Conservation in a Time of Change

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Open Space Conference – Thursday, May 10, 2018 – Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA


The 2018 Open Space Conference on Thursday, May 10, 2018 will engage some of the Bay Area’s most inspiring thinkers and visionary land conservation leaders to address Conservation in a Time of Change.

There’s no question that we live in a time of change. The ideas that our speakers and panelists will explore will address how we can rise to the challenges presented by change. And how we can find pathways forward that will inspire us all to help create the change we want to see in the world.

The conference agenda will cover timely issues such as our changing climate, wildfires and resilience, breakthrough conservation science, the importance of natural and working lands, and the vision for diversity, inclusion, and access in our conservation workforce and for all people who reside in our region. We will meet young people who want to contribute their talents and passion to conservation. And we will celebrate conservation milestones and honor transitions as well.

We warmly welcome you to join us on May 10. This year’s conference promises to be a day of fellowship, ideas, insights, and delights. You’ll enjoy good food, drink, and music at our beautiful venue, the Craneway Center in Richmond, CA. And most of all, our 500 attendees will take away a sense of rededication to the places we work to conserve and steward; the magnificent open spaces and stewarded places that grace our home where we celebrate, play, observe, and reflect – the San Francisco Bay Area.

"The conference gave me a renewed sense of making a positive impact, and more than anything I will dive back into my work with improved vigor and dedication."


We’ll continue to announce speakers and their agenda topics here.


The 2018 Open Space Conference – Conservation in a Time of Change – will inspire attendees to consider conservation’s role in addressing some of today’s most pressing challenges, and explore how our work is vital to creating a sustainable future for our region and world.

Attendees will hear from seasoned leaders such as former National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, San Francisco State University’s groundbreaking thinker and professor Nina Roberts, and nationally recognized journalist and San Jose Mercury News’s environmental reporter Paul Rogers. And we’ll hear from colleagues who will share their work and wisdom on important topics of our times such as diversity and inclusion, resilience in the face of a changing climate, the importance of working lands, how we communicate about conservation, and much more.

Doors open at 8:00am. Registration starts and coffee, tea, and pastries will be served. The program begins at 9:00am, lunch is from 12:00-1:30pm, and the plenary session will conclude at 5:00pm. We’ll end the day with music and a wine, chocolate, cheese, and passed plate reception that concludes at 6:00pm.



Registration starts, exhibitors are open, and coffee, tea, and pastries are served.


Deb Callahan

Executive Director, Bay Area Open Space Council


Corrina Gould

Founder, Sogorea Te’ Land Trust


Jon Jarvis

Executive Director, Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity at the University of California, Berkeley; Former Director, National Park Service


Jon Jarvis

Executive Director, Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity at the University of California, Berkeley; Former Director, National Park Service


Nina Roberts

Professor, Department of Recreation, Parks, & Tourism, San Francisco State University

10:15AM – BREAK


10:35AM – I’ve Seen Fire & Rain: Implications of the 2017 Northern California Wildfires

Panel discussion on the social and ecological impacts of the Northern California fires
  • Dave Koehler, Moderator, Executive Director, Sonoma Land Trust
  • Dave Shew, Staff Chief: Planning & Risk Analysis, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Cal Fire
  • Caitlin Cornwall, Research Program Manager, Sonoma Ecology Center
  • Jennifer Gray Thompson, Executive Director, Rebuild North Bay Foundation
  • TBD



Sam Hodder

President and Chief Executive Officer, Save the Redwoods League


Steve Abbors

Former General Manager, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District


  • Leadership Development Program meets at the REI Lounge at 12:15pm
  • Engage with exhibitors in the front of the Pavilion
  • Ride bikes courtesy of REI
  • Go on a bike tour led by Groundwork Richmond to Unity Park Community Plaza. Check out the details on the tour schedule and bike availability below.
  • Relax in the REI Lounge
  • Visit the East Bay Regional Park District, Golden Gate Parks Conservancy, and One Tam mobile visitor center trucks
  • Conference attendees receive one-time passes to Mountain Hardwear’s discounted employee store next door. 10% of the proceeds will continue to support the Bay Area Open Space Council’s work
  • Tour the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center



Robert Doyle

General Manager, East Bay Regional Park District


Panel discussion on the important connection between working lands, conservation, and climate change
  • Kara Heckert, Moderator, California State Director, American Farmland Trust
  • Karen Ross, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture
  • Jamison Watts, Executive Director,  Marin Agricultural Land Trust
  • Loren Poncia, Owner and Producer, Stemple Creek Ranch



Tom Robinson

Director of Conservation, Science, and Innovation, Bay Area Open Space Council

2:50PM – BREAK



Talk on the changing landscape of environmental communications and reporting
  • Odette Alcazaren-Keeley, Moderator, Director, Maynard 200 at Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
  • Paul Rogers, Environment Writer, San Jose Mercury News; Managing Editor, KQED Science Unit
  • Felicity Barringer Taubman,  Writer in Residence at Stanford’s Lane Center for the American West; Former Environment Reporter, New York Times



Panel discussion on environmental policies, priorities, and funding
  • Assemblymember Catharine Baker (Invited), 16th Assembly District, California State Assembly
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD



Patrick Gonzalez

Associate Adjunct Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley; Principal Climate Change Scientist, U.S. National Park Service



Deb Callahan

Executive Director, Bay Area Open Space Council






We’ve invited dynamic people to inspire you at the 2018 Open Space Conference. Watch this space as more stellar speakers join this line up:


Steve Abbors

Steve Abbors’ 47-year career left a positive impact on Bay Area open space. While earning a Master’s degree in biological sciences from California State University East Bay, he became a naturalist for the East Bay Regional Park District. He then managed 28,000 acres of watershed land at the East Bay Municipal Utility District for more than two decades, before becoming General Manager of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in 2008. At Midpen, he led the creation of a public vision plan, passage of a $300 million bond measure and the opening of Mt. Umunhum to the public.

Steve’s work is driven by his belief that preserving, restoring and enjoying our environment is essential to protecting earth’s life support system. He retired at the end of 2017, and lives in Walnut Creek with his best friend and wife, Carlene. They have two grown daughters. He enjoys daily hikes, nature photography, making wine and playing classical guitar.


Assemblymember Catharine Baker (Invited)

Catharine Baker was elected to represent the 16th Assembly District on November 4, 2014.  She took the oath of office on December 1, 2014, and was re-elected November 8, 2016 to a second term. Baker serves as Vice-Chair of the Higher Education Committee.  She also serves on the Assembly Committees on Transportation, Business and Professions, Privacy and Consumer Protection, and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.  Catharine is a member of the Bay Area Caucus; the Legislative Women’s Caucus, and the Legislative Delta Caucus.

Catharine has developed a reputation as an independent voice in Sacramento, willing to break from party lines and foster bipartisan relationships between Democrat and Republican members. As the Sacramento Bee reported, Catharine had the most bipartisan record of any Assembly member in the 2015-2016 session. Her bipartisan leadership has also made her one of the most effective members of the Assembly. Sixteen of her bills — all supporting education, transportation, public safety, and government efficiency — passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, and all sixteen were signed by Governor Brown.


Felicity Barringer Taubman

In 2016, just before Thanksgiving, Felicity Barringer inaugurated the blog “… & the West” at Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West. Its aim is to provide a broad perspective on  environmental and health issues, particularly in the rural West. It also seeks to provide context for the attitudes and arguments of our time. Along with her co-editor, Geoff McGhee, she has looked at subjects like the role of 19th-century treaties in 21st century fights over the future of salmon in the Northwest, the new beginnings of groundwater governance in California. She spent the last decade of her career at The New York Times covering environmental issues, from the arguments surrounding Utah’s public lands and fights over oil drilling in Alaska to the passage and evolution of California’s law to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier, she was a Times correspondent in Moscow in the early Gorbachev era. She worked for nearly a decade as a reporter and editor at The Washington Post.


Patrick Gonzalez

Patrick Gonzalez is a forest ecologist, Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, and Principal Climate Change Scientist of the U.S. National Park Service. He conducts applied research on impacts of human-caused climate change and on ecosystem carbon solutions and works with national parks, local people, and policymakers to integrate climate change science into natural resource management. Patrick earned his Ph.D. in Energy and Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. He has conducted and published field research in Africa, Latin America, and the United States. He is a lead author on three published and one forthcoming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the organization awarded a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


Corrina Gould is the spokesperson for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan/Ohlone. She was born and raised in Oakland, CA, the territory of Huichuin. She is an activist that has worked on preserving and protecting the ancient burial sites of her ancestors in the Bay Area for decades. She is the Co-founder and a Lead Organizer for Indian People Organizing for Change, a small Native run grassroots organization and co-founder of the Sogorea Te Land Trust, an urban Indigenous women’s community organization working to return land to Indigenous stewardship in San Francisco’s East Bay.




Kara Heckert

Kara Heckert is the California State Director of American Farmland Trust. She has been in the agricultural sustainability and natural resource conservation field in California for 17 years.

Throughout her career she has initiated programs to provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable environmental stewardship practices through water conservation, nutrient management and ecosystem services. In her previous position Kara was the Executive Director of the Sonoma Resource Conservation District, where she worked with a diverse cross section of the community on landscape scale conservation planning, agricultural sustainability, and education programs.  During her tenure there, Kara spearheaded fundraising and organizational capacity building efforts that resulted in over 24 million dollars for agriculture and conservation, a doubling of the organization’s staff, and the successful merger of two conservation districts.

Kara was a former Soil Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service where she worked with a broad spectrum of stakeholders on the conservation of the Russian River Watershed. Kara has an extensive background in providing technical assistance for on the ground soil, water, fish and wildlife conservation programs and is the author and co-author of a variety of stewardship guides, outreach guides, and watershed plans focused on the balance of agricultural sustainability and natural resource management.    Prior to her work with NRCS she planned and implemented on the ground watershed scale conservation planning and farm scale restoration projects with the Sotoyome Resource Conservation District, California State Parks, and local nonprofits.


Jonathan Jarvis

Jonathan B. Jarvis was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009 as the Director of the National Park Service (NPS), serving for the entire Obama administration. During his tenure, he led the agency through its Centennial, adding 22 new parks, achieving its largest budget in history, and raising over $400 million in philanthropic support. Retiring after 40 years with the NPS, Jarvis is now the Executive Director of the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity at the University of California, Berkeley.  His most recent book, co-authored with Clemson Professor Dr. Gary Machlis, is “The Future of Conservation in America: A Chart for Rough Water”, from the University of Chicago Press. Jarvis is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including the National Recreation and Park Association’s Legend Award, Sierra Club’s Edgar Wayburn Award, International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Fred Packard Award, and the American Alpine Club’s David R. Brower Conservation Award.


Dave Koehler

A native Californian, Dave brought his passion and 25 years of leading conservation work on the San Joaquin River to Sonoma Land Trust in 2015. He guided the development of SLT’s strategic plan, and advances land conservation while implementing new programs for community engagement and the Russian River. Dave is on the board of California Council of Land Trusts; and, in 2012, he received the Partner in Conservation Award from the Department of the Interior for his work restoring the San Joaquin River as a National Waterway. Dave lives near Sebastopol and he likes hardware stores, anything outdoors, Bob Dylan and the San Francisco Giants.



Loren Poncia

Born and raised in Tomales, Loren Poncia follows in the footsteps of his parents, Al and Cathie Poncia, as the 4th generation of his family to steward their land. A graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a major in Dairy Science and Ag Business, Loren always dreamed of coming back to the ranch to pursue his passion in agriculture. He oversees the entire ranching operation and carefully studies genetics with the goal of raising all natural, grass-fed beef and lamb. He works alongside his wife, Lisa, whom he met at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Lisa is an attorney and manages the operations side of the ranch business.



Nina Roberts

Dr. Nina Roberts is a dynamic educator and respected leader.  Her research is nationally known in the areas of race/ethnicity, culture and natural resources.  Her work around urban youth and women and girls outdoors is highly regarded as well. A professor in the department of Recreation, Parks, & Tourism at San Francisco State University, Nina is also director of SF State’s Institute for Civic & Community Engagement. She’s a visionary with incredible energy to “get it done” as she is a notable advocate in perpetual motion! A Fulbright Scholar with philosophy based on experiential learning, Nina has been acknowledged for her commitment to diversity and social justice striving to break down barriers of inequality regarding park access and recreation on public lands. Her expertise provides leaders and managers with ideas and strategies needed to respond more effectively to changing demographics and sociocultural trends across the U.S.


Paul Rogers

Paul Rogers is the Natural Resources & Environment Writer at the San Jose Mercury News. He also serves as Managing Editor of the Science Unit at KQED, San Francisco’s NPR and PBS station. Since 1989 at the Mercury News, he has covered a wide range of stories including open space, climate change, ocean issues, air pollution, energy, water policy, endangered species, toxics, and offshore oil drilling. Paul was part of the Mercury News team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake. He has won nine regional Emmy awards at KQED for TV productions. In 2014, he was named Bay Area “Journalist of the Year” by the Society of Professional Journalists and in 2015 won the Oakes Award for environmental journalism from Columbia University. Paul also has taught science writing at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and at the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program. He lives in Santa Cruz with his wife, Leigh Poitinger, and their two sons.


Secretary Karen Ross

Karen Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) on January 12, 2011, by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Secretary Ross has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California. Prior to joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Prior to that appointment, she served as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers from 1996- 2009, and as Vice-President of the Agricultural Council of California from 1989-1996. Before moving to California, Secretary Ross served as Director of Government Relations for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and as Field Representative for U.S. Senator Edward Zorinsky.


Jamison Watts

Jamison Watts is the Executive Director or Marin Agricultural Land Trust. He is responsible for providing strategic vision and leadership in the execution of MALT’s mission and overseeing all organizational functions, including land protection and stewardship, fundraising, operations, communications, strategic relations, and financial management. He joined MALT in 2013 and has worked in natural resources management, land conservation, and business development for nearly 20 years. Prior to joining MALT, Jamison served as the Executive Director of the Northern California Regional Land Trust, as a wildlife biologist, and environmental consultant. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in environmental biology with an emphasis in conservation biology from the University of California at Davis and a Master’s degree in biological sciences from California State University at Chico.

Leadership Development Program

Future Leaders

We care about the next generation of conservation leaders. And we’re doing something about it.

The Bay Area Open Space Council is excited to offer the Leadership Development Program for the third year at the 2018 Open Space Conference. We recognize that we need to nurture the next generation of leaders who will work to preserve, defend, and steward the natural and working lands of the Bay Area. In order to achieve this, we’ve created opportunities for future leaders to meet, learn from, and connect with current conservation leaders.

We welcome you to apply and are accepting applications on a rolling basis through Friday, April 13, 2018, or until all spots are filled.

2018 Leadership Development Program Application

The program:

If you are between the ages of 18-25 and are interested in a career in conservation we welcome you to apply. You will have the opportunity to be matched with an experienced land conservation professional working in the field. They will be selected based on your interests and serve as your program Advisor. You will get to meet with them during and after the conference, and begin a dialogue as you explore careers in conservation.

The participants:

  • Attend the conference at a discount ($10-$40, no one turned down for financial reasons)
  • Meet with an Advisor for 20 minutes at the conference to learn about their work and identify a way to meet post-conference
  • Have at least one follow up meeting with the Advisor you’ll meet at the conference at their place of business. This could be a one-on-one, special access to an event, or meeting with one of their colleagues
  • Receive a written “how-to” guide that will help you get the most out of conference
  • Meet with other program participants online before and in-person at the conference
  • Receive complimentary tickets to the Open Space Council’s Gatherings in September and November 2018

The program flyer:

Become a Future Leader’s Advisor or Program Sponsor

  • Advisors – If you’re interested in serving as an Advisor to a Future Leader please contact Sarah Noel Ross at [email protected] or at (510) 809-8009 ext. 258.
  • LDP Program Sponsor – If you’re interested in supporting the program as a sponsor, please contact Melanie Hogan at [email protected] or at (510) 809-8009 ext. 252.


See who participated as an  Advisor in 2017.

Bike Tour

Join the lunch time Bike Tour to Unity Park led by Groundwork Richmond. Bikes generously offered by REI.

  • Bike Availability – Currently 20 bikes will be available courtesy of REI. First come first served. Stay tuned for updates on additional bikes that might become available, or simply BYOBike and ride along!
  • Tour schedule 
    • 12:00: Get your lunch.
    • 12:10: Pick up one of the available bikes from REI or grab your own.
    • 12:15: Meet at Rosie the Riveter WWWII Home Front NHP (eastern door of the Craneway Pavilion) for a brief overview of the tour. Hand off your lunch to Groundwork Richmond staff who will haul it to Unity Park.
    • 12:20: Bike tour departs for Unity Park.
    • 12:30: Arrive and eat lunch at the newly-opened park. Spend time exploring the area.
    • 1:00: Return to the Craneway.
    • 1:10: Arrive back at the venue and return your bike.
    • 1:30: Lunch concludes and plenary session resumes.
  • Route & Difficulty – The tour will travel 1.79 miles along the SF Bay Trail, to Marina Way, to the Richmond Greenway Trail to Unity Park Community Plaza, opened in January on Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. The ride is flat with one slight, brief incline. Beginners welcome!


We will create an engaging experience at the Open Space Conference. Our Exhibitor Hall is where a lot of that happens.

Exhibitors are companies, nonprofits, and groups who provide services and products to the conservation community. They want to make a name for themselves, and connect with the right people to work together. For information on exhibitor opportunities, contact Melanie Hogan at [email protected] or at (510) 809-8009 ext. 252.


Our 2018 exhibitors currently are:


Volunteers play an integral role in the conference. On the days leading up to it, they support our staff by preparing materials and setting up the event space. On the day of the conference, they check in attendees, pass out lunches, keep things on schedule, and break down the space.

In exchange for one shift, volunteers may attend the conference when not on assignment. To volunteer at the conference, please submit your 2018 application at your earliest convenience.  We’ve extended the deadline and are now placing volunteers on a rolling basis. A staff member will get back to you about available opportunities.

2018 Open Space Conference Volunteer Application


Getting to the conference and back

Even if you’ve never been to Richmond, it is one of the most central and beautiful locations we could find for everyone in the (very large) 10 greater Bay Area counties. There are several ways to get there and back:

  • For directions, parking, and public transportation details for the Craneway Pavilion, visit their website.
  • Bike – The Craneway is right on the Bay Trail that runs right along the Bay all the way from Emeryville. Sign up here to ride together.
  • Carpool – We make it easy to coordinate with people you know, and soon-to-be friends. Sign up here to carpool together.
  • Public Transportation – Shuttle buses will be provided to/from the Richmond BART station, courtesy of the National Park Service (morning) and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (end-of-day). The morning shuttle will pick up from BART from 7:37am-10:07am and the end-of-day shuttle will depart from the Craneway Pavilion from 3:45pm-6:15pm. Both will have signs in their marquee or windows identifying who they are. The shuttles are staggering their pick up times with the AC Transit #74 bus schedule, so that a vehicle is leaving to/from the Craneway every 15 minutes. The ride is roughly 12 minutes each way, a little longer on AC Transit with stops in between.
  • Morning Schedule
    • NPS shuttle BART pick up times start at 7:37am and continue on the :07 and :37 of the hour, with the last bus picking up at 10:07am. 
    • AC Transit #74 – Bus has early departures at 6:47am and 7:17am. Their 7:49am arrives at the Craneway (Ford Point stop) at 8:04 am. After that it departs on roughly the :22 and :52 of the hour.
    • BART Trains – the Millbrae/Daly City line arrives every 15 min (on the :12, :27, :42 and :57 of the hour) and the Fremont line arrives every 15 min (on the :04, :19, :34, and :49 of the hour). The driver will wait a couple of minutes if BART is delayed slightly and she sees attendees coming out of the station a little later.
  • End-of Day Schedule
    • GGNPC shuttle Craneway pick up times start at 3:45pm, and continue on the :15 and :45 of the hour, with the last bus departing the Craneway for BART at 6:15pm after the reception ends. 
    • AC Transit #74 – Bus departs from the Craneway on roughly the :27 and :57 of the hour throughout the afternoon. 
    • BART Trains – Note that afternoon BART trains depart Richmond on roughly the same arrival schedule as above for each line.

Become a sponsor

Interested in becoming a conference sponsor?

Want significant exposure to the thousands of people who work to preserve, steward, manage and connect people to Bay Area lands? Become a conference sponsor. Check out our sponsorship flyer with levels and recognition benefits.

You can sign up now to be a sponsor online or submit our sponsorship form today to reserve your spot and pay later. We’re currently offering 20% off of Watershed level sponsorships and higher when you become a new Member or Supporter.

For more information about sponsorships, contact Development Director Melanie Hogan at (510) 809-8009 ext. 252 or at [email protected].


Thank you to our sponsors!

Your generous support makes this event possible.

Lead Level


Ecosystem Level


Watershed Level




Park Level


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Leadership Development Program


Inkind Sponsors

Foundation Sponsors

From the blog

Past Open Space Conferences

Browse through past conferences here:

2017 Open Space Conference

2017 Open Space Conference

Eyes on the Horizon, Boots on the Trail on
May 18, 2017

2016 Open Space Conference

2016 Open Space Conference

Act Locally, Think Regionally, Lead Nationally on
May 19, 2016

2015 Open Space Conference

2015 Open Space Conference

Try. Learn. Repeat.
May 14, 2015

25th Anniversary Party
May 13, 2015

2014 Open Space Conference

2014 Open Space Conference

Welcoming, Interacting, Participating on May 8, 2014.

2013 Open Space Conference

2013 Open Space Conference

Breaking Boundaries, Working Together on May 16, 2013.

2012 Open Space Conference

2012 Open Space Conference

Crossing Bridges, Creating Possibilities on May 10, 2012.

2011 Open Space Conference

2011 Open Space Conference

Healthy People, Parks and Communities on May 12, 2011.

2010 Open Space Conference

2010 Open Space Conference

Conservation for the 21st Century: Honoring the Legacy while Embracing our Future on May 20, 2010.