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About Us


BEC Rally on County's General Plan, 2010The Butte Environmental Council (BEC) is a leading non-profit environmental organization based in Chico, California. Founded in 1975, BEC has continued to provide the community with environmental education, information, and advocacy through programs and events.

BEC's achievements are made possible by the active support of more than 900 valued members, staff, and board.  



Our mission is to protect and defend the land, air and water of Butte County and the surrounding region through action, advocacy and education.

BEC and a Long History of Environmental Protection 


  • The Endangered Species Faire:  An annual commemoration of endangered animal species that encourages involvement of our community’s youth through interactive exhibits, engaging activities, presentations and festive entertainment. Between 3,000 and 10,000 people of all ages visit on Earth Day and participate in northern California’s oldest environmental fair.
  • Community Water ForumHeld on the Second Wednesday of Every Month in ARTS Room 111 On the CSU Chico Campus From 6:00 to 7:30pm. In an effort to provide entry-level water knowledge to the citizens of both the campus and local communities, local environmental groups have come together to host educational water forums where these individuals can learn about California’s water issues through informational presentations and collaborative discussions.
  • Education Programs: Recycling Education, Drought Education, Energy Efficiency, BEC Ed-Ventures
  • Publications:  The Vernal Pools of Butte County book, Environmental Health Covanta, The monthly E-Sentinel.


  • A collaboration with Sierra Club and North State Wilderness resulted in 6,000 acres of Ishi, Bucks Lake, and Chips Creek designated as wilderness area in 1984!
  • BEC's active involvement in the public process ensures a voice for the environment in the areas of: community development and land use planning, local regulation design and implementation, and rescource use and conservation planning.


  • Park and Creek Cleanups: Every year thousands of pounds of trash are collected from Bidwell Park and surrounding creeks in BEC-sponsored clean-ups.  Hundreds of volunteers work together every September to preserve the beauty and environmental integrity of our parklands since 1986. 
  • Block Parties with a Purpose: neighborhood clean up efforts to remove waste and invasive species from our local waterways
  • As a fiscal sponsor BEC supports smaller action oriented local grops: Chico Tree Advocates, Save Oroville Trees, Oroville Dioxin Education Commitee, and Chico 350!
  • BEC's Oaks restoration program: With the help of dozens of community volunteers has planted more than 200 oak seedlings in Upper Bidwell Park along with a barrier to protect them from grazing deer. BEC will continue to provide the trees water each week through the summer months to ensure their survival for the first 3 years.

BEC's Current Work

BEC continues to be very active in Butte County and the surrounding region.

  • Our advocacy programs are working to protect groundwater, improve air quality, and encourage growth that is healthy for the community and the environment.
  • Our education programs continue to work to inform the public about environmental health and wellness through our workshops and our educational outreach materials.
  • We are moving toward a membership development model that focuses on bringing people together and protecting the environment through building a strong community.
  • We are still working to save the world.


Board of Directors

The BEC Board of Directors determines policies, procedures and regulations for the conduct of the organization, helps in raising funds to finance BEC and its programs, promotes BEC in the community, and monitors its organizational performance. Terms are three years running with the fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) with a maximum of three consecutive terms (9 years).   

BEC Board

Job duties include attendance of at least half of the yearly board meetings, participation in at least one (1) committee, and volunteering at BEC special events.  Board members will have opportunities to understand and make a difference on local and regional issues that impact our air, water, land and people.  Only BEC members are eligible to serve on the Board or on Committees.


Every June at BEC we have our annual Board of Directors election. Members have the opportunity to vote for the individuals that will help lead BEC in the future. Members also have the opportunity to serve on the BEC Board!


If you are interested in being part of the BEC leadership team please submit a Board Member Application and your bio for the ballot. Our Executive Director will be in touch with you once we have received your application. Voting will take place over two weeks, from Wednesday June, 1 to Wednesday June, 14. Most BEC members will receive a digital ballot via email, while our "analog" members will receive a paper ballot in the mail.


Any current BEC members interested in serving BEC are encouraged to apply.  For any questions about serving on the board call Natalie at 891-6424.


If you are interested in serving on the BEC Board of Directors, please download and complete this Board Member Application form and submit by email to the BEC Executive Director.  If you have questions or would like to learn more about serving on the BEC board, please call and we'll be happy to discuss.

Meet our Current Board of Directors

Sharon WallaceChair 
Sharon Wallace
I have been very active in north valley environmental and civic organizations since graduating from CSU Chico in 1983.  An early interest in land-use planning led to a 4-yr appointment to Chico's Architectural Review Board, followed by long-term service on the Boards of River Partners, the Northern California Regional Land Trust, and the League of Women Voters. Most recently I served on the Board of Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance which subsequently merged with BEC to form a countywide watershed education and advocacy program.  (Sharon was appointed to the BEC board in November 2013 and was elected in June 2014.

Scott Grist, Co-Chair

Scott Grist, BEC Board Member

Scott came to Chico in 2002 and quickly fell in love with all the natural areas that surround the community. While earning a degree in Geology at CSU Chico, he frequently went camping and backpacking in nearby wilderness areas. These adventures lead Scott to teaching and involvement in nature education and advocacy. He has designed outdoor programs for at-risk teens as a Counselor at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club. He is trained in Wilderness Survival and holds local workshops teaching outdoor skills to adults. He leads regular Edible & Medicinal Plant Walks in Bidwell Park and currently works at the GRUB CSA farm growing local organic veggies for the community. He is inspired to contribute to a team that has over 40 years of environmental advocacy behind them.

Rebecca HoldenTreasurer

I worked as Assistant Director at BEC until October 2017. I am dedicated to promoting waste-zero lifestyles and a cleaner environment. I  work at Recology as the Waste-Zero Specialist. I would like to add to the momentum that BEC has in our community. I believe in the mission and want to constructively insert my ideas and energy. BEC is a dynamic team of environmentally-minded community champions and I am honored to continue my service to this great organization as a Board member.

Heidi BlanchardSecretary 

Heidi Blanchard is an involved community citizen who loves volunteering her time to help make Chico a more healthy, vibrant and sustainable place to live.  She is a dedicated mom to two wonderful children and leads a "Farm School" where she engages young children in gardening, raising chickens, cooking, crafts and playing in the mud.  She is a credentialed teacher who has taught preschoolers through 6th graders and most recently taught Botany as a guest teacher for a year at Sherwood Montessori.  Heidi enjoys collaborating as a team and is excited to be part of an organization which has been making a positive impact in Chico for 40 years.

Paige Gimbal
Paige moved to Chico in 1973. She is wife to Kim, mother to Danielle and companion to her funny border collie, Linus. She completed her undergraduate studies at CSU, Chico with a degree in Agriculture & Irrigation Science in 1978 and has worked in the irrigation industry for 38 years, specializing in pump systems, reclaim water use, water use efficiency, rainwater harvesting and water conservation. She advocates for non-irrigation in the built environment and believes we need to use art instead of water to create community spaces.  Paige is grateful to have worked with Chico Community Gardens Project (1974-1976) and to be a founding member of BEC (1975-1976). Paige is passionate about building community and bringing people together.

Mark Gailey 

Mark Gailey, BEC Board Member

I served on BEC Board for several years, starting when Steve Evans was still coordinator (his last year) and ending near the end of Barbara Vlamis’s term as Coordinator.  I was the first recipient of the BEC Michael McGinnis Service Award (although by today’s standards, I certainly wouldn’t be worthy of that award).  I also served on the Board of Directors for Blue Room Theatre for a number of years (ending in 2005). Primarily within the CUSD, I was the Principal of Forest Ranch School (for 3 yrs.)  & the Asst. Principal at a number of of large elementary schools in Chico (for 6 yrs.)  I served as a public school teacher and administrator for a total of 32.5 yrs.  I was an Executive Board member of the CUTA for many years. 

I’ve been a long time BEC member (I joined BEC soon after I moved to Chico, probably near 1982 or so).  My big BEC event = initially as a volunteer, then as the Hooker Oak site coordinator, is with the Annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Clean Up (for many years – I don’t even remember how many). I’m currently retired, and I have interests in drawing, playing soccer, bike riding and acoustic music (both playing and attending).  I’ve also been helping with CHAT & Safe Space for the past 3 to 4 yrs.

Lorilei Angle 

I joined the BEC board so that  I may have an active role in protecting our local habitats and natural resources. During my time at SJSU, I often work in groups on projects for our Geography and Global Studies Department, Working as a team has always been a pleasure for me, beacuase it provides a variety of ideas and solutioins. I can't wait to offer my knowledge and skills to help grow BEC and ensure the success of our team!


Jane Martin

Having known and worked with several of BEC's past and present leaders and board members, I have seen what it takes to the events and awesome projects BEC has led. I am passionate about protecting the environment and would like to teach and share that passion with others. I joined the board because, now more than ever, it's time to take stewardship of our home!

Interested in serving on the BEC Board?

Board elections take place every June and any current BEC member is eligible to stand for office.  Vacancies may sometimes be available between elections, in which case an interested applicant could be appointed to the BEC Board.  Download and complete this Board Member Application form and submit by email to the BEC Executive Director.  Please call the BEC office for inquiries.
See Also:




Butte Environmental Council was originally founded as a collective representing five local environmental efforts. The aim was to come together as a coalition of diverse groups to serve as a streamlined, effective force for environmental  education and advocacy in Butte County. In its first year of incorporation, BEC was a cooperative with representatives from five environmental groups: the Sierra Club, Northstate Wilderness Committee, Community Gardens Project, Forces to Restore Earth's Environment (FREE), and Student Environmental Collective.

Environmental Community Gathering event on  March 27, 2015

This event brought together local environmental organizations and their supporters for a night of conversation and celebration. This reception was the final event of the This Way to Sustainability Conference that took place at CSU, Chico on March 26-27. By gathering together we hoped that we strengthened relationships and improved communication between the organizations to develop more viable strategies and alliances for a safer, healthier and more vibrant community. Click here to visit the outcomes of the Environmental Community Gathering

The Environmental Coalition of Butte County

Today BEC is revisiting its original "Council" identity with efforts to bring together local environmental organizations and meet regularly as a coalition.  The goal of the coalition is to strategically address some of the most important regional issues facing our community. We're bringing together key environmental stakeholders to strategize on topics such as the proposed Agriculture Mitigation Ordinance, addressing Climate Change at the local level, assess the local threats posed by hydraulic fracturing or evaluating the proposed Butte Regional Conservation Plan that lays out the next 50 years of habitat protection in Butte County.  By working together, we can support (not duplicate) each other's efforts. Because we are all operating under constant budget constraints, we need to be able to work smarter together to make the most of all of our resources and information. The twenty-three organizations listed below participated in a Community Gathering event in March 2013 and again in 2014 and 2015 to celebrate our victories and learn more about each others' varied efforts. Most of these organizations are represented at our quarterly Coalition meetings. 


Altacal Audubon Society
Associated Students Sustainability Program, CSUC
Butte Bicycle Coalition
Butte College, Sustainability Resource Center
Butte Environmental Council
California Native Plant Society, Mt Lassen Chapter 
California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC)
California Urban Streams Alliance: The Stream Team
Center for Water & the Environment, CSUC
Citizen Action Network, Frack-Free Butte County
Citizen's Water Watch
Chico Creek Nature Center
• Chico Peace & Justice Center
• Chico Tree Advocates
• Chico VELO Cycling
Cultivating Community North Valley
Frack-Free Butte County
• Friends of Bidwell Park
• Friends of Butte Creek
• Friends of the Farmers Market
GRID Alternatives
GRUB Education Program
Institute for Sustainable Development, CSUC
Kids & Creeks
• Northern California Regional Land Trust
Outdoor Education For All (OEFA)
River Partners
Sacramento River Preservation Trust
Sierra Club Yahi Group
The Chico Grange


Citizens Water Watch

A local group led by Marty Dunlap that assembles longtime citizen water advocates to track and steer water policy, particularly as it relates to Delta plans for North State water; and the evolution of the Northern Sacramento Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (NSV IRWMP).



California Environmental Water Caucus (EWC)

BEC is an active participant in the California Environmental Water Caucus, which is an umbrella organization of groups advocating for sustainable water policy for California. BEC and EWCBEC staff and board members participate in monthly teleconference calls and annual strategy meetings, working with other knowledgeable water advocates at the state level to pursue political, legal and economic strategies to restore ecological health, improve water quality and protect public trust values throughout California's water systems.  Through our participation at the state level, BEC is able to assess proposed legislation and policy that would impact north state residents, ecosystems, and our water infrastructure.

EarthShare California

EarthShare was formed in 1982 as a coalition of twelve environmental programs working together to raise needed funds through workplace fundraising campaigns. EarthShare California manages environmental giving campaigns in workplaces for environmental and conservation charities, more than 40 national and international organizations; BEC has been an EarthShare affiliate since 2002. For more information on EarthShare, see here.


EcoDirectory of Local Environmental Organizations



Corporate Giving and Sponsorship



Corporate Sponsor Page Banner

Local Corporate Sponsors and Individual Donors have been instrumental in supporting BEC's events and programs over the years.  We are deeply grateful for this support and make every effort to offer public recognition of these sponsorships through our newsletter, website, event t-shirts, news releases, and all publicity efforts.  Some local sponsors who have supported BEC include:

2017 Corporate Sponsors Image


We welcome sponsorship at the following levels:
$5,000+ Diamond Sponsor
$1,000 Platinum Sponsor
$500 Gold Sponsor
$250 Silver Sponsor
$100 Green Sponsor
To become a BEC sponsor, please contact Executive Director, Natalie Carter by email or call 530-891-6424.

Annual Events Seeking Sponsorship:


January--Angel Social
This exclusive event caters to our monthly and quarterly donors, giving them a unique opportunity to get a sneak peak on BEC's previous year achievements as well as plans for the new year before anyone else. Angels are treated to hors d'œvres and a wine & beer bar and have the chance to mingle with BEC staff and Board Members to ask questions, learn more about the organization's activities and give input as to the type of work they would like to see BEC do in the community.
This large festival event typically draw approximately 3000 people over the course of the day with over 40 participating organizations, food vendors, and a full day’s line-up of musical acts, live-animal shows, and a drawing.  The event has history, name recognition, and a large reference binder from past years to assist with planning. 
BEC has been hosting Cleanups for over 25 years on California Coastal Cleanup Day. Volunteers include BEC members, community groups, Chico State fraternities and other clubs and some families with children.  Volunteers are provided morning refreshments and a BBQ lunch following the event. This event always generates a significant amount of publicity in the local newspapers and TV media.

October--BEC Anniversary Gala

BEC will commemorate its birthday with an annual banquet and awards dinner that recognizes local individuals and organizations that have made significant, positive impacts in the envionmental community. This fun event features a catered banquet, live music, a silent auction and a live dessert auction! Corporate sponsors are thanked in print & digital event advertisements and are thanked on-stage during the event.




A Timeline of BEC's Legacy 

BEC is founded by representatives from five environmental groups: Wes Dempsey of the Sierra Club, Steve Evans of Northstate Wilderness Committee, David James of Community Gardens Project, Michael McGinnis of Forces to Restore Earth's Environment (FREE), and Jonnel Schmitz of Student Environmental Collective. "The initial members were driven by the intention to save the world or at least a piece of it," said Michael McGinnis, a founder.  Chico State’s CAVE program provided office space and facilities for BEC's first eleven years of operation.

BEC moves out of the tiny office space at Chico State to Seventh and Cherry Street.

BEC makes its first significant contribution to Butte County by introducing a multi-use recycling service.  Glass, tin, aluminum, cardboard, and newspaper were collected in the curbside program for a $1 monthly fee. "Recycling offers an immediate benefit to our education;" said Michael McGinnis, the first general manager of BEC, "it is a direct way to see a result in the physical quality of life."

Late 1980s
BEC’s recycling services are sold to North Valley Disposal (now known as North Valley Waste Management), just one of many large disposal companies to enter the market at the time.  The deal allowed BEC to begin focusing on what they really are passionate about: education, advocacy, and referral services. 

Barbara Vlamis is hired as BEC's Executive Director.

BEC relocates to downtown Chico, above the Naked Lounge Café on Second Street.

BEC funds, through a Strong Foundation grant, printing of “The Vernal Pools of Butte County,” a booklet written by Dave Ross and illustrated by Pavia Wald. The booklet was created to give an overview of vernal pools, their inhabitants, and why they are a unique habitat in need of protection.

Lynn Barris, a Butte County almond farmer, joined BEC and became a board member after a neighboring farmer’s groundwater sales out of district impacted her ability to water her crop. With strong advocacy from Lynn and then-Executive Director Barbara Vlamis, BEC took up the cause of imperiled groundwater in the County General Plan process, participating in the committee that created the Water Element. Because of its stance on water sales out of area, BEC frequently squared off against the Irrigation Districts and their lawyers, notably with the November 1996 Measure F (a ballot initiative to protect Butte County water) which, though it lost to the Irrigation Districts’ Measure G, had several of its provisions implemented.

Also in 1995, BEC board member Chuck Lungren led the creation of BEC’s newspaper, the “Environmental News,” predecessor of our online Environmental Sentinel.

BEC sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service for a critical habitat designation for four types of vernal pool-dependant crustaceans. The USFW asked for a one-year extension in 2001; however, in August of 2003 the Bush administration's Department of the Interior took a million acres of critical habitat off of its final rule, leaving no habitat in Butte, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Sacramento and Solano counties.

BEC, the California Native Plant Society, and Defenders of Wildlife filed a complaint over the Rule. In 2005, the Department released their second, final Rule, which added habitat to five of the six previously omitted counties--but removed habitat from other counties. The justification for a less protective Rule was, predictably, a flawed economic analysis that undervalued the economic benefits of protecting critical habitat.

The Humboldt Road Burn Dump was purchased by developers Tom Fogarty and Drake Homes in the early '80s, along with adjacent land, for development as residential housing. Severe lead contamination was discovered at the primary dump site in 1987; because of the intent to build homes on that site, a very costly and stringent cleanup process was implemented. The cleanup was further complicated by proximity to the Marsh Jr. High School a few hundred yards away. Eventually Drake Homes and the City of Chico withdrew from the project over liability issues for hazardous soil disposal.

BEC, together with the Butte County Air Quality Management District, were actively involved in overseeing the cleanup's progress, which was completed in 2005; thanks to BEC, the Fogarty project will not place housing on any remediated land.

BEC receives its first grant from The California Wellness Foundation. This large multi-year grant enabled BEC to create and administer information in Butte County about reducing exposure to toxins in the home, and funded a community survey on the effectiveness of our wellness outreach. 

Early in 2009 the Governor issued a proclamation claiming an emergency drought and sought to implement water transfers without following California environmental law, specifically the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). BEC hired the legal team of Lippe, Gaffney and Wagner, LLP, to challenge the exemption because the relatively mild drought is not an emergency situation caused by nature but rather a regulatory drought caused by mismanagement. In April 2009, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and the California Water Impact Network were named with BEC on the suit against a long list of powerful water districts and agencies that joined the State’s effort to facilitate water transfers without following environmental law.

On March, 16, 2010, a Superior Court ruled that the State has to comply with environmental laws even in dry times. The Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, ruled in favor of BEC and co-petitioners in their lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources in their plan to transfer additional water because of a three year drought. This was an important win for the North Valley’s water resources and environment. Requiring the State to comply with environmental laws will help ensure that the Tuscan aquifer system remains healthy and well managed into the future.

Also in 2009, the Executive Director position is split into Administrative & Advocacy Director positions. Barbara Vlamis left BEC to form AquAlliance; Nikki Schlaishunt and Robin Huffman were hired as Administrative and Advocacy Directors.

BEC receives another two-year grant from The California Wellness Foundation. This grant includes funds to test backyard chicken eggs in the south Oroville area for dioxins, as the California Department of Public Health did in 1988 and 1994 after a fire at the Koppers wood treatment facility released dioxins into the surrounding area. For more information, see our dioxins page.

Robyn DiFalco was hired as Executive Director in February.Robyn DiFalco

In June of 2012, BEC received results from waste ash samples taken from the co-generation power plant in south Oroville showing elevated levels of dioxins in the waste ash. The toxics research in south Oroville takes a new turn...


Natalie Carter was hired as Executive Director in March.

30th Annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Cleanup event. Ongoing monthly Block Parties with a Purpose. 






Natalie Carter, Executive Director

Natalie Carter

Natalie has lived in Chico since she moved here as a child in 1991. Growing up in Chico, Natalie developed a deep-rooted connection to the environment and community.  She earned her degree in General Biology from CSU Chico in 2009. After graduating she gained a range of experiences working with a variety of seasonal research and environmental education programs. Since 2012 Natalie has worked for the Chico Certified Farmers Market (CCFM), helping to bring fresh locally grown food directly to the communities in our region. Working with the CCFM she prioritized building connections with the community by seeking out community partnerships, attending community meetings, and bringing improved customer services/experiences to the Farmers Markets. 
An active voice in her community, Natalie served as treasurer for the Honey Covered Bridge Association in 2013 and 2014, and has served on the Chico Natural Food Cooperative Board of Directors. She is eager to take on BEC’s legacy as a champion for the needs of our community, to defend its resources, and to make a meaningful difference as a representative for our land, air, and water. 
She is passionate about the environment and loves being in nature. She believes that passing her passion on to others is the best way to ensure our natural resources are protected for the future. 



Angel Gomez, Program Manager Picture of Angel Gomez, Watershed Coordinator

Angel grew up in Chico and after living in a few different cities she decided to make Chico her permanent home. Her passion for the environment and it's protection started at age 15 and has grown since then. She was recently the market manager for the Chico Certified Farmers Market. Her passion to make positive changes in her community led her to Butte Environmental Council. She was previously on the board of directors for Butte Environmental Council as well as Chico Natural Foods and Chico Creek Nature Center. Angel currently holds the Environmental/Watershed alternate seat for the Butte County Forest Advisory Committee. She is also a founding member of the Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition.
Outside of work Angel enjoys being an auntie to many, spending time with animals (and other people's animals), and riding her bike (often with her dog in the basket). 

Craig Wilcox, Business Manager


Craig was born and raised in Seward, Alaska. He traveled to many different countries every summer with his parents who where teachers. From all the traveling, he was able to see and learn about many differing cultures and ways of living with nature. He followed his significant other to Chico in 2007 for her Masters dregree. He recieved his MBA 11 years later with a concentration in Accounting.  With his wife and two adopted children, they run a small homestead in the Sierra Nevada foothills. He has been on the board of directors for VECTORS as well as other Non-profit 501(c)(3)'s. Craig's passions of living with nature comes from his parents, and his wife. He is a constant advocate for Veteran's Rights as his wife is a disabled Army Vet. As his parents were teachers, he pushes for increasing the education of our children, as well as increasing the value of our teachers.

BEC Consultant

Carol PerkinsWater Policy Advocate
Carol is a local water resource advocate who recently completed her Master’s in Environmental Science with a focus on watersheds and surface and ground water geochemistry. Carol has an interest in sustainable policies and practices in agriculture, landscape, and development as they relate to water conservation and resource protection that drives her efforts over the last seven years as a water resource advocate. Carol has been instrumental in helping shape policy and activities in Butte County more founded in science.  Carol has worked with BEC as an independent contractor since 2008. 




Our team of interns also make up a valuable part of the BEC team each semester.  If you are interested in an internship with BEC, please contact our office or click here to learn more about our internship program and how you can get involved.