Photo: Sally & Craig Falkenhagen
Behind every environmental win in California are the people who work to make collaboration and progress possible. We couldn’t do what we do every day without folks who are willing to think differently, see possibilities and make change together. As part of our Check in & Connect series, Director of Individual Giving Jan Merryweather sat down with Sally and Craig Falkenhagen, long-time Sustainable Conservation champions and supporters, to learn more about their conservation story.
Our Shared Ethos
Sally and Craig consider themselves fortunate to have grown up close to the mountains and in touch with nature. “Living in the Tahoe basin, surrounded by the beauty of the Sierras, you can’t help but want to keep it beautiful,” says Sally. “At a young age, I was impressed by how the states of California and Nevada worked together to effectively manage development. That’s where I got my environmental start.”
Growing up in Portland, Craig did lots of backpacking and climbing in the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington. “I’ve been on top of almost every peak you see on your flights from the Bay Area up to the Pacific Northwest. Those experiences helped me develop a strong appreciation of the outdoors, and the importance of protecting our wilderness areas.”
Sally first introduced Craig to Yosemite on a Stanford geology project of hers, and they have returned many times since then, mostly to the high country around May Lake, Tuolumne, and White Wolf. Every outdoor experience builds their awareness of the importance of conservation and strengthens their commitment to help protect our planet’s fragile environment.
Our Sustainable Conservation Connection
After careers in investment sales (Sally) and energy (Craig), on assignments in Los Angeles, West Texas, and then London, the couple returned to the Bay Area in the late 1980s, and Craig entered business school with a classmate who, years later, would become Sustainable Conservation’s CEO.
“Although we only had one or two classes together, I definitely knew of Ashley Boren. Even then, she had a reputation for altruism, dedication to public service, good business judgement and balance. Wealth and personal gain did not seem to be a main priority for her. Fast-forward to today and we see Ashley running a highly respected nonprofit environmental organization in Sustainable Conservation. You see her values, approach and leadership everywhere in the organization and its culture.” – Craig Falkenhagen
Sally and Craig mid-hike, one of many! Photo: Sally & Craig Falkenhagen
Our “Why We Give” Story
Sally and Craig know non-profit fundraising and civic leadership as intimately as they know the mountains of California and the Pacific Northwest. While both are now retired, they are beloved (interviewer’s word, as their modesty is rivaled only by their energy) in the community for their tireless volunteerism and board leadership at organizations ranging from youth groups and environmental education to social services and Stanford University. Here’s what the couple has to say about why they have been supporting Sustainable Conservation for nearly 20 years:
Craig: “We really like the collaboration – the way Sustainable Conservation works with agencies and with all interested stakeholders on solutions to tough problems. All sides of an issue have their stories to tell, and you have to be able to work with each of them.”
Sally: “I like the fact that Sustainable Conservation is local and knowable. To know you [Jan] personally and to know Ashley personally is important to us. It’s different from bigger environmental groups. Sometimes it’s nice to understand how [program] decisions are made. I also like Sustainable Conservation’s focus is on getting something done – a concrete effort that makes progress to improve our world. I think that’s part of what makes the story really compelling.”
Craig: “The character of the organization is hands-on and results driven. Sustainable Conservation is not afraid to experiment a bit to determine effective solutions. We see small startup efforts that could grow and work on a larger scale in other places.”
Sally: “Also, it’s nice to be able to be make a gift that’s meaningful [for an organization of Sustainable Conservation’s size].”
Craig: “It’s an organization where you know the money you invest is going to be used wisely. We trust you.”
Our Favorite Programs and Accomplishments
Sally: “Some past initiatives still resonate with me: getting a toxic metal, copper, out of brakes [Brake Pad Partnership.] Also PlantRight’s work with big-box stores to get them on board to stop selling invasive plants. And then for these successful efforts to transition into stand-alone, established practices, so Sustainable Conservation can go work the magic somewhere else. The model is brilliant. Also, today’s focus on water and groundwater recharge. That’s a big one, and we’ve got to succeed.”
Craig: “As for the future we know you are focused on real solutions to real problems. And many solutions that you find for California could be scalable for the rest of the world. You’re in the right place.”
Thank you, Sally and Craig, for the many ways you continue to advance Sustainable Conservation’s Water for the Future and Accelerating Restoration initiatives. We look forward to seeing you two, and all our readers, at a future field trip!