William Nickerl Award for Conservation Leadership, About the Award
The Land Trust award is given to individuals who demonstrate the six traits personified in its namesake, William (Bill) Nickerl whose entire career has been focused on conservation of land in the California foothills. Specifically:
- A long time commitment to the cause of land conservation
- Dedication to Bear Yuba Land Trust's mission to enrich the community connection with our land
- Fostering or inventing a new effort which has demonstrated measurable success
- Never gave up in the face of a challenge
- Inspires others
- Located in Western Nevada County
2011 Geri Bergen
When Geri Bergen was trained as a forester at UC Berkeley, very few women had enrolled in the School of Forestry. As a woman, she was first directed toward a career in research, but her first full-time position with the Forest Service was Public Information Officer in the area of Women’s Activities. Eventually she obtained the field work she had always desired and became the first female line officer in the Forest Service, first as deputy forest supervisor and then as forest supervisor of the Tahoe National Forest. An active member of the Society of American Foresters, she has successfully made in her way in a large previously male-dominated federal agency. In addition to her work as Forest Supervisor of the Tahoe National Forest, Geri is retired acting director of the environmental coordination staff, USDA Forest Service. As forest supervisor, Geri worked to build a strong staff, hiring a number of qualified women and made a special effort so that couples could be able to work near each other. She also participated in volunteer conservation activity with Save San Francisco Bay Association, People for Open Space, and Richmond Citizens’ Planning Association, and a member of the Richmond Recreation and Parks Commission. Geri has been a very active member of the Society of American Foresters. Since her retirement and return to Nevada City, California, she has continued to work with conservation issues, serving as a board member and president of Nevada County Land Trust. She is an active member of California Alumni Foresters, and Business and Professional Women of Nevada County.
2010 John Taylor
A longtime resident of Grass Valley John is an avid fishing and hiking enthusiast, and A mentor for many agricultural and environmental professionals in our community. He has served in a number of agricultural and community service committees and positions, including manager of the Nevada County Farm Bureau, past president of the Retired Public Employees Association, the Nevada City Rotary Club, and the Nevada County User Fee Committee. John is also a retired Nevada County Agricultural Commissioner and former president of the Nevada County Fair and Nevada County Land Trust Boards. He was on the Boards of the Nevada County Resource Conservation District, LAFCO, Economic Resource Council, and California Biological Control Committee. Currently he is on the Boards of the High Sierra Resource Conservation and Development Council, Yuba Watershed Foundation, and the North Star Historic Conservancy.
2009 John Deveaux Olmsted (1938-2011)
John Olmsted was a noted naturalist, educator and volunteer conservationist. His life had been dedicated to the land ethics and land preservation traditions of John Muir. He viewed himself as a John Muir disciple and he had worked tirelessly to preserve wild areas, open space, trails, parks, and rural landscapes. John exemplified community-based volunteerism to conserve important landscapes as his life work. He found a way for everyone who wanted to help conserve land, to do so no matter their personal resources or circumstances. Whether it was getting kids to collect pennies, or collecting aluminum cans for recycling or talking to the state legislature about funding parks, John never backs down. Even when as little as 5 people were gathered together he found a way pass the hat for funds for land conservation. He helped people believe that they have the power to make a difference. In 1969 John rediscovered many rock-lined ditches and wood flumes previously known as the Excelsior Canal, overlooking the South Yuba River in Nevada Count, which became the origin of the Independence Trail -- the nation's first wheelchair accessible wilderness trail. In addition he helped create the 2,250 acre South Yuba State Park. John founded the California Institute of Man in Nature in 1968 and Sequoya Challenge in 1974 with the purpose of restoring a living thread of landscapes from the "Coast to Sierra" across Northern California, approximately along the 39th parallel of north latitude (which follows Ca State Route 20) also known as the Mendocino-Tahoe Biodiversity Transect. His emphasis was on preserving wild areas, open space, trails, parks, rural landscapes, watersheds, historical and cultural sites. He talked about the “pearl necklace” of protected land – where the pearls are the parks and the string is the trail system connecting them. Other projects he spearheaded were the Jughandle State Park in Mendocino, the Yuba Powerhouse, Malakoff Diggins, and a new focus on the Cache Creek Headwaters. John had begun to reform the Muir-Olmstead Institute after languishing in recent years. This institute is dedicated to the land ethics and land preservation traditions of both John Muir (1838-1914) and two ancestors of John, the Frederick Law Olmsteds (1822-1903, 1870-1957). Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. 'is recognized as the founder of American landscape architecture and the nation's foremost park designer' who helped design parks and grounds at Yosemite, Central Park, Stanford University, US Capitol Mall and portions of the California State Park System.
Educated as a plant ecologist at Claremont University, he worked as a docent of the Oakland Museum, was the author of Adventures On And Off Interstate 80, taught at the Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, and spoke frequently in public on various conservation topics.
2008 William Nickerl
William (Bill) Nickerl was the award’s first recipient. Bill's entire career has been focused on conservation of land in the California foothills. Early on he worked for the Bureau of Land Management as the acquisitions specialist for the state of California. During that time he worked closely with The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, and several land trusts. Bill was instrumental in saving habitat for the California Condor, which is one of the best successes of the wildlife protection movement. He was on the Board of Directors for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization working with communities to preserve unused rail corridors by transforming them into trails, enhancing the health of America's environment, economy, neighborhoods and people. He moved to Western Nevada County 31 years ago. Bill fostered the creation of the first Nevada County Land Trust conservation easement, the Round Mountain Wildlife Preserve, a 160 acre parcel of land just outside Nevada City. Bill helped facilitate the process leading to agreements on fuels management, water and air quality, recreation, fisheries, wildlife, riparian/ terrestrial habitat, timber and cultural and scenic values. Round Mountain Wildlife Preserve became the first successful conservation easement and established the Land Trust's role of land steward. In Bill's retirement years, he continued working to bring people together to enjoy outdoor experiences and come to love the land in our community as much as he does. He launched the Treks for Health program: short walks on Tuesday mornings for people looking for good exercise on our beautiful local community trails. He also developed with FREED a series of outings called "Treks for People with Limited Mobility" including walkers and wheelchairs. All of these walks are designed to help people improve their physical condition and maintain a healthy heart.