Staff Spotlight: Jake Newell, Stewardship Supervisor

February 28, 2024

Posted in: People & Places

Jake grew up on the urban edge of Red Bluff, CA on a small suburban street constructed in the dwindling expanse of valley oak savannah. He spent his playtime wandering the savannah, listening to birdsong, watching out for rattlesnakes and bulls, and playing with his brothers and friends. As the years went by, the savannah was slowly converted to suburban housing, erasing the landscape of some of his most precious childhood memories. His love of land led him to study Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara. After spending a year in the desert after graduation, he was ready for greener climes and migrated to Mendocino and Sonoma counties. He worked for AmeriCorps, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and UC Cooperative Extension, before landing his dream job at Ag + Open Space in 2004.

Jake with bulls in the background

What is your favorite Sonoma County place to get outside and why?
That’s definitely a secret, and a difficult choice given the variety of landscapes we have in Sonoma County. I feel most at home in riparian streams in the oak woodlands, but I also cherish our coastal prairies and redwood forests. One thing I really enjoy is accessing a property for the first time and seeing our landscape from a slightly different angle.

What’s one fact, statistic, or interesting tidbit about land conservation that you enjoy sharing with others?
Our Stewardship Program is responsible for monitoring and enforcing over 250 conservation and open space easements, which involves working with over 330 landowners. We strive to monitor every easement every 12-18 months, which means we want to be issuing one report every working day of the year.

What’s your proudest moment working in land conservation and why?
There was a time when I had to sit in front of a jury and answer critical questions about our work. It felt good to be able to speak with open honesty and even pride, knowing that we are an organization that operates in good faith in service to our mission and the public.

What compelled you to pick a career in land conservation?
I feel pain when I see land – and the living systems that depend on it – damaged or converted to an exclusively human use. Being endowed with such tremendous power and influence over the conditions of our landscapes, I think human beings have a responsibility to wisely and compassionatly steward our world. As the decades pass, I realize how working hard at one’s job is a significant gift of life-energy, so it is a blessing to know that my work is helping to support the mission of Ag + Open Space.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor and why?
Duckworth Blueberry! One of our west county landowners, Lorri & Oscar Duckworth, have put their hearts and souls into connecting with the land – they know and care for all of its creatures and have brought the land back into agricultural production with blueberries. They live for bringing people onto the farm to pick blueberries and picnic in paradise on their seasonal U-Pick Days. That blueberry ice cream is the best.