September 6, 2015

Founding Chapter Member Bob Whitney

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Robert “Bob” Bruce Whitney, passed away on July 15, 2015 after a brave, brief battle with liver cancer. In his 73 years, Bob celebrated life every day through his commitment to family and his tireless work for the environment.

Bob grew up in Costa Mesa, with his mother Betty, a nurse, and his two brothers, Peter and Chris. Bob attended high school at Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire. In 1961, he moved to Santa Barbara to attend UC Santa Barbara, where he studied economics and was a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. He married Sally Bromfield in 1963; Bob and Sally had 3 children during their marriage. Bob received his Masters in Economics at USC in 1964.

Bob started his lifelong work on behalf of the environment in Santa Barbara. Bob was a key member of Friends of Hammond’s in 1971, and later of the Hammond’s Meadow Preserve, which saved Montecito’s Hammond’s Meadow and beach from over development and seawall formation. Due to these efforts, a three acre meadow, public access trails and a natural beach still exist for future generations to enjoy.

Bob was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Environmental Defense Center in 1977. The EDC has gone on to be the powerhouse of legal action and advocacy for environmental protection in Santa Barbara County. Bob was the Director of the Santa Barbara Indian Center when he was part of a coalition that stopped PG&E from building a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) port terminal at Cojo above the Hollister Ranch, just below Point Conception. This precious stretch of coast still remains in its natural state today, a rarity in Southern California.

In 1972, Bob and his family moved to New Zealand, and lived there for four years. Bob taught high school economics, and his family had a wonderful experience of learning about a different country and culture.

In 1976 Bob returned to Santa Barbara with his family. After his divorce, Bob found friendship and love with his second wife, Joan Person Whitney.  Joan and Bob raised two sons and remained lovingly married until the end of his life.

In 1983, Bob and family moved to Willits, CA where Bob taught economics and the first computer programming classes offered at Willits High School, all the while becoming involved in the local environmental community. In 1989, Bob and family moved for a year to Sitka, Alaska where Bob taught at the local high school. When he returned to Willits, Bob turned his long-standing environmental activism volunteer work into a career as an environmental planner. Bob’s thirty years of environmental work and volunteer efforts in Northern California, spans from the ocean to mountains and thousands of acres in between. Some of the highlights of Bob’s extensive work and dedication to the environment are:

  • Working with the California Department of Forestry to implement sustainable forest practices on large areas of timberland in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.
  • Driving force behind establishing the Golden State Land Conservancy, a land trust based in Willits that holds conservation easements on over 34,000 acres in California.
  • Founding member of the Gualala River Watershed Council, a non-profit working to restore the Gualala River watershed.
  • Founding member of Mendocino Coast Chapter Surfriders.  Served as a volunteer and in leadership positions on a wide variety of citizen groups promoting sound environmental practices.

Bob approached these endeavors with soft-spoken humor, intelligence, patience and persistence. He was unfailingly generous with his time and spirit. He brought great patience and insight to the community-based land trust movement—and a healthy dose of pragmatism in realizing conservation outcomes that would not have been possible without his unique gift of creativity and foresight.

Bob had a deep appreciation and love for his family. He always made visiting his children and grandchildren a top priority in his life. Together they had many great family adventures and trips: surf trips to Mexico, snowboarding trips to Tahoe, YMCA Family Camp TQ in the Sierras, Kauai vacations, traveling to San Diego and Santa Barbara several times a year to visit his children and grandchildren, and hosting family at his “Camp Brooktrails”.

Bob: son, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, good friend and friend of the Earth. He will be deeply missed by many. Bob is survived by his wife Joan, his sons Blair, Adam, Jason and Jeremy, daughter Alison, and five grandchildren. A celebration of Bob’s life will be held in the near future.

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