Staff spotlight: Steph Tavares (she/her), Sr. Acquisition Specialist

January 24, 2024

Posted in: People & Places

Steph grew up in an agricultural demonstration park in the Salinas Valley, where her dad was a ranger. She has a BA in Global Studies and History from UCSB and a JD and Masters in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law and Graduate School. She is the green sheep in a big farming family from central California and love teaching her son, Jim, to grow things in their teeny tiny townhome backyard. Her favorite place to vacation is Pacific Grove in winter – close enough to family to see everyone for a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (they’re all members), far enough for a quiet evening drinking hot cocoa by the fire.

Steph in the snow

What’s your favorite Sonoma County place to get outside and why? 
Oooh! This has changed since my accident a couple of years ago! I have a very special place in my heart for Spring Lake Regional Park. Even when I was in a wheelchair and walker, I could take my kid camping and teach him about plants and take him fishing and hiking. It meant so much to me to be able to do the things I loved when so much wasn’t available to me.

What’s one fact, statistic, or interesting tidbit about land conservation that you enjoy sharing with others? 
I love how farmers and ranchers here work to adapt their working lands over time so that they are contributing a net positive not only to my belly, but also to the ecosystem. When we restore and protect upper drainages, creekbeds, and buffers on these open lands, we send cleaner, cooler, water downstream for the freshwater critters, and then on to the esteros and wetlands for the brackish water critters, and then out into the ocean for all the ocean critters. And then we have Dungeness crab for Christmas (I guess my belly is benefitting twice.)

What’s your proudest moment working in land conservation and why?
Oh man, this is so hard! How do I choose? There isn’t one project that isn’t dear to me.  I think if I’m choosing today, it would be protecting the Gallagher Ranch in Point Reyes Station. They’re just a really wonderful family and their ranch is one of the most beautiful I’ve been on, and that was the first really complicated easement project I worked on (three funders! Pasture and redwoods and tidal streams! Complicated water rights! So fun!). It really set the groundwork for the amazing things I’m doing now at At + Open Space.

What compelled you to pick a career in land conservation? 
When I was a kid, a housing development was built on the farm next to our park. They crushed the hibernating turtles with their bulldozers. All of them. And they knew it would happen and did it anyway. It took me decades to find my way to this work, but that’s a rage that hasn’t left me and once I found land conservation, there was no going back.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor and why? 
There is this cherry ice cream that’s only available at Lucky’s during cherry season. It tastes like springtime, like my brothers and I are kids again climbing trees and stuffing our faces with cherries until we hear the cowbell.