The Mission of California Open Lands is to enhance and preserve natural resources in the conservation of Northern California’s flora and fauna on open lands in perpetuity, including the restoration and cultivation of California native plants utilizing principles of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) for food, fiber and medicine; and to foster opportunities for people to connect with and learn about the natural resources and open lands of their neighborhood and region.
California Open Lands preserves and manages open space, exchanges scientific information, and fosters the conservation of California’s natural resources. California Open Lands accepts conservation easements for the purpose of protecting wetlands, sensitive resources, endangered species, and other natural habitats. California Open Lands was specifically established as a third party conservation oriented entity.
Ali Meders-Knight is a Mechoopda tribal member, mother of five, and traditional basketweaver based in Chico, CA. She has been recognized by the Mechoopda Tribe as a Master TEK practitioner, and works to form partnerships for federal forest stewardship contracting and tribal restoration programs on public lands. She has been a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) practitioner for over 20 years, collaborating on environmental education and land restoration projects with Chico State University, the City of Chico, Tehama County Resource Conservation District, and more. She serves on the Tribal Relations Strategic Planning and Implementation committee for the US Forest Service in Region 5. In March 2022 she testified to the U.S. House of Representatives Environmental Oversight Subcommittee on the merits of TEK and Tribally-led workforce development to restore California forest resilience and address the problem of catastrophic wildfires. In 2009 she helped plan and establish Verbena Fields, a unique 17-acre interactive food forest and interpretive park in North Chico, to educate about the rich ecological heritage of the Mechoopda people through weekly community tending workshops.
Mel Figueroa brings nearly 15 years of expertise and experience in traditional ecological knowledge and community-based natural resource management to COL. A PhD Candidate in Geography at UC Berkeley, she has conducted fieldwork with traditional communities in North and South America, including in the lower Amazon River basin studying traditional agroforestry and burning practices to create the carbon-rich, biochar-based anthropogenic soils known as terra preta. For the last three years in Butte County, she has worked closely with Ali Meders-Knight to create a Tribal TEK certification and workforce development program, as well as partner with local and federal agencies on planning, project development, and contracting for Tribally led restoration, fuels management, and climate adaptation projects throughout the northern Sierra Nevada region. Mel and Ali are strong policy advocates for the inclusion of TEK and Tribal co-stewardship in public lands management throughout California, serving on an advisory committee for the US Forest Service Tribal Relations Strategic Planning Team in Region 5, which collaborates with Tribal practitioners and agency staff to expand opportunities for Tribal co-stewardship on National Forest lands in California.
Dewey Barnes is a certified C-faller, hazard tree removal specialist, and a Wildland Type 2 firefighter. He has worked as Mechoopda TEK Crew Foreman for Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS) since 2019, working on fuels reduction contracts in Concow, Magalia, Yosemite National Park, El Dorado National Forest, Tahoe National Forest, and Collins Pine Timber Reserve. Previously, he worked in logging and fuels reduction for five years at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation. He also works on prescribed burning through the Butte Cal-TREX program, and in forest restoration through the Chico Traditional Ecological Stewardship Program.
Alex Zubia, also known as “Xef,” is a chef and food justice advocate born and raised in Fresno, CA (Yokuts Land). He attended The California Culinary Academy in San Francisco (Ramaytush Ohlone land) in 2007 and discovered his passion for cooking through his love of eating. From 2008-2015, Xef opened his own food truck. His food truck focused on providing healthier, farm-to-fork versions of familiar foods.
In Fresno, Alex works to fight for food justice, mentor young fathers, system impacted youth, and created the Food Sovereignty & Medicine Program at Fresno Barrios Unidos. His goal is to promote food sovereignty and bring his community back to cooking and eating their indigenous foods, which are abundant in the Central Valley. Alex adopts certain principles like ITEK Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Indigenous Permaculture Design as a way to combat the problems of soil erosion and lack of biodiversity, which will be crucial to climate restoration for our next seven generations. Xef and his community literally plant seeds for the next seven generations.
John has been in the insurance industry for over 30 years. He is currently the Vice President of Dahlmeier Insurance Agency. Being a motivated person, John takes on many civic as well as industry positions. He is a Trustee for the Butte-Glenn Community College served as past president of the Oroville Rotary Club, Butte-Glenn Community College Foundation, YMCA, and Ehmann Trust Foundation . He also served on the Oroville Hospital Community Board as well as several non-profit boards. John also likes to play tennis, golf, and enjoys the outdoors.
Mike is a Broker with more than fifteen years of Economic Development and Commercial Real Estate experience and specializes in helping companies with their real estate experiences so they prosper and grow, creating more jobs for the community. He is a member of the Chico Rotary, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Work Training Center, the Butte County Economic Development Corporation, the Chico Economic Planning Corporation and the Oroville Economic Development Corporation. He is also a Founder of Golden Valley Bank and a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Donnelly loves the great outdoors and open spaces, and looks forward to preserving natural landscapes for future generations.
With over 38 years of experience in the field of land surveying and has extensive knowledge in land surveying principles and surveying law. He is currently the President of Rolls, Anderson & Rolls in Chico, California; he is also a member of the California Land Surveyors’ Association. Herb loves fishing and hunting and is an advocate for open spaces.
Fritz is a former executive of the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that operates Wikipedia. In 2014, he started Wiki Education Foundation, an ed-tech nonprofit dedicated to improving Wikipedia's coverage of topics that are of interest to the general public. Fritz is passionate about the natural environment and spends most of his free time outdoors. As one of Wikipedia's volunteer photographers, Fritz enjoys sharing his love of nature with millions of people through the lens of his camera. He's a member of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the North American Nature Photography Association, and the Chico Rotary Club.
Bio coming soon