Taking Action

Taking Action on Wildfire Resiliency

At Rebuild NorthBay we innovate and incubate smart programs to build resiliency. In 2020 we are launching the Taking Action on Wildfire Resiliency, a regional and collaborative public-private effort focused on advancing climate adaptation, forest health strategies to reduce wildfire risks and related life and property losses. Our focus is on catalyzing enterprise-based treatments and other economic incentives in partnership with landowners, businesses, service organizations, and public agencies located in four North Bay counties (Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino). Thanks to Dr. Lisa Micheli, PhD. and our Environment & Sustainability Committee for their leadership.

Taking Action Advisors

Dr. Lisa Micheli has over 25 years experience applying her technical, policy, and fundraising expertise to the design and implementation of ecological restoration, research and education programs. She joined Sonoma County’s Pepperwood Foundation in October of 2009 as its inaugural executive director, additionally serving as its president.
     Having completed her graduate studies at UC Berkeley as a NASA Earth Systems Research Fellow in 2000, she now focuses her research on relationships between watershed health and biodiversity and has published numerous peer-reviewed studies on river restoration, climate adaptation, and community-based approaches to biodiversity conservation.
     Dr. Micheli specializes in facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations focused on using relevant research to craft collective solutions to today’s most pressing landscape conservation challenges. She currently co-chairs the Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative (TBC3), a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Bay Area climate adaptation research initiative.  She also serves on several boards and councils including the Chile-California Conservation Network and as a science advisor to the Sempervirens Fund.

Robert A. Ewing, PhD is a Principal with EBalive, a consulting group offering contractual and pro bono services to nonprofits, governments, and businesses. Key competencies are strategic planning, policy, ecosystem monetization, and organizational development applied to natural resources and environmental systems. Robert recently has been working in California on governance and financial solutions for forest health, wildfire, and climate adaptation challenges. He has accomplished this work as a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, as a consultant for Sonoma County Office of Recovery and Resiliency,  through a partnership with the Pepperwood Foundation under a grant from the Hewlett Foundation, and through the fiscal sponsorship of Inquiring Systems, Inc.
     He has had a 40-year career in natural resource management and economics. From 1980 to 1995, he led CALFIRE’s Forest and Rangeland Assessment Program and conducting staff work for the State Board of Forestry and the Resources Agency. From 1995 to 2015, he was the Timberland Strategic Planner for Weyerhaeuser Company with global responsibilities for portfolio and land use planning, market analysis, and investment direction setting. Robert has a PhD in Wildland Resource Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is Vice Chair of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Science Panel, a member of Washington Audubon’s Board, and lives in Burien, Washington.

Fred “Bud” Bigelow is a strategic planner, forest biometrician and economist, with nearly four decades of experience at Weyerhaeuser Company addressing business questions regarding quantification of forest resources, financial aspects of forest management, business models and business strategy in the USA, Canada, China, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Sweden. Mr. Bigelow retired in 2017 and, subsequently co-founded EBalive, LLC, a consultancy focused on natural resource systems. Competences include strategic planning, policy, forestry and systems modeling expertise applied to management and recovery of living and natural resource systems. Clients include institutional investors, US and European forest product companies, and US ENGOs. Mr. Bigelow has a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and master’s degree in Forestry from the University of Michigan.  He resides in Burien, Washington, working from his home office.

Virginia Mahacek is a fluvial geomorphologist with WRA, Inc. She has an extensive background in education and outreach, restoration planning and design, environmental compliance, and natural resource management. She has over 27 years of experience as a technical analyst and project manager of watershed assessments, stream studies, restoration planning, design development, baseline and performance monitoring, alternatives analysis, compliance, and construction oversight. She has served a variety of local, state, tribal, non-governmental and federal lead agencies and on projects of varied spatial scale, technical complexity and regulatory context. Virginia effectively communicates technical and planning issues with varied agencies and stakeholders and facilitates planning progress within challenging community and regulatory settings. Her expertise includes natural and human disturbance-responses, climate change, wildfire hazard and risk reduction.
     Shortly after the deadly and destructive October 2017 wildfires, she joined the newly created County of Sonoma’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency in the role of Natural Resources / Watershed Coordinator.  In this capacity, Virginia led extensive cross-department collaboration and external stakeholder outreach. She solicited and integrated input from state and local agencies, community organizations, landowners, and the generally public into the Natural Resources element of the County’s Recovery & Resiliency Framework. Concurrently, she worked with a wide range of partners pursue and obtain grant-funds for fire recovery and prevention efforts and to begin implementation of priority actions in the Framework. She co-led the Local Watershed Task Force (along with the Cities of Santa Rosa and Sonoma) to continue implementing and tracking fire response and recovery measures to protect public safety, infrastructure, water resources and water quality, and minimize the potential for damages from secondary hazards (i.e., floods, debris flows, erosion and sedimentation) during the subsequent rainy seasons. Ms. Mahacek took over leadership of a collaborative of over 50 agencies and organizations and nearly 200 individuals that voluntarily convened in late 2017. Virginia pursued opportunities for the County to leverage the energetic relationships that arose and help emerging public-private partnerships, in particular her work on the ad-hoc steering committee crafting this Taking Action initiative.

Dee Swanhuyser founded the Sonoma County Forest Conservation Forest Working Group in 2004 to serve private forest owners “Across Landscapes and Through Generations” by providing educational conferences, workshops, materials and contacts to forest landowner serving agencies and non-profit organizations. Ms. Swanhuyser is a Co-founder of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District as well as a founder of LandPaths. She currently sits on the boards of Western Sonoma County Rural Alliance and the Bay Area Region’s Greenbelt Alliance and serves on the Ernie Carpenter Fund for the Environment Donor Advised Fund of the Community Foundation Sonoma County.
     The Swanhuyser family lives on their 7.5 acre redwood and mixed conifer forest in West Sonoma County and are members of the Forest Landowners of California. Now retired, Ms. Swanhuyser was the North Bay Trail Director for the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council for 25 years. She earned an A.A. degree from Glendale College and was a senior at Sonoma State University majoring in Organizational Development before moving into a professional career with the Ridge Trail Council.

Ann Baker is principal and owner of Ann Baker Landscape Architecture in Petaluma, CA.  Ann specializes in the ecological design of natural and sustainable landscapes with a focus on connecting cultural values with landscape design and care.   She does this by focusing on the nexus between social values and ecological health and looking for alignment, integration, and symbiosis between cultural and environmental systems.  Ann’s recent work includes leading the community design process and creating Rebuild Landscape Templates for the Sonoma Water Agency after the 2017 Tubbs Fire, and the 4 acre Wild Garden for the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah.  The Wild Garden showcases Pomo Indian peoples’ knowledge, use and practices in managing the Ukiah Valley landscape. Ann has a A.B. degree from Harvard University and a Master’s in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley and has been a licensed Landscape Architect since 2003.