Bear Yuba Land Trust honors volunteers |

Bear Yuba Land Trust honors volunteers

From left, honorees at the BYLT 2019 Volunteer Awards included Shaun Clarke, BYLT Land Access Manager; Shane Hannofee, Youth Programs Extraordinaire award winner; Jeff Dekay-Bemis, Rookie of the Year award winner; Felicia Dunn, BYLT Community Engagement Coordinator; and Erin Tarr, BYLT Co-Executive Director. Not pictured is Bill Drake, Volunteer of the Year award winner.
Submitted by Jesse Locks

Meredith Manning, an outreach and events volunteer with the Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) was recently hanging event flyers when the owner of a local shop made a point to share that three generations of her family hike weekly on BYLT trails and then thanked Manning for her service.

“I thought, wow, what a great expression of community impact,” said Manning. “In my neighborhood alone, I’m within walking distance of three different BYLT trails that I hike regularly. It’s an amazing privilege to access the beauty of our natural world with such ease, which is why I volunteer to support the people and projects that are preserving the outdoor spaces so vital to the health of our community.”

BYLT recently honored its network of over 200 active volunteers with their annual volunteer barbecue, a laid-back fun event where BYLT staff served up a delicious dinner to volunteers and dished out awards.

This year, Shane Hannofee was honored with the Youth Programs Extraordinaire award. Earlier this year, BYLT partnered with local elementary and high schools to offer four “BioBlitz” field trips on nature preserves in an effort to get more students outside and explore the natural world. Hannofee participated in every BioBlitz, offering valuable feedback for future events.

Jeff Dekay-Bemis was awarded Rookie of the Year. The award is given to someone who attended the BYLT volunteer orientation in the spring as a new volunteer and has since gone above and beyond as a land trust volunteer. Jeff Dekay-Bemis was selected specifically due to his contributions as a Trail Ambassador leader and new Trail Adopter for the Cascade Canal Trail.

The Volunteer of the Year award went to Bill Drake, who completed 59 hours of volunteer service, helping in almost all areas of the organization.

Each year BYLT volunteers contribute over 2,000 hours to building trails, restoring wildlife habitat, collecting data in the field, tending pollinator gardens vegetation management, leading treks, and providing administrative assistance, among other areas. Since 1990, BYLT has been a conservation leader in the region, saving more than 15,000 acres of Sierra Nevada and foothill forests, oak woodlands, meadows, riparian habitat, farms and ranches. This includes over 4,000 acres of headwaters lands and 4,000 acres of critical open space protected for currently threatened, endangered or otherwise listed as species of special concern. BYLT has also built and maintains 45 miles of trails for the enjoyment of all.

None of this would have been possible without the support of volunteers.

“Volunteers at BYLT come from all walks of life,” said BYLT Community Engagement Coordinator Felicia Dunn. “There are retirees looking to give back by supporting BYLT’s mission, people who just moved to the area and are looking to explore Nevada County and build a community, and people in natural resources careers who lend their expertise. A big draw for people who want to volunteer with BYLT is the Trail Stewardship Team. By building and maintaining trails, volunteers are able to explore new areas, hone a new skill, meet like-minded individuals, get outdoors and make their mark on the landscape in a positive way.”

For many BYLT volunteers it is a combination of the allure of working outdoors in beautiful places, camaraderie, and the reward of being part of a dedicated team with a common goal of protecting nature that has inspired them to get involved.

“There are so many ways to help, it really is a group effort,” says Cathy Scott, another BYLT volunteer. “I’m pretty shy, but I can swing a Pulaski and pull invasive weeds. Other volunteers excel at building rock walls, organization and planning, or public outreach and education. No matter what your skills are, they can be put to good use.”

Tim Ackerman is on BYLT’s board of directors and it’s not uncommon to see him volunteering on trail work crews, stuffing envelopes, or tabling at a local grocery store. He says it helps in his leadership role as a director, but also makes for a full social calendar.

“BYLT is a multi-faceted organization that serves so many different areas of our community and I want to be involved at all levels so I can best support our staff and serve our community,” explains Ackerman. “I also get to have a lot of fun and meet wonderful people that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

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