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Santa Ynez Valley Couple to Receive Wilderness Spirit Award

The Wildling Art Museum will present the award to Fred and Nancy Emerson at its annual dinner.

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Fred and Nancy Emerson are this year’s recipients of the Wildling Art Museum’s Wilderness Spirit Award. (Holly Cline / Wildling Art Museum photo)

Each year, the Wildling Art Museum in Los Olivos honors an individual or organization that has made an important contribution to the appreciation of the importance of preserving America’s wilderness.

At the museum’s annual Spirit Award Dinner and Benefit on Sept. 20, the Wildling Art Museum will honor Fred and Nancy Emerson and present them with the 2008 Wilderness Spirit Award.

The award dinner and benefit are open to the public. Anyone wishing to join in honoring the Emersons is encouraged to call the museum for an invitation.

“Fred and Nancy Emerson have been leaders in the Santa Ynez Valley in the fields of environmental education and habitat preservation,” museum Director Penny Knowles said. “Countless children and adults have benefited from their knowledge about our unique natural history and from their efforts to preserve the unspoiled beauty of our valley and our night skies. Their lives are exemplary in the way they minimize their adverse effect on the environment. They buy their food at the Farmers Market, drive a Prius and have a garden planted with natives only.”

The Emersons have been valley residents since 2000 (the same year the museum opened), and in that time have made substantial contributions to residents’ appreciation of the unique environment.

With a master’s degree in child development and family relationships from Cornell University, Nancy Emerson became UCSB Sedgwick Reserve’s first outdoor education coordinator and developed its docent corps and the Kids in Nature program.

In 2003, she joined Women’s Environmental Watch. She is a board member and was chairwoman of the Save Our Skies Committee for the past four years. The committee works with local government on ordinances to control nighttime outdoor lighting while educating individuals and businesses in the valley about how to retrofit existing lighting to conserve energy, protect health of humans and wildlife and preserve the beauty of night skies.

Fred Emerson has a Ph.D. in wildlife management from Cornell University and an M.D. from Vanderbilt University. Since retiring from medicine in 1992, he has focused his efforts on teaching about the area’s ecology. He started as a docent at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, then began teaching a birding and natural history courses and leading field trips for those groups and Santa Barbara City College’s Adult Education program.

After moving to the Santa Ynez Valley, Fred Emerson joined his wife as a docent at UCSB’s Sedgwick Reserve and taught ecology to the docents. In the spring of 2001, he began teaching a birding field course for the Wildling Art Museum, which has now gone on for 21 seasons, while continuing to teach birding courses and lead field trips for institutions on the South Coast. By sharing his vast knowledge and understanding of the natural history of the area, Fred Emerson has enriched many lives.

Previous recipients of the Wildling Art Museum’s Wilderness Spirit Award include Ray Strong, Ansel Adams, the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County, Bob Kuhn and Dick Smith.

For more information about the Wildling Art Museum, call 805.688.1082 or visit www.wildlingmuseum.org.

Holly Cline is the marketing and public relations director for the Wildling Art Museum.

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