George Ellman
2000  Dick Day
1999  Bill Kortum
1998  Chuck Rhinehart
1997  Len Swenson
1996  Clark Nattkemper
1995  Barbara Meyn
1994  Ernestine Smith

Outstanding Educators, Projects and Programs Award
Initiated in 1990, these awards are granted to persons, projects and programs recognized by the SCCC as having used special innovation and insight to teach students – young and old, about the environment.

2014  STRAW: Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed
2012  Nichole Warwick, Sebastopol schools
2011   Conservation Corps: North Bay
2010  Daily Acts (Trathen Heckman)
2009  Cotati Creek Critters (Jenny Blaker and Wade Belew)
2009  Pachamama Alliance
2008  Cool Schools Program, Climate Protection Campaign (Maitreyi Siriguri)
2008  Leadership Training for a Sustainable Future and Sonoma Academy Youth Program (Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy)
2007  Michael Teller
2007  In Our Own Backyard and Adventures in the Big Outdoors (Land Paths)
2007  Sonoma County Conservation Action
2006  Danny Bever, Jeff Tobes, Wendy Losee, and Tina Poles
2006  The Student Commute Project (Analy High School AP Statistics Class)
2006  Environmental Pilot Program (Oak Grove Union School District)
2006  Bouverie Preserve Docents and Audubon Canyon Ranch (Madrone Audubon)
2006  Russian River State Parks Environmental Education Program (Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods)
2005  Bonny Stene
2004  Dave Casey and John Klobas
2003  Fred Hall
2002  Krista McAtee
2001  North Bay Science Project (Sharon Janulaw)
2000  Sharon Mansfield
1999  Marci Cook and David Neubacher
1998  Kathy Angell and Mike Heffernan
1997  Tom Furrer, Jennifer Creeth and Ron Head
1996  Chris Peterson, Paula Fogarty, Kathy Angell, Anne Harris, and Leslie Supan
1995  Kathy Vyenielo