(About the picture above: at center are Jill Swift, Sue Nelson and Margot Feuer, considered the “Mothers” of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Some of the notable women who carry on the fight are, clockwise from upper left: Mary Ellen Strote, Mary Sue Maurer, Josephine Powe, Beth Pratt Bergstrom, Rorie Skei, Linda Parks, Julie Newsome, Fran Pavley, Mary Weisbrock (w.Family), and Suzanne Goode. Not pictured: Nancy Helsley. The center image photo is from a 1989 L.A. Times photo courtesy of the UCLA Archives.)
The Santa Monica Mountains Fund 2017 Spring Celebration, on May 7th, honored the legacy of the founding mothers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA), Sue Nelson, Jill Swift and Margot Feuer, who campaigned tirelessly to save the mountains from development. Since then, the legacy of determination to save our local public lands has been continued by many incredible women, including these who we are honoring at our Spring Celebration:
While earning a Masters Degree in Environmental Planning, Fran Pavley worked as an intern for the newly formed SMMNRA, mapping subdivisions in the Santa Monica Mountains and doing a visual analysis of Mulholland Highway. As the first mayor of Agoura Hills in 1982, Ms. Pavley helped make the preservation of the Santa Monica Mountains a priority. She also helped prevent a 100-foot wide extension of Thousand Oaks Blvd to Woodland Hills. This land is now part of Cheeseboro Canyon and Ahmanson Ranch. As a state legislator Ms. Pavley helped acquire Ahmanson Ranch and King Gillette Ranch. Currently, she is working with the NPS and other stakeholders on creating the wildlife corridor and overpass at Liberty Canyon.
Beth Pratt Bergstrom is California Director of the National Wildlife Federation. In partnership with many stakeholders, such as the Santa Monica Mountains Fund and National Park Service, Beth has generated a movement of supporters for the proposed wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon. This crossing will help ensure the long term survival of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Suzanne Goode oversees the natural resources for 40,000 acres including the Santa Monica Mountains for the California Department of Parks and Recreation – Angeles District. She has been deeply involved in habitat restoration projects including the Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Canyon, Topanga Canyon, Arroyo Sequit and La Jolla Valley.
Calabasas Mayor Mary Sue Maurer has a long record of protecting natural resources including open space. She currently serves on the Advisory Committee for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and is the Director of the California Conservation Corps in Camarillo.
Since 2011, Julie Newsome has focused her efforts on the Santa Monica Mountains as the wildlife project fund chair with the Santa Monica Mountains Fund. Along with organizing and participating in events to benefit local mountain lion research, she donates the entire proceeds of her mountain lion paw print casts to the wildlife crossing campaign.
County Supervisor Linda Parks is a past mayor for the City of Thousand Oaks, where she wrote a law that protect parks and open spaces by vote of the people, and initiated the annual Thousand Oaks Earth Day/Arbor Day Celebration. She is one of the organizing directors of the countywide SOAR campaign, which was successful in creating a law to protect open space and farmland in addition to establishing urban boundary limits around county cities. She is an open space advocate who has created parks and trails in her district including a 16-year effort that culminated in the purchase of Ahmanson Ranch. As a current member of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Supervisor Parks recently led the effort to add Conejo Mountain to the Conservancy’s list for future acquisitions. Earlier this year, she initiated a first-of-its-kind wildlife corridor overlay zone that is currently being processed for approval to Ventura County’s General Plan, to protect major linkages for wildlife migration.
Josephine Powe has been a Board Member of the Mountains Restoration Trust for seven years protecting and supporting the unique resources of the Santa Monica Mountains. She campaigned against the SOKA and Ahmanson Ranch developments.
Rorie Skei has been involved in open space preservation for over 40 years. She has served on many committees, boards, and agencies including the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Advisory Committee, the Conservancy Board for the County of Ventura, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency. Currently serving as Chief Deputy Director for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, she is Deputy Executive Officer for seven other joint powers authorities in which the Conservancy is a member.
Mary Ellen Strote worked with Susan Nelson as an advocate for the SMMNRA, and her op-ed pieces for the Los Angeles Times were instrumental in building public support for the mountains. Her devotion to native plants and natural ecosystems led her to help remove invasive plants in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Nancy Helsley has spent years as a community environmental education coordinator with the Mountains Restoration Trust’s Cold Creek Canyon Docents. This program conducts earth science field programs for L.A. Basin schools, teaching some 2,500 students per year. She has served as one of five Directors on the board of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains. Locally she remains active in the Cold Creek Community Council. She feels strongly that sharing with others the wonders of our natural world are key to long-term community health and endurance.
Mary Weisbrock has been an advocate for the Santa Monica Mountains for over forty years. Originally working professionally as a high school biologist and a medical technologist Mary became interested is supporting her local natural environment. She was a board member of the Fountainwood Homeowners Federation, Member of the City of Agoura Hills General Plan Committee and Founder of Save Open Space which has been instrumental in saving numerous landscapes. These include limiting highway development in Cheeseboro Canyon, limiting the development of large portions of Liberty Canyon, restricting development in the Micor urban project site, saving the 5400-acre Ahmanson Ranch, the 2300-acre Jordan Ranch in Palo Comado Canyon and the 588-acre Gillette Ranch properties.