Growing Trees Foundation

Jeri Fergus, Barbara Ristow, Mona Provisor, and Kerry Reynolds (l-r) at a recent thank-you and farewell lunch for long-time Trees Foundation Collective member Barbara.
Photo by Trees Foundation
Jeri Fergus, Barbara Ristow, Mona Provisor, and Kerry Reynolds (l-r) at a recent thank-you and farewell lunch for long-time Trees Foundation Collective member Barbara. Photo by Trees Foundation

In an effort to better serve our community and our partner groups, Trees Foundation has grown. We have new Staff, new Board Members, and a bustling new Forest Health and Fire Resources Program.

After serving nearly four years as our Organizational Development and Partner Outreach Director, Kerry Reynolds is moving into a new position as our Forest Health and Fire Resources Program Director. We are thrilled to welcome Mary Gaterud as our new Organizational Development and Partner Outreach Director, and Damien Roomets and Kyle Keegan as new members of the Forest Health and Fire Resources Program team.

Kerry Reynolds (right) visits with Cultural Fire Management Council’s Elizabeth Azzuz at the first N-Shong Konk’ “Good Fire” event, co-sponsored by Trees Foundation, at the Mateel Community Center in Redway. 

We also proudly announce two new members of our Board, Elizabeth Redfeather and Perry Lincoln, both representatives of the First Peoples who engaged in responsible land stewardship of our home bio-region since before the measuring of time. Please join us in giving a heartfelt welcome to their honored participation in the leadership of our organization.

Expanding Roots and Reaching for the Sky

Elizabeth Redfeather is a Tribal Member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and she is proud of her rich culture as a descendant of ConCow, Wailaki, and Nomlaki Peoples. Born in Healdsburg, CA, she moved home to her Reservation around 2007 and now works as a Tribal Social Worker. Elizabeth is active in her traditional ceremonies and is a dancer with The Round Valley Feather Dancers. She also participates in the Nome Cult walk, a 100-mile trek that commemorates the tragic march of Indigenous survivors who were forcibly removed from their homelands in 1863. Her interests include advocating for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIW/MMIP), supporting restoration of the practice of cultural burning to prevent devastating wildfires, standing up for Mother Earth, saving sacred cultural sites, and learning all she can.

Elizabeth Redfeather in traditional regalia, dancing with Round Valley Feather Dancers. 

Perry Eugene Lincoln is also a Tribal Member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and the Executive Director and Project Leader of Native Health in Native Hands (NHNH), a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Perry is a father and grandfather, and a descendant of Wailaki, Yuki, and Pomo Peoples. Perry was raised surrounded by native elders, listening to stories, singing songs, talking about native culture, and attending many ceremonies, dances, and gatherings. He has been instrumental in revitalizing the Wailaki language, and tribal arts and crafts. He strives for collaborative bridges between different communities, and creating opportunities for native youth—such as accessing lands, building traditional redwood canoes, and learning ancestral languages. He believes that overall, it’s not about any one person, but the act of building and supporting teamwork.

Perry Lincoln (left) with Star Lincoln at the opening of a field tour on Feb 19, 2023.

The Germination of a New Cycle

We would also like to say goodbye, and thank you, to former Trees Foundation staff member Mitchell Danforth who was instrumental in developing the role of the Community Fire Resources Coordinator. We wish him well on his next adventure. He passes the torch to Damien Roomets, who assumes this current Trees Foundation staff position.

Damien Roomets moved to the North Coast of California from Park City, Utah in 2009. Drawn to the area’s breathtaking landscape and the artist and activist culture, he has spent much of his time here in the woods working as an arborist and sawyer, volunteering as an active member of the Briceland Volunteer Fire Department, playing music, and living off-grid. He holds a Bachelor’s degree focused in Environmental Economics from Dartmouth College, and brings a diverse background of work experience that includes prescribed fire, fuels reduction, building construction, nature photography, technical writing, and website development.

In his role as our new Community Fire Resources Coordinator, Damien is assisting in the many projects sprouting up as part of the Forest Health and Fire Resources Program. In the coming year, this includes coordinating defensible space assistance, home risk assessments, curbside chipper days and rural residential chipper days in the greater southern Humboldt area in partnership with the County of Humboldt and the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District.

Already, Damien is busy assisting in fire resilience community outreach, local workforce capacity building, and fuels reduction and healthy land stewardship project development, thanks to two CAL FIRE Forest Health grants funded by the California Climate Investments (CCI) program.

Damien Rooments (right) at a Briceland Volunteer Fire Department training with fellow firefighter Tanner Speas.

This same funding has allowed us to welcome Kyle Keegan to our staff as a technical advisor and Salmon Creek Watershed landowner liaison. Currently, Kyle is providing free consultations and site visits to Salmon Creek landowners to assist them in connecting with grant opportunities for defensible space, fire hazard reduction, and forest health projects. Kyle’s work with Trees Foundation includes conducting neotropical bird nest surveys for the Northern Mendocino Forest Health Collaborative project. Kyle joins Damien and Kerry in actively supporting the efforts of local Wailaki-led nonprofits Native Health in Native Hands and Eel River Wailaki in restoring cultural fire and other traditional cultural practices in the ancestral homelands of the Wailaki People.

Kyle, an ecological restorationist and longtime contributor to Forest & River News, co-operates the Fool’s Farm in Salmon Creek with life partner Dana Bloomer. He is also a certified nature recordist and he brings to Trees Foundation his 25 years of direct experience in ecological restoration of oak woodland, grasslands, conifer, and mixed forests; 14 years of direct experience in up-slope and in-stream restoration and watershed assessment; and his experience co-leading workshops and leading restoration hand crews in the Salmon Creek, Mattole, and Russian River watersheds.

Kyle Keegan (right) at a volunteer work day at the Southern Humboldt Community Park, where an area is being prepped for cultural burning in the fall of 2023.   Photo by Kerry Reynolds

And to assist with this extraordinary expansion, Trees Foundation welcomes Mary Gaterudas our new Organizational Development and Partner Outreach Director. Originally from the east coast, Mary found her way west in 1992, where she obtained a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Seattle University, building on a BA from New College of USF. Mary first came to visit Southern Humboldt in 1995, and immediately felt a visceral pull to relocate, and call this wild place home. She has lived on the banks of the Main Stem Eel River, the ancestral territory of the Sinkyone, homesteading, farming, stargazing, DJing, and art making for the past 22 years. Her recent foray into local activism has whet her appetite for more direct involvement in the implementation of concrete environmental stewardship and sustainable land-use practices, and so she is honored by the opportunity to join the Trees Foundation team.

Finding magic in the intersection of the elemental, community, and activism, Mary Gaterud proudly serves the restoration work of Trees Foundation’s partner groups.

Thanking Barbara for 25 Years of Service to Trees Foundation

This winter, Barbara Ristow retired from Trees Foundation after 25 years of dedication and service. We marked the occasion with a small retirement luncheon at the Trees Foundation office, when she officially turned in her office key.

“Her eye for both fine details and big pictures is unerring. Barbara helped orient me to Trees Foundation, oh so many years ago, when I was lost in a sea of acronyms,” recalled Board President Susy Barsotti. “It was always a joy to work with her, or just hang out. Her dedication to our organization is without peer. I’m especially grateful for the solid and loving way she held the relationship with our Cereus Fund donor.”

Barbara remained onboard as manager of our Cereus Fund for about five years after semi-retiring as our bookkeeper and valued Collective member. She was dedicated to thoughtful stewardship of the Cereus Fund, and her long friendship with our beloved Cereus donor, who passed away in early 2022. [See our Winter 2022/23 issue for more about our Cereus donor.]

“She was our conscience,” Jeri Fergus expressed. “She was the person who would make us stop and really think about our decisions before moving forward.”

“Barbara was always kind and patient with me,” Kerry Reynolds shared. “She taught me about Trees Foundation’s history, and she always made herself available whenever I had a question. It was clear that she cared about Trees Foundation deeply.”

Trees Foundation will greatly miss Barbara’s kindness, the bright and sensible energy that she would consistently bring to the table, and the many years of institutional memory that she was always happy to share. 

Finding magic in the intersection of the elemental, community, and activism, Mary Gaterud proudly serves the restoration work of Trees Foundation’s partner groups.

The Work Continues

Trees Foundation thanks the Community for its support as we grow into our new, expanded roles, and we encourage you to reach out with any questions, inquiries about assistance, or for more information about our new Forest Health and Fire Resources Program.