California's Cox Conserves Heroes


  • Robert (Bob) Byrnes leads the restoration efforts for the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Not only does he invest his personal time to the organization's efforts, he also sets aside time to encourage and train other volutneers on best practices. Bynes and his team of dedicated volunteers spend countless hours removing invasive plants that could potentially harm wildlife. His nonprofit of choice is California Native Plant Society .


  • Lee Heller advocates for outdoor recreation for individuals and their companion animals. Recognizing that Summerland Beach was being impacted by leaking and abandoned oil wells, she organized a coalition of concerned stakeholders to address the issue. Thanks to Heller's advocacy, the State Lands Commission is currently working toward future remediation opportunities. Her nonprofit of choice is Environmental Defense Center.


  • Jordan benShea has been instrumental in growing public awareness about the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens and is committed to the urban farm model. She also serves on the boards of the Community Environmental Council and Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association. She volunteers as a spokesperson for the organizations at community events to share her eco-experiences and encourage others to live a sustainable life. Nonprofit of choice: Community Environmental Council


  • (Orange County) Frank Capolupo brings educational tours to life for children, inspiring them to learn more about the ocean and how it impacts our lives. He also speaks at local clubs and organizations about the importance of environmental education and ocean awareness. Nonprofit of choice: Ocean Institute
  • (San Diego) Mel Lions cultivates, empowers and educates sustainable food communities within San Diego.  He mentors students and other volunteers in farm tasks and interactive tours at Wild Willow Farm. By teaching sustainable food practices, he is affecting the way food is grown and reducing negative impacts to the local ecosystems. Nonprofit of choice: San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project
  • (Santa Barbara) Inspired by her two-year old daughter, Rebecca Claassen used her healthcare background to educate local citizens on the impact of toxins in the local water supply. She’s been the catalyst behind creating a group of informed and engaged volunteers who promote clean water. Nonprofit of choice: Environmental Defense Center


  • (Bay Area) Lynn Adams strong leadership, tireless enthusiasm and hard work are major reasons why Pacifica’s beaches are clean. She is a powerful advocate for clean oceans to protect marine species, and her passion has inspired thousands to join her quest. She leads PBC’s Earth Day activities, which included more than 8,500 volunteers in 2013. Nonprofit of choice: Pacifica Beach Coalition 
  • (Orange County) Alice Apkarian has volunteered weekly for the past five years as a museum docent at the Environmental Nature Center, helping to increase the community’s knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the natural world. She volunteers mostly “behind the scenes,” supporting staff as they educate more than 18,000 students who visit the center each year. Nonprofit of choice: Environmental Nature Center
  • (San Diego) As a member of the River Rescue team and San Diego River Park Foundation volunteer corps, Barbara Palan has worn a broad range of hats, from answering phones and serving as a native plant docent to leading hikes and planting trees. Nonprofit of choice: San Diego River Park Foundation
  • (Santa Barbara) Susan Epstein is an advocate for conservation practices that have led to greener and healthier environments for thousands of children in the Goleta Valley. As a parent and Goleta School Board member, Epstein led efforts to eliminate pesticides in 120 acres of playing fields used by the district’s 4,000 students and community groups. The district’s use of alternative green practices has become a model for other county agencies and districts. Nonprofit of choice: Center for Sustainability at Santa Barbara City College.


  • (Bay Area) Charlie Bowen was nominated for a decade’s worth of volunteerism. She has been the engine behind restoring and growing Berkeley's historic network of public paths. Her volunteer group turns overgrown and fenced off paths into beautiful areas for runners, tourists and walking groups. Nonprofit of choice: Berkeley Path Wanderers Association 
  • (Orange County) Michael Beanan leads a movement to prevent urban runoff from Aliso Creek from entering the ocean. The goal of his project is to clean the urban runoff, combine it with recycled water, decrease reliance on potable water and ultimately reduce ocean pollution. Nonprofit of choice: Laguna Bluebelt Coalition
  • (San Diego) Sally Nelson helped raise more than $20,000 for the San Diego River Field Station. She is a founding volunteer of the Park Patrol and the Gate Keeper programs that help keep the San Diego Riverbed, trail and community safe. Nonprofit of choice: Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy
  • (Santa Barbara) Martin Camp was nominated for volunteering with a local, urban farm. He educates the public on the importance of sustainable food and conserving land. From fixing aging farm equipment to building an education center, Camp is a hands-on volunteer who also inspires others to get involved. Nonprofit of choice: Fairview Gardens


  • (Bay Area) Naftali Moed had a vision for an organic vegetable garden to teach fellow high school students about the value of organic gardening and sustainable agriculture. Under his leadership, the vision has become a reality with 10 garden beds, a chicken house and an outdoor classroom space. The garden is a living lab for science classes and a source of food for the nutrition classes. Nonprofit of choice:  Pie Ranch 
  • (San Diego - Adult) Denise Stillinger brings 25 years of volunteerism to wetlands conservation. She actively protects the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and its watershed by leading nature walks, picking up debris and serving on the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy’s board. Most importantly, she introduces children from inland communities to the reserve in hopes of inspiring future acts of conservation. Nonprofit of choice: San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
  • (San Diego - Youth) Isabel Herrera translates awareness of coastal issues into action. Over the last three years, she has inspired over 1,500 people to protect the ocean. She teaches families about endangered sea turtles and how they can take simple actions toward protection, such as using canvas bags instead of plastic, as well as water supply and how to limit water usage and improve its quality. Nonprofit of choice: Ocean Discovery Institute


  • (Bay Area) Bruce Beyaert founded the Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC) with its mission of completing the San Francisco Bay Trail in Richmond. Due largely to Bruce’s ongoing efforts, Richmond will have over 28 miles of Bay Trail built by the end of 2010. Bruce created strong alliances for completing the Bay Trail in Richmond and built a support group of more than a 1,000 members. Nonprofit of choice: San Francisco Bay Trail Project 
  • (San Diego - Adult) Mark Jorgensen has devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to help preserve land and habitat in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Mark was instrumental in creating Camp Borrego, where each year, more than 300 underserved fifth graders participate in the free three-day camp to learn about geology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy, endangered species and global sustainability. Mark also led the charge in an annual field count of the endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep. Nonprofit of choice: The Anza Borrego Foundation
  • (San Diego - Youth) Dakotah Flowers was able to fund her vision of using recyclable materials to create dolls that hold messages from children affected by AIDS living in HOKISA (Home for Kids in South Africa). These “Messenger Dolls” have been auctioned and sold at fundraising events. Proceeds directly benefit the orphaned children of HOKISA.  Dakotah has recruited friends to help create the dolls and is expanding her collection of bottles, cans and other revenue-producing recyclables so she can use her creativity to create new items to sell to benefit local causes. Nonprofit of choice: Chula Vista Nature Center


  • (Bay Area) Lennie Roberts was chosen as the Bay Area’s 2009 Cox Conserves Hero. She has volunteered thousands of hours toward natural resource preservation over a span of 40 years. She worked to protect the natural beauty of and public access to Edgewood Park, the Peninsula Watershed and San Bruno Mountains by successfully lobbying for power lines to be routed underground rather than criss-crossing the land. Lennie gives unwavering support to land conservation through her grassroots efforts and keen knowledge of environmental laws. Nonprofit of choice: Committee for Green Foothills  
  • (San Diego - Adult) John Willett, a World War II veteran, has been volunteering for the Otay Valley Regional Park for more than two decades. All told, this 88-year old’s cleanup and restoration efforts have removed 700 tires, 1,400 tons of trash and 150 homeless encampments from the park. As chairman of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, John helps address and solve park issues such as vandalism, trash and homeless encampment. Nonprofit of choice: Wildcoast  
  • (San Diego - Youth) Sonya Vargas volunteered countless hours – more than 200 hours to be sure – as a Steering Committee Member for the Wetland Avengers’ Campeones de los Canones - a community-based habitat education and restoration event. Sonya’s passion and commitment to her community resulted in the recruitment of more than 950 volunteers who planted 2,500 native plants, restored two acres of canyon, created a school garden, and designed an outdoor classroom. Nonprofit of choice: Aquatic Adventures

Previous Finalists (names contain links to videos):