Working for lands, people, and communities

Board of Directors

Board of Directors, December 7, 2022

Andrea Mackenzie, President – Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, General Manager

Melanie Parker, Vice President, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Deputy Director

Yakuta Poonawalla, Secretary – Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Associate Director, Community Stewardship and Engagement

Lisa Baldinger, Treasurer – East Bay Regional Park District, Legislative and Policy Management Analyst 

Ana Ruiz, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, General Manager

Annie Burke, TOGETHER Bay Area, Executive Director, ex-officio board member

Nicholas Calderon, San Mateo County Parks, Director

Blanca Hernández, YES! Nature to Neighborhoods, Program Director

Shaun Horne, Marin Municipal Water District, Watershed Resources Manager

Max Korten, Marin County Parks and Open Space District, General Manager

Lauren Korth, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Institutional Engagement Officer

Rebecca Johnson, California Academy of Sciences, Co-Director, Center for Biodiversity and Community Science

Valerie Lee, Grassroots Ecology, Community Engagement Manager

Team

Annie Burke

Annie Burke, executive director

Annie’s passion is bringing people together to achieve shared goals. Her skills and experience are in coalition building, strategy, communications, convening, and fundraising. Annie led the Bay Area Open Space Council’s convening program, fundraising, and communications from 2010-2017. Prior to that she worked for large and small nonprofits in various fundraising and organizational development capacities. She has produced three films about partnerships between Indigenous Tribes and conservation organizations (Here & Now, Dancing in the Balance, and Umunhum). Annie has a masters in organization development from University of San Francisco and a B.A. in psychology from Denison University. She completed two National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) courses.

Annie grew up playing at Pescadero State Beach, running the trails at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, and listening to the Giants on the radio. And you might find her doing those same things today.

[email protected]

Photo of Julie Garren

Julie Garren, associate director of programs

Julie is a scientist by training and a manager of chaos through extensive practice. She believes in thoughtful, resilient planning, kindness, and teamwork. Her career has been focused on pursuits that positively impact the environment. She brings experience in natural resource management, restoration, research, and project management. Julie holds a bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in ecology from U.C. Davis, where she researched invasive ecology and plant population dynamics.

Outside work, you will find her cooking, tending to her garden, taking long walks, and camping.

[email protected]

Jessica Little, policy consultant

Jessica Little established Conservation Collaborators and leads facilitation of collaborative decision making, coalition management, and government affairs strategies for the firm. She has extensive experience engaging diverse stakeholders in pursuit of common interest policies and funding for conservation, water, and climate objectives. 

Mrs. Little has the perspective of both a consultant and consumer of similar consulting services enabling her to understand the constraints and demands of the firm’s clients. Jessica is is heavily invested in the mission and success of each group she supports.

Outside of work Jessica coaches and plays soccer (accounting for the team-oriented approach she embodies) and nurtures her vegetable and flower garden with tender loving care.

[email protected]

Tom Robinson, conservation strategy consultant

As Principal of Tom Robinson Consulting, Tom directs the Conservation Lands Network project for TOGETHER Bay Area and assists non-profits and municipalities plan for landscape health and climate adaptation. Tom is passionate about increasing the pace and scale of solutions to environmental and societal challenges. He led Sonoma Veg Map and Conservation Lands Network 2.0, and team-developed the Bay Area Greenprint. He holds a bachelor’s degree in ecology from U.C. San Diego, a master’s degree in geographic information science from San Francisco State University, and is a Switzer Environmental Leadership Fellow.

[email protected]

Photo of Laura Rosenthal

Laura Rosenthal, membership & communications coordinator

Laura is passionate about building community through storytelling and engaging communications, and she has focused her career in the nonprofit world. From 2017–2022, she worked at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA, where she developed skills in writing for newsletters, emails, blogs, and social media and in web and graphic design. She also gained experience supporting membership in mission-driven programs, including many social justice initiatives.  

Outside of her professional storytelling, Laura is also a fiction writer. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston, her hometown. Her favorite activities include wandering through local bookstores, libraries, and coffee shops, struggling through the crossword, and exploring the Bay Area. 

[email protected]

About

Our mission is to be the champion and regional voice of the resilient lands that are integral to a thriving Bay Area and all people who live here.

Our vision is a Bay Area that is home to healthy lands, healthy people, and healthy communities where we address the impacts of climate change through collaboration. We live in a just and equitable society where we live in relationship with the land that sustains us now and will sustain future generations.

Our Framework for Justice, Equity, and Belonging guides how the Board, staff, and members of TOGETHER Bay Area participate in the organization’s governance, operations, and programs such that we center equity, work for justice, and ensure that everyone belongs.

History

This coalition stands on the shoulders of the Bay Area Open Space Council. The Council was formed in 1990 by a group of visionary leaders who believed we could achieve more if we worked together. The Council:

  • Helped form the Bay Area Program of the California Coastal Conservancy in 1997 and shape and pass state-wide bond measures which resulted in almost $400 million in funding for 700+ projects and programs in the region.
  • Led the creation of the regional conservation strategy called the Conservation Lands Network, first version 1.0 in 2011, a progress update in 2014, and version 2.0 in 2019.
  • Incubated Transit and Trails, a trip planning app that encourages the use of public transit to get outdoors.
  • Convened the annual Open Space Conference and quarterly Gatherings. See photos.
  • Facilitated relationship-building and information-sharing across the region which resulted in increased capacity, innovation, and impact.
  • And so much more.

The Council went through a significant transition in 2018-2019 which you can read about here and here. Aleta George from the Bay Area Monitor wrote this article in May 2021. Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, East Bay Regional Park District, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Marin County Parks, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, and Sonoma Ag and Open Space District provided critical funding for the transition. A 16-member Planning Committee provided visionary leadership and critical thinking at five meetings and in countless emails. And hundreds of Bay Area leaders participated in the planning process through input sessions, surveys, and interviews.

We are grateful to everyone’s contributions to this regional coalition in the past and today.

Board of Directors, March 2022