First Person: A conversation with Lucy Blake, Northern Sierra Partnership president


Lucy Blake, president of the Northern Sierra Partnership, conservation leader, sustainability advocate, and rancher, talks with Lisa Van Dusen about her work as a wrangler.

Blake, a MacArthur Fellow and Palo Alto resident, describes her work as "wrangling" her collaborators to protect the Northern Sierras from Mount Lassen to Lake Tahoe.

The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Business Council, Feather River Land Trust, Truckee Donner Land Trust, and The Trust for Public Land are collaborating with local foundations, public agencies, nonprofit organizations and local communities to conserve, restore, and enhance the natural landscape of the northern Sierra Nevada, and build the foundation for rural prosperity.

As founder and former president of the Sierra Business Council, Blake has brought "funny bedfellows" together as now staunch believers in the importance of conservation as a driver of economic health and quality of life in the most holistic sense. Blake led the California League of Conservation Voters (starting in her 20s), championed renewable energy, served as national co-chair of Clean Tech for President Barack Obama and currently sits on the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund board.

A results-oriented business woman at heart, Blake is a testament to what can be accomplished when you have a big idea, a lot of grit, and it never occurs to you to take no for an answer. She doesn't worry about ruffling feathers or whether something hasn't been done before.

Blake was born in Tunisia as one of three daughters of a diplomat and educated at an all-girls high school (relevant datapoint, she notes). Though rootless as a child, she bought a worn-out cattle ranch in Sierra Valley more than 25 years ago, which she has since restored. With a conservation win every year since its inception in 2007, Blake is in this for the long haul, anticipating that this effort will round the bend to completion in about 2020.

She graduated from Brown University in 1981 with an A.B. in history and the determination to make a meaningful contribution in the environmental sphere. One of her favorite trees is the bristlecone pine, the most ancient tree species on earth.

Host/interview, Lisa Van Dusen

Video, Veronica Weber

Production manager, Taylor Shoolery

Lisa Van Dusen interviews unique Palo Alto personalities in this one-on-one series. For other interviews, visit the First Person page.

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