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Celebrating Bill Kortum’s Legacy


Celebrating Bill Kortum’s Legacy

By Tish Levee

Sonoma County Conservation Action (SCCA) held their 20th Annual Gala Celebration, a tribute to Dr. Bill Kortum, at Shone Farm on Saturday night, July 11th. State Senator Mark McGuire and Assembly Member Marc Levine joined many other dignitaries to celebrate SCCA’s 24 years of grassroots activism. The evening started with beer and wines from seven local wineries accompanying a buffet dinner catered by Ceres Community Project.

Bill KortumThe evening’s focus was the Friends of Lafferty Ranch’s Matt McGuire, reporting on the progress of opening Lafferty Ranch to all—Bill Kortum’s final dream. Lafferty’s 269 acres running to the top of Sonoma Mountain is a crucial link over the mountain from Petaluma to Sonoma Valley—one Bill used to climb regularly as a youngster. “Every kid should be able to climb their favorite mountain,” he often said. In 1996 he hoped it would be open to all in 50 years. Now the Bill Kortum Park at Lafferty Ranch may be a reality much sooner.

The real hit of the evening was Sen. Mark McGuire’s performance as the live auctioneer. If you haven’t seen our state Senator in action in this role, you have missed a great show. Run; don’t walk, to the nearest fundraiser for which he is the auctioneer. But don’t be surprised if you end up bidding more than you intended. I had to sit on my hands to keep some money in my pocket.

The evening wrapped up with several awards to various people, including the Green Clipboard Awards to canvassers and staff of SCCA. Trevor Dobbins, a field organizer I spoke with earlier, got his first Green Clipboard Award. Trevor told me that the seven SCCA canvassers go to more than 75,000 houses annually, going to each area once a year. Over SCCA’s 24 years, more than one million households have been surveyed.

SCCA is a member-based organization, which works on identifying environmental values and then vetting and endorsing candidates who share SCCA’s values—working to get them elected. Little by little through this process change has been happening, one conversation at a time. Go to to learn more about SCCA and become a member.

One award of note was the 20th Upstream Swimmer’s Award, presented to Santa Rosa Councilmember Julie Combs, who remarked, “It doesn’t feel like swimming upstream when so many are with me.” Another special award was the Bill Kortum Sustainability in Action Award, for taking environmental causes to the next level, which was presented to Trathen Heckman of Daily Acts. Since its inception Daily Acts has inspired over 100,000 actions of resilience. Trathen spoke movingly of the community rising to the challenge of transformation and the power of daily actions to change the award.

The Gala event raised over $30,000, including more than $3,200 for the Bill Kortum Legacy Speakers’ Fund, which will bring world-class environmental speakers to Sonoma County.

Another way to participate in SCCA’s efforts to inspire and educate people about the environment is to join their Conservation Action Fund for Education at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival On tour at the Sebastopol Grange Hall, starting at 4:30 PM on Friday, August 7th with an Environmental Happy Hour with beer, wine, and a food truck; a Free Kids Matinee from 2-3 PM; a raffle with great prizes; and an evening film program at 6:30, featuring a film about author Joanna Macy, in which she describes “The Great Turning,” the 3rd major human resolution beyond the agricultural and human revolutions. Purchase tickets at for $20.