Young Environmentalist

Environmental Awards 2023

Watch the video of the 2023 SCCC 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.”

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