Twenty-five years ago, Andee and her husband Roc enrolled in a course with the gifted biologist Dave Bontrager at the ranch, not knowing that the experience would be so engaging and transformative.
For ten weeks as adult students, they would hike into Fox canyon to their assigned plots every Saturday morning to take field notes, mark and sketch important trees and shrubs, and look for animal footprints. By carefully observing Starr Ranch’s unique mosaic of habitats, Andee realized that “there is something happening in every square foot out here, if you take just an hour contemplating.”
With her visceral study of the land came a deep connection to this special piece of Orange County’s open space. Reflecting on those Saturdays, Andee recalls feeling, “For those hours, we were the custodians of that land. It was so enjoyable because we had a wild piece of earth to ourselves. Those days at Starr Ranch were really precious to us.”
To this day, Andee supports Starr Ranch and is inspired by the remarkably dedicated staff, namely Pete and Sandy DeSimone, who execute the innovative conservation and education programs year after year. She also sees the Audubon network as an effective powerhouse that is connecting conservation efforts at the chapter, state, and national level. Her personal ethics include funding the things that she cares about, a practice that she got from her parents who taught her that “giving is receiving.”
What is Andee’s vision for Audubon and our planet’s future? “We will have halted the march towards degradation of the planet in a significant way. We will have a critical mass of people who are interested and care about their home; enough people will be onboard. Whoever is alive can say: we side stepped a bullet.” Andee wants her contributions to be effective and impactful. There is a trust in the work at Starr Ranch that compels her to start her legacy now, so that she can see the difference she is making.
By Keryn Sovella
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