- Author: Gregory C. Ira, Director, UC Environmental Stewards
In 2012, the California Naturalist certification course became a statewide program within UC Agriculture and Natural Resources known as the California Naturalist Program. For 10 years, the course and the program have shared the same name. In 2020, we added the new Climate Stewards certification course. Both courses use education and service to inspire and empower individuals to create more sustainable and resilient communities and ecosystems.
Unfortunately, our program name only reflected one half of our work. To better reflect the scope of both the California Naturalist and the Climate Stewards certification courses, we've renamed our program “UC Environmental Stewards.” This new program name reflects the overarching importance of environmental stewardship to both courses.
While the program name is new, the two courses remain unchanged. The California Naturalist course still proudly focuses on California's natural history under the emblem of the California sister butterfly, and the Climate Stewards course still builds community resilience under the emblem of the lupine. Anyone certified as a California Naturalist or Climate Steward is still a California Naturalist or Climate Steward. UC Environmental Stewards is simply the new programmatic home for these two courses, and potentially any others we may add in the future.
Along with our program name, we are excited to announce additions to our small but growing program team. Jill Santos joins the program in Ventura County at the end of the month and next month we welcome Michelle Peeters, who will support our partners in Northern California.
The growth of the Environmental Stewards program reflects the demand for our courses and the growing need for community and ecosystem resilience. As Californians search for ways to productively engage in local solutions to the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, they are finding our courses. Through community education, civic engagement, and the cultivation of a shared identity as environmental stewards, the program builds the adaptive capacity of individuals and communities to address the impacts we are already experiencing, as well as those yet to come.
Our collective impact network of 67 local partner organizations has conducted 422 California Naturalist and Climate Stewards courses and trained over 7,600 participants since the program started. These certified naturalists and stewards have gone on to volunteer over 240,000 hours of service across the state since 2018, worth over $6 million. The UC Environmental Stewards program continues the legacy of the original program started in 2012, and opens the door for many more Californians to effectively engage in discovery, action and stewardship.