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A woman who has made a difference

After 20 years, Sherry Teresa, founder of the Center for Natural Lands Management, retires.

After helping to protect California’s resources for nearly twenty years, Sherry Teresa has retired from her position as founding executive director of the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM).

Teresa founded the CNLM in 1990 and has worked hard to evaluate, protect and conserve biological resources with state departments such as the California Department of Fish & Game, becoming a leader and expert in environmental conservation.

“Nobody is more passionate or has more heart about the environment than [Teresa],” said Mike McCollum, a former CNLM board member who worked closely with Teresa on several endeavors. “She knew how to get other people excited about projects and knew how to move people forward.”

By creating the CNLM, Teresa developed management programs, activities and costs to fulfill the requirements of mitigation agreements and protect the biological resources.

This work has been used for a wide range of properties, including those owned in fee and under conservation easements, those with and without endangered species and those with a variety of habitat types statewide.

Wayne White, a former Fish & Wildlife worker, met Teresa before she founded the CNLM and remembers how frustrated Teresa would be after seeing mitigated land that would not be taken care of.

“She came up with this wonderful vision of taking care of mitigated lands,” said White. “She built her credibility by staying strong on decisions that sometimes land developers or environmentalists didn’t like.”

Getting the CNLM off the ground was not easy, with the primary challenge being that it was so new and unique.

“We made the rules as we went along,” said Teresa, who considered herself a “humble biologist” when first starting the foundation. “We set the template and standards for land management.”

“For a while, [Teresa] was the Foundation,” said McCollum. “[The CNLM] slowly added more workers, but for a while she was the one who kept things going. She was more than one-dimensional: she understood the views of the developer, the environmentalist and the land owner.”

White believes the center’s growth would not have been as extensive without Teresa’s hard work.

Presently, the CNLM manages more than 50,000 acres of conservation lands throughout California, including 72 separate projects, ranging from one acre to 21,000 acres of desert and coastal sand dunes, desert palm oases, coastal sage scrub, vernal pools, marshland, grassland and riparian forest habitats.

“When we sat down to figure out how to manage the land,” said White, “I had no idea how large [the NCLM] was going to become. [Teresa] is quite a force.”

However, Teresa is a little “disappointed” that the CNLM did not grow beyond California’s borders, as she had “visions” of seeing the foundation become international.

But Teresa’s efforts have slowly crept beyond California, as some of CNLM’s operational tools for manage the land mitigation, such as endangered species monitoring and enhancement, prescriptive burn programs, grazing, trespass, invasive exotic species control, environmental education, passive public recreation, inter-agency and research coordination, have been used internationally and have “always been well received” because of their practicality and simplicity, said White.

“The history of the Center was built on [Teresa’s] leadership,” said White. “Her legacy will continue through the Center’s mission.”

David Brunner, a former National Fish and Wildlife Foundation employee, will assume the position of CNLM executive director. Teresa feels she has left the foundation in “competent hands,” as Brunner is “perfect for the position.”

“It’s been an incredible adventure watching [the CNLM] grow and develop,” said Teresa. “I am one of the lucky people who loves what I do and it’s been an honor to work with [the CNLM].”

The CNLM hosted a farewell luncheon for Teresa on December 11 at the Darian Garden in Vista.

For more information about the CNLM, go to

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