VENTURA, Calif. – The Ventura County Board of Supervisors honored five Ventura County Earth Day Awards recipients at their April 23, 2019 meeting. The five environmental champions are:
District 1: Supervisor Steve Bennett
Once Upon A Watershed
Once Upon a Watershed provides hands-on watershed education, restoration, and stewardship experiences for kindergarten, fourth, fifth and sixth grade students in 10 public schools in the Ventura River Watershed. This program cultivates a sense of shared responsibility for our environment, instilling confidence and hope by empowering young people to make a real difference at the local watershed scale.
The kindergarten program has students act out plants and animals of their watershed. Fourth-graders collect acorns and plant native oaks at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s (OVLC) Ojai Meadows Preserve and the Ventura Land Trust’s (VLT) Willoughby and Big Rock properties. Fifth-graders take action to combat the effects of plastic pollution in our watershed by participating in beach clean-ups while exploring the Ventura River Estuary. Sixth grade activities focus on the critically endangered Southern Steelhead Trout and the effects of the Matilija dam on beach erosion and spawning access.
Students plant and mulch native plants along the riverbank at the OVLC Steelhead Preserve and the VLT Big Rock preserve, under the supervision of conservation biologists from the OVLC, VLT, and the California Conservation Corps. Once Upon A Watershed’s free programs are supported by grants and donations in partnership with the Ventura Land Trust.
District 2: Supervisor Linda Parks
Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor Zone - Ventura County Planning Division and Ventura County Counsel
The Ventura County’s Planning Division and County Counsel staff was recognized as Earth Day champions for their superb work that led to the successful adoption of a first-of-its-kind zoning for wildlife preservation, the Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor zone. The greatest threats to wildlife in the region are development and roadways that cut off wildlife from the large areas of open space they need to survive. Preserving wildlife corridors that link the Santa Monica Mountains to the Los Padres Forest is cited by experts as a vital component to the survival of wildlife in the region. Ventura County is fortunate to have a great diversity of biological resources, and the protections afforded by the Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor zone will help ensure the health of such species as mountain lions, bears, lynx, deer, badgers, raccoons, eagles, and condors.
Staff in Ventura County’s Planning Division and County Counsel’s office were instrumental in securing this precedent-setting ordinance that incentivizes adherence to fencing, lighting, and setbacks from waterways to protect and enhance wildlife movement. The many hours of hard work by Kim Prillhart, Shelley Sussman, Kim Uhlich, Jeff Barnes, and Charmaine Buehner in robust stakeholder input and land use expertise culminated in a new zoning tool for Ventura County, which is also a model for other local governments. The County is fortunate to have an abundance of native species, an enlightened citizenry that values natural resources, and excellent staff who created an award-winning way to further Ventura County’s natural resource goals.
District 3: Supervisor Kelly Long
Limoneira’s Sustainability Stories, Pioneering for a Better Tomorrow
Limoneira was founded in 1893, with a mission to preserve and promote its tradition, heritage and legacy in agriculture, community development and stewardship. Their “Sustainability Stories Pioneering for a Better Tomorrow” series promotes solar energy use, water efficiency, organic recycling, and integrated pest management.
Limoneira has seven solar installations across their portfolio, including one in Santa Paula. These installations produce a total of 7M KW annually and will reduce 86,150 tons of CO2 over a 25-year period and allow the company to be 50 percent off the grid.
For Limoneira, efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to water management. They’re able to maintain this efficiency by leveraging technology to measure volumetric water content using soil moisture probes. The data obtained is shared with a main controller and managed expertly by Limoneira. In 2004, Limoneira partnered with Agromin to develop a 10-acre facility on Limoneira land to receive green materials from throughout Ventura County. The material is converted into mulch that is then spread in Limoneira orchards to reduce curb erosion, improve water efficiency and moderate soil temperatures. They are a founding member of the Integrated Pest Management program in Ventura County that sought to minimize the use of pesticides by releasing beneficial insects into the orchards. Limoneira maintains a complete Integrated Pest Management system to bring sustainably-grown products to market.
District 4: Supervisor Robert O. Huber
Robbie Hidalgo, Simi Valley Community Garden
Robbie Hidalgo, Vice President of the Simi Valley Community Garden, has founded a variety of pioneering initiatives that connect the core principles of environmental stewardship with innovative solutions to community challenges and needs. The Garden, located in Simi Valley, is a place where individuals, couples, youth, families, teachers, students, supportive services organizations, non-profit and community organizations, seniors, veterans, and others come together to connect with nature, learn, volunteer, interact, serve, heal and grow as individuals and as a community.
Mr. Hidalgo has implemented such programs as the “Sharity Garden,” an all-volunteer mini-agricultural farm project that grows and donates 1,800 to 2,000 pounds of fresh produce each year directly to approximately 120 of the community’s homeless and indigent populations; the Free Farmers Market that distributes tens-of-thousands of pounds of fresh organic produce and other food items every month to anyone who attends; the Social Feed program that distributes easy-to-grow starter plants to local citizens and organizations at no charge, who then plant them community-wide; and the Grassroots program, a collaboration with Ventura County Probation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Ventura County, and the Community Garden to encourage human interaction with greenspaces and natural ecosystems, as well as promoting mentoring opportunities, community engagement, and volunteerism among local youth.
District 5: Supervisor John Zaragoza
Ventura County General Services Agency
For the past 10 years, the Ventura County General Services Agency (GSA) has given County employees and the public an opportunity to take a tour during Earth Day activities to discover the natural beauty of the County Government Center campus. This year’s Earth Day theme was: SAVE OUR SPECIES.
It is important for all of us to protect our species because nothing in nature survives alone. When a living species becomes extinct due to unnatural causes, the balance of the ecosystem is compromised. The causes include climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, poaching, air, water, and soil contamination.
Rosalind Harris, GSA Facility Manager states that, “GSA Special Services, Housekeeping and Grounds Departments’ goal is to protect our species by preserving the environment in which every living thing needs to survive. Our daily objective is to preserve our water, air, soil, and food source by establishing and using the safest, most natural, and best management practices in our day-to-day assignments. We hope that our work and the outreach of our Annual Earth Day Tour at the County Government Center bring greater awareness, education and commitment to preserving our environment.”