FALLBROOK – Two new members have been elected to the Fallbrook Land Conservancy’s (FLC) board of directors. Serving four-year terms will be Ashley Stein Araiza, a local dentist, and Susan Liebes, a longtime FLC volunteer.
They will occupy the seats vacated by members who rotated off the board in December: Vince Ross, co-founder of the FLC and longtime supporter; and Joan Zimmerman, former vice chairman.
Stein Araiza is an Emerald Grove member who has volunteered on several of the FLC’s committees. A 2001 Fallbrook Union High School graduate, she has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from San Diego State University and graduated from the University of Southern California’s Dental School in 2009. She has been employed as an associate dentist at Bonsall Family Dental Practice since 2010 and lives in Fallbrook with her husband, Sergio, and pet pug, Ninja.
Stein Araiza said she is “honored” to join the FLC board and is “thrilled to share ideas with this organization that has worked so hard at preserving our open spaces.”
“Our town’s rural character is so special in today’s modern world and I highly value the contributions the FLC has made to maintain Fallbrook’s native landscape,” she said.
Liebes, FLC’s 'Gem of a Volunteer' award recipient in 2013, has volunteered with the FLC’s Native Plant Restoration Team since 2011. Born in Washington D.C., Liebes was raised in northern Virginia, where she spent many hours on the Chesapeake Bay and the Shenandoah River.
“This experience instilled in me a love of the outdoors,” said Liebes, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 1998 with a degree in forestry and wildlife.
The following year, she came to California to work on the California Condor Reintroduction Project with the Ventana Wildlife Society in Big Sur. From there, she went to Yosemite to help conduct an inventory of the birds of the National Park for the Institute for Bird Populations. It was there that she met her husband, Jonah.
They traveled together for the next several years, conducting field work in the Sierras. Eventually, Liebes returned to school to study business and solar energy, earning a degree in business administration from San Juan College.
In 2003, she and Jonah married and moved to Fallbrook. Jonah was hired as a solar technician by Heliopower, a local solar company where he is now vice president. Liebes found work at REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship Program, where she worked as a fundraiser for three years before the birth of their first son.
The couple now has two sons, Jacob and Jackson, who “love riding their bikes around Los Jilgueros, climbing to the top of Heller’s Bend, and playing in the Santa Margarita river,” Liebes said. “It was my son, Jackson, who first noticed a sign for the Native Plant Team and suggested that we volunteer with them at Los Jilgueros over five years ago.
“Since then, we have had a great time helping plant, weed and eat donuts with our friends from the Native Plant team,” continued Liebes. “As a family we made it a tradition to clean up litter along the Santa Margarita Trail every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.”
Liebes also added that she is “honored to be able to contribute” as an FLC board member. “I am so grateful to the wise people who established the FLC and had the foresight to preserve land in our town. Having open space nearby improves our family’s quality of life on a daily basis. We use the preserves for exercise, recreation, mental health, and as a place to bond as a family and a community. Fallbrook is a much better town because of our preserves.”
To read more about the land conservation efforts, or ways to volunteer to help the effort, visit www.fallbrooklandconservancy.org.