2023 Award Recipients


2023 Conservationist of the Year

Jack (John Muir Laws)


John Muir Laws, who goes by Jack, is a nationally recognized and beloved artist, author, naturalist, and educator. For 40 years, he has dedicated his life to helping others connect with and fall in love with nature. He has created, written, and illustrated many outstanding books, including Laws Guide to the Sierra Nevada. Thousands consider this book to be a definitive resource to the natural history of the region. Jack is also the author and illustrator of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, the Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, Sierra Wildflowers, Sierra Birds, and How to Teach Nature Journaling, co-authored with Emillie Lygren.


His website, JohnMuirLaws.com, receives hundreds of visitors daily. It is a treasure trove of free resources, video tutorials, for educators and anyone who wants to explore and connect with the natural world. In 2022, Jack co-founded the Wild Wonder Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit that is dedicated to encouraging nature connection and conservation through attention, curiosity, art, science, and community.

2023 Environmental Education - Habitat Restoration 
Elaine Jackson

Elaine Jackson has been extremely active in the native plant and gardening community for well over 20 years. She is a passionate advocate and stays up-to-date on gardening developments that enhance habitat for wildlife. She volunteers at numerous creek planting and cleanups in Martinez and the East Bay area and is regarded as a native plan expert and strives to educate other volunteers and organizations about the benefits of native plants.  

Elaine has been active in many organizations including: the California Native Plant Society (President of the Board 2005-2007), Natives Here Nursery in Tilden Park Berkeley, the Phenology project at Strentzel Valley (John Muir National Historic Site), Friends of Alhambra Creek, and leads a crew of volunteers at the Native Garden at the John Muir Visitor Center


2023 Environmental Education - Improving Urban Areas
Jeff and Tina Sherwin

Jeff and Tina Sherwin have improved their local Alhambra Creek by removing invasive plants and debris, while adding locally native plants to enhance and stabilize the creek bank.  Jeff has installed several wildlife cameras along the water’s edge - the videos are popular with social media users, and inspire local residents to embrace wildlife as part of the community. 

Recently, Jeff and Tina spearheaded the creation of a new mural on Alhambra Way in Martinez.  What was a tall bare concrete wall, is now covered with beautiful sunset colors and dozens of local animals and wildlife, reminding us all that we share our home with nature. Jeff and Tina led the grassroots efforts and offered everyone an opportunity to donate and participate in design suggestions.  

2023 Educational Institution Environmental Education Advocacy
Ben Nelson, Program Director at Merritt College, Natural History and Sustainability Program

Founded in 2018, the Merritt College Natural History and Sustainability Program prepares students to obtain employment in a variety of positions in the Environmental/Conservation Fields. With 14 faculty across 5 departments whose goal is to train students for careers in environmental science, natural resources, and the interface between society and the environment. 

The degree and certificate program is offered through a CA Community College in the San Francisco Bay Area. Examples of jobs that graduates obtain include: Park Ranger, Field Technician, Environmental Conservation, Interpretive Aide, Environmental Educator, Urban Farmer, Food Production Analyst, Water Quality Technician. 

By creating an interdisciplinary curriculum, the program has fostered collaboration between departments and this program prepares environmental and policy leaders of the future.  


2022 Award Recipients

A man holding up an image of a field.

Jamie Fox - 2022 Conservationist of the Year

Some say Jamie Fox is the modern-day John Muir. For over 12 years, Jamie has fought tirelessly to protect a 297-acre parcel in Martinez, CA, known as the Alhambra Hills, once owned by John Muir. The property was acquired by a developer in 1990 and was approved for a residential housing development, “Alhambra Highlands.”

In 2014, he discovered a map that showed John Muir had owned the land. This galvanized a new wave of efforts to protect the hills that ultimately culminated in 2022 with Measure F, a campaign asking Martinez residents to tax themselves to prevent development. It was Jamie’s tenacious diplomacy that won over enough supporters on City Council to get it on the ballot, and it was Jamie’s passionate work and leadership that inspired a team of dedicated volunteers to raise public awareness.

John Muir Trust (Glasgow) 2022 Conservation Award—Non-Profit Organization


The John Muir Trust believes wild places are for everyone. Their aim is to be the leading voice for wild places and to deliver in partnership throughout the UK. In their commitment to wild places, they’re guided by three freedoms and three actions and seek to develop a network.

Three freedoms: Society is enriched when:

  • Nature has the freedom to repair itself
  • People have the freedom to enjoy the benefits
  • Communities have the freedom to thrive.

Three actions: We give wild places a voice by:

  • Demonstrating exemplary management
  • Inspiring people to engage and advocate
  • Evidencing their benefits to society.
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A woman sitting on the ground in front of bushes.

Kathy Kramer 2022 Conservation Award—Environmental Education

The vast majority of ornamental plants in the U.S., in general, and California, in particular, are non-native in origin. Returning native plants to residential landscapes is essential to restoring basic function in our ecosystems. This is what Kathy Kramer has been doing for 19 years!

The length of time Kathy has been educating the public about native plants is not just a measure of her commitment but of her forward thinking as well. Kathy was way ahead of the curve in recognizing the ecological importance of California native plants. By organizing the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, she has exposed more than 20,000 Californians to the potential of native plant landscaping. The native plant garden tour she coordinates has received wide acclaim and local, state, and federal awards.

Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour 2022 Conservation Award—Educational Institution

Almost 20 years ago, the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour in the East Bay was started by Kathy Kramer to encourage people to change their own landscapes.

The Native Garden tour has had thousands of participants, and a legion of followers who are making an ecological difference, one garden at a time. It has received wide acclaim, garnering local, state, and federal awards.

"If each of us dedicates some part of the garden to native plants, we would be providing more habitats for wildlife," Kramer explained. "They're easy to maintain. People can save money on their water bills. They don't have to expose their children, their pets, and themselves to pesticides. It's really the way to go for gardening."

A drawing of a hummingbird flying next to leaves.