Conservation in a Time of Change

Tell us What you Thought


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."



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 appetizer 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


10:08AM – BREAK


10:33AM – 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
  • Jennifer Gray Thompson, Executive Director, Rebuild North Bay Foundation
  • Karen Gaffney, Conservation Planning Manager, Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
  • Caitlin Cornwall, Research Program Manager, Sonoma Ecology Center




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 12:30pm
  • 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; Principal and Co-Founder, CKO+ Media; Board Trustee, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
  • 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
  • Rosemary Cameron, Consultant, Cameron & Associates; Board Member, San Francisco Parks Alliance; Board Member, Save the Redwoods League
  • Assemblymember Catharine Baker, 16th Assembly District, California State Assembly
  • Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (Invited), 56th Assembly District, California State Assembly
  • Katherine Valenzuela (Invited), Principal Consultant for the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies, California State Legislature



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






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:


  • Parking: Please park in only Open Space Conference designated parking lots. This year that is at the far north end of the building near the Columbia Employee Store (formerly the Mt. Hardwear Employee Store). It’s a 6-7 minute walk.


  • 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.


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.


Odette Alcazaren-Keeley

Odette Alcazaren-­Keeley is a strategic diversity communications & media executive, as well as broadcast journalist, with a 20+ year career span both in the United States and in the Philippines. She is currently the Director of Maynard 200 for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and is also a Principal and Co-Founder of the integrated multi-ethnic communications and broadcast production consultancy group, CKO+ Media. She is also a Consultant for Democracy Fund.

Odette previously served as the National Media Network Director, TV & Radio News Anchor/Executive Producer, and also as Chair & Emcee of the NAM CA Ethnic Media Awards — for New America Media. She hosted and produced NAM’s weekly segment that previously aired on 91.7 FM KALW, “New America Now,” as well as its monthly TV news magazine on Comcast Hometown Network (CHN), with the same program name. She also served as a fill-in Anchor and Segment Host/Producer for CHN’s live newscast, “Upside.”

Odette currently serves as a Board Trustee of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. In her first year in June 2016, she directed and moderated the organization’s first-ever Ethnic Media Forum. She is also a Board Advisor for the Filipino Food Movement.

Odette graduated Cum Laude with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication, minor in Broadcast Journalism from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, the country’s premiere state university.


Assemblymember Catharine Baker

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.


Deb Callahan

Deb Callahan has served as the Executive Director of the Bay Area Open Space Council since 2015. She brings a wealth of experience in legislative advocacy and public policy, nonprofit and environmental leadership, organization building, fundraising, and work in philanthropy. She has led effective strategic initiatives on issues including land management and conservation, ocean and forest protection, climate change, pollution, and science. Deb has worked at the League of Conservation Voters, Point Reyes National Seashore Association, Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, and Americans for the Environment. Deb is a native Californian who studied Natural Resources Management at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and received a B.A. in Environmental Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1997, she was awarded the UCSB Environmental Studies Department Outstanding Alumni award.


Rosemary Cameron

Rosemary Cameron has spent her career working in the public sector with management experience in regional and municipal parks and recreation, city management legislative affairs, and communications. For 20 years she served as East Bay Regional Park District’s Assistant General Manager, Public Affairs leading intergovernmental, community and corporate relations, and integrated marketing communications programs for the largest local park agency in the United States. In addition, she served as Executive Director of the Regional Parks Foundation, a separate nonprofit organization that raises funds from individuals, foundations, and corporations in support of Regional Park District programs.

Since 2011 Rosemary has had an active consulting practice focusing primarily on helping her clients establish strategic government and community outreach strategies and comprehensive communications programs. Rosemary continues to consult and speaks on marketing, branding, communications, social media, and fundraising at professional conferences and trainings.

Rosemary holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Government from Mills College, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Her volunteer involvement includes serving on the Boards of the San Francisco Parks Alliance and Save the Redwoods League; on the California Parks and Recreation Society’s Political Action Committee, and on the Advisory Council of the National Association of Park Foundations.


Caitlin Cornwall

Caitlin Cornwall is a biologist who manages the Research Program at Sonoma Ecology Center, where she has worked since 1998. Her work focuses on communicating watershed health using indicator systems, creating multiple-benefit water/watershed projects with diverse partners, and integrating considerations of climate and ecosystem services into planning decisions at scales from the parcel to the region. Since the 2017 fires, she has led numerous Fire Recovery Walks in burned areas, and advised agencies and landowners about post-fire management priorities.




Robert Doyle

Robert E. Doyle is a 40+ year veteran of the parks and natural resources field, currently serving as General Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District, the largest regional park system in the nation with 1,000 employees serving 25 million visitors per year at its 73 parks on over 121,000 acres. A co-chair of the State Park Partners, he was a key advocate for advancing Proposition 68, the Parks, Environment, and Water Bond to the June 2018 ballot and serves as vice-chair of the Clean Water, Natural Resources and Parks committee; he is also leading EBRPD efforts for a potential extension of Measure CC in fall, 2018.

A founding board member of Save Mount Diablo, Doyle graduated from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga with a B.A. in Management. He is a member of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration; the IUCN Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group; and World Urban Parks,

He has received industry recognition including a Mountain Star Award from Save Mount Diablo (2002), a Lifetime Achievement Award from California Trails and Greenways (2010), and a Special Legislative Advocacy Award from California Parks and Recreation Society (2018).


Karen Gaffney

Karen Gaffney is the Conservation Planning Manager at Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, working with colleagues, the community, and partners to achieve land conservation outcomes. A graduate of U.C. Berkeley, she has a Master’s degree in biology from Sonoma State University and is a Switzer Environmental Leadership Fellow. Karen is the past president of the Board of Conservation Corps North Bay, past president of the Society for Ecological Restoration, California, and has served on the Department of Conservation Statewide Watershed Advisory Committee. She teaches classes in watershed ecology and ecological restoration, has published papers on riparian corridors and invasive species, and is the principal author of several guides to watershed assessment and ecological restoration, including the riparian restoration section of the CDFW Stream Habitat Restoration Manual. She spent her early years along the Navarro River on a sheep ranch in Philo, CA.


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

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.



Jennifer Gray Thompson

Jennifer Gray Thompson is the Executive Director of Rebuild Northbay Foundation, a non-profit organization formed during the fires by leaders in the public, private, educational, and nonprofit sectors. Rebuild Northbay represents the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino and is committed to the vision of rebuilding the Northbay better, safer, greener, and faster.

 Jennifer is a lifelong resident of Sonoma Valley. She attended Santa Rosa Junior College and graduated from Dominican University with degrees in English and History. Jennifer went on to earn a Master’s degree in Public Administration from University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy. After working for Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for four years, she accepted her current position with Rebuild Northbay Foundation.


Kara Heckert

Kara Heckert is the California State Director at 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 improved stewardship practices through watershed management and community engagement. 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 and held prior conservation project management positions with the Sotoyome RCD and California State Parks. Kara has an extensive background in policy advocacy focused on the balance of agricultural sustainability and natural resource management.  Kara is passionate about fostering the reconnection of consumers to the land and the people who produce their food and sees the protection of our farmland as critical to the preservation of our natural resources and our communities.


Sam Hodder

Sam Hodder joined Save the Redwoods League as its President and CEO in 2013, bringing more than 25 years of conservation experience. Under his leadership, the League has permanently protected 20,000 acres of redwood lands and implemented ambitious forest restoration projects. Sam has guided the development of the League’s Centennial Vision, a bold 100-year plan to accelerate forest conservation and the regeneration of coast redwood and giant sequoia forests across their natural ranges and to dramatically enhance visitor experience in the redwood parks. Sam has further advanced the League’s Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative, a project that has led to pioneering research on the unique ecosystems thriving in the old-growth redwood canopy. He also has provided greater focus for the League’s investment in educational programs and redwood park public access improvements.


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.



Valentin Lopez

Valentin Lopez is the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, one of three historic Ohlone tribes, and is Executive Director of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Valentin is Mutsun, Chumash and Yokuts. The Amah Mutsun are comprised of the documented descendants of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. Valentin Lopez is a Native American Advisor to the University of California, Office of the President on issues related to repatriation. He is also a Native American Advisor to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. The Amah Mutsun are currently working to have their Federal Recognition Status restored as they were illegally terminated by the federal government in about 1929. Valentin is working to restore the Mutsun Language and is a traditional Mutsun singer and dancer.



Austin McInerny

Austin McInerny is the President of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. After witnessing the power of organized mountain biking to help teenagers learn life-long lessons during his seven years of coaching the Berkeley High School Mountain Bike Team, Austin decided to put his career in natural resource management and public policy mediation on hold to become the president of NICA in late 2012. Since then, he has helped grow NICA into the largest youth cycling program in the United States. Austin is a strong believer in the power of cycling to transform individuals and communities and loves to tour and ride all types of bikes with his wife and friends. Austin received a Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and was named by BICYCLING Magazine as one of 21 “New Heroes of Cycling” in 2016. Austin received his Master’s in Regional Planning degree from Cornell University in 1997 and was a Senior Mediator/Facilitator for the Center for Collaborative Policy for many years prior to working for NICA.


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.


Tom Robinson

Tom Robinson is the Director of Conservation, Science and Innovation at the Bay Area Open Space Council. His goals are to help communities view their immediate landscape as the source of their well-being, economic prosperity, and security, and to strengthen the link between local conservation priorities and investments, and regional, state, and federal priorities and incentive programs. As a landscape ecologist and conservation practitioner in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 16 years, Tom brings together scientists, state and local government staff, and NGO partners to integrate environmental data, fill critical gaps, and develop adaptive spatial decision support systems to steer conservation policies and actions toward impactful outcomes. Tom has had the privilege of working for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and most recently as a conservation planner for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. Tom holds a Bachelor’s degree in ecology from U.C. San Diego, and a Master’s in geographic information science at San Francisco State University, and is a Switzer Environmental Leadership Fellow.


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

UPDATED MEETING TIME: Meet your match in the REI Lounge promptly at 12:30pm

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.


Individuals from the following organizations are participating as Advisors in 2018:

  • Committee for Green Foothills
  • Contra Costa Resource Conservation District
  • East Bay Regional Park District
  • Environmental Working Group
  • Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
  • National Interscholastic Cycling Association
  • National Park Service
  • Peninsula Open Space Trust
  • San Francisco Parks Alliance
  • San Mateo County Parks Foundation
  • Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
  • Save Mount Diablo
  • Simply Re-Creating Enterprise
  • Solano Land Trust
  • Trust for Public Land
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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

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


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Park Level


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Leadership Development Program


In-Kind Sponsors


Foundation Sponsors

From the blog