PodcastThree in Central Valley honored by Irvine Foundation

July 16, 2007 11:00am
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•  Ashley Boren, Tom Griggs and John Carlon receive leadership awards

•  Listen to remarks from Boren, Carlon

Tom Griggs
Ashley Boren
From left to right: James Canales, president and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation; Cesar Calderon, Soledad Enrichment Action; Ashley Boren, Sustainable Conservation; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Yvonne Chan, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center; Sheldon Epps, Pasadena Playhouse and John Carlon, River Partners. (Photo provided by Office of the Governor)

Three people whose work affects the quality of life in the Central Valley are among six Californians honored Monday by the James Irvine Foundation.

The six California recipients, representing five organizations, will be awarded $125,000 per organization “for successfully tackling some of the state's biggest challenges with innovative solutions that are making a difference now,” the Foundation says.

The three are John Carlon, a blueberry farmer who co-founded Chico-based River Partners, and Tom Griggs, its senior ecologist, and Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation, a San Francisco environmental group.

River Partners is a nonprofit organization that is demonstrating how farmers can restore unprofitable, flood-prone land as wildlife habitat while also providing a safe and sustainable flood-control alternative to levees and dams.

(Mr. Griggs talked about River Partners in a May 3 CVBT Audio Interview. For the story, please point your browser to:

http://centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=5041 )

River Partners was founded in 1998 on the belief that agriculture and habitat restoration could work together. As farmers pull back from the banks of the Central Valley’s rivers, unwilling to risk planting in flood-prone areas, River Partners has been able to help restore some of these areas to native river forest habitat. To date, it has reforested 6,000 acres in 24 restoration projects along six major rivers.

“Much of the organization’s success can be credited to John Carlon, a blueberry farmer who co-founded River Partners, and Tom Griggs, its senior ecologist. Together, they have used their diplomatic skills and scientific expertise to forge unlikely alliances among farmers, conservationists and government agencies,” the Foundation says.

Ashley Boren and Sustainable Conservation were cited for its work in reducing air pollution in the Central Valley by convincing farms to adopt “conservation tillage,” a practice that requires fewer tractor passes to prepare soil for planting. A pilot project involving 16 farms cut dust pollution, which contributes to the valley’s high asthma rates, by more than 85 percent and reduced tractor fuel expenses up to 74 percent.

It is was also praised for working with the dairy industry, the state’s largest farm sector, to reduce the impact of cow manure on the environment. Sustainable Conservation has persuaded numerous dairies to use methane digesters that treat manure while extracting methane gas for electricity generation. So far this technology has saved farmers $2 million in energy costs, diverted 500,000 tons of manure annually, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, says the Foundation in announcing the award.

Sustainable Conservation’s success is due in part to its disarming approach. Boren and her colleagues start by developing a thorough understanding of the businesses and industries involved. Then they work in partnership to find practical, cost-effective ways to protect the environment that also make business sense.

“For her practical, collaborative approach to solving some of the state’s toughest environmental challenges, Ashley Boren is a recipient of a 2007 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award,” the Foundation says.

(CVBT has written several stories about Sustainable Conservation’s Central Valley efforts. For an example of one with an in-depth audio interview, please point your browser to:

http://centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=2039 )

Also receiving Irvine Foundation awards Monday are:

• Cesar Calderon, Soledad Enrichment Action, Los Angeles;

• Yvonne Chan, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Pacoima; and,

• Sheldon Epps, Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena.


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