SCCC Awards

Watch the video of presentation of the 2021 Sonoma County Environmental Awards
Four Sonoma County leaders were honored for their many years of dedication, focus and effective action in protecting the local environment.

Environmentalist of the Year 2021

Don McEnhill, the Executive Director of Russian Riverkeeper since 2001, is passionately committed to caring for the health of the Russian River. Under Don’s watch (and close-up observation of the River by kayak), Russian Riverkeeper has grown to provide a wide range of River-related services, including environmental education, River cleanup, park development, and programs for dealing with fire damage, erosion and drought. Don speaks for the Russian River in this difficult time of climate change, advocating for water policies and regulations that will allow the River ecosystem to thrive while balancing the needs of people. Don’s advocacy in this year of historic drought has been especially critical.

Lifetime Achievement Awards
Protection of the Sonoma County Coast

One of the treasures of Sonoma County, our natural and undeveloped Coast, is the hard-won result of over fifty years of activism and advocacy. This year the county is undertaking an update of the Local Coastal Plan, in which the future of coastal communities is again at stake, so it is timely to highlight the accomplishments of three very effective Coast protectors.

Cea Higgins has been a key figure for decades in cleaning up and protecting the Sonoma County Coast. She has worked with the Sonoma Coast Surfrider Foundation, organizing volunteers, cleaning up plastic and other trash, and educating about the coast. Cea’s contributions include marine mammal protection, ocean water quality monitoring, coastal trail promotion and coastal access for under-represented communities (as Executive Director for Coastwalk), working on the kelp forest ecosystem breakdown and climate adaptation, and advocating for the coast during the county’s Local Coastal Plan Update.

Michele Luna has been the Executive Director of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods (first Stewards of Slavianka) since 1994, growing the organization into a powerful and respected voice for the environment of western Sonoma County. Beginning with protection of seals, whales and redwoods, the Stewards expanded, partnering with California State Parks and many other conservation and environmental stewardship organizations to bring people and the land together. The Stewards’ programs under Michele Luna have included restoration projects, fish passages, monitoring seals and sea lions in the Russian River estuary, volunteer trail work, training youth stewards, removing barriers to parks access, and fire ecology training.

Richard Retecki: As a planner for Sonoma County in the 1970’s, Richard worked on the county’s very first Local Coastal Plan. During his career, Richard Retecki has worked as a planner, grant writer and project manager for the county and the California Coastal Conservancy. He has completed an impressive list of restoration and parks projects that benefit the people of Sonoma County. As a volunteer he has served on the board of Coastwalk and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, helping to raise money for parks and for coastal access. Currently he is using his long experience with the coast as a founding member of the Save Sonoma Coast Group with the purpose of reviewing and recommending improvements to the Sonoma County Draft Local Coastal Plan.

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.


Click here to see the video of our 2020 Sonoma County Environmental Awardees

Ernestine I. Smith Sonoma County Environmentalists of the Year

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.

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.

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