Board of Directors

Peter Burnes, President

Peter was born and raised in Palo Alto spending most of his free time hiking, fishing, and skiing in the Sierra and biking the peninsula coast range. A lifelong conservationist, he grew up with the Sierra Club Bulletin on the family coffee table. Peter received a BA in Environmental Studies and Biology from UC Santa Cruz and spent most of his career creating and implementing water quality, hazardous materials, and other environmental regulations and programs at the City of Palo Alto and Stanford University. Peter and his wife Diane moved to Grass Valley in 2011, started volunteering for SYRCL at the 2012 Wild and Scenic Film Festival and never stopped.

Debra_Weistar_smDebra Weistar, Vice President

If you ask Debra to name the place in the Sierra most special to her, she will tell you the cabin overlooking Fallen Leaf Lake that her great-grandfather built. Knowing firsthand what connection to place means to a child, she has spent the last 30 years working with youth, introducing them to conservation issues and activism, often through filmmaking. She and her husband, Tom, co-founded and direct Synergia Learning Ventures, a non-profit youth organization based on the San Juan Ridge.

John Regan, Secretary

A Massachusetts native, John Regan has lived in the Sierra Nevada for nearly twenty years. He moved to the Yuba Watershed after spending an afternoon on the South Yuba. He is president of Smart Campaigns, Inc, a national consulting firm specializing in policy research, strategic communications and advocacy campaigns. He lives in Nevada City with his wife Sarah, their daughter, Amelia Bee, and a redbone coonhound named Bella.


Jeffrey Odefey, Treasurer

Jeffrey Odefey is the Director of Clean Water Supply Programs for American Rivers, where he helps to lead a multi-disciplinary effort to promote integrated management of water resources through progressive regulation, sustainable financing, and policy reforms. His work focuses on urban water systems, including green infrastructure, water conservation, and integrated water management as pathways to preserve and protect healthy waters and communities. Currently, many of his efforts are directed as fostering resilient water management policies and programs in the Lower Colorado River Basin. His past experience includes stints as a staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance and for Hudson Riverkeeper. A native of Colorado, Jeffrey holds a B.A. in English and Art History from the University of Colorado, an M.A. from the University of Montana, and is a magna cum laude graduate of the Pace University School of Law. He now lives in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California with his wife and baby daughter.

Joseph J. Bell

Joe moved to here in 1980 to work as the [only] legal aid attorney in western Nevada County. A founding member of SYRCL, he was also its first lawyer for more than 10 years of administrative and federal court litigation, blocking proposals to build small hydroelectric dams on the Yuba River. He first visited the Yuba in 1972, after returning from his Peace Corps service in Ethiopia. He was then managing Reno’s first organic food store, Namascar, which sold Ananda products and herbs from David Copperfield’s shop in Nevada City. Though he has rafted waters and hiked, skied or climbed mountains from the Ozarks to Tahoe and Yosemite to Kilimanjaro, Hawaii, Maine and Chile, he treasures the Yuba watershed as a person “of [this] place.” In addition to his early work for SYRCL, Joe was a founder of the Sierra Nevada Group of the Sierra Club and he has counseled and assisted many non-profit organizations. He served as a Vice-President of the California State Bar in 1997 and he became a California Family Law Specialist in 1995. He has served on the Specialists’ Board of Directors for the past 10 years and was President of their Association in 2009. He is a trained mediator, arbitrator and pro tem Judge. His current practice includes litigation and mediation of most family, juvenile and civil disputes. In his spare time he attends and volunteers at film festivals, travels the world, and plays piano.

Brian Bisnett

Brian first tasted the cold, clear waters of the Yuba while attending college at UC Santa Cruz, where he majored in politics and minored in the Grateful Dead. He pursued an even higher education as a ski bum at Squaw Valley, and settled for a time on the Monterey Peninsula as a landscape architect, before moving to Nevada County with his wife Ellen to raise their two girls, Emily and Elsie. Besides SYRCL, Brian has worked with the Rural Quality Coalition and the Bear Yuba Land Trust, among others, for the protection of our region’s natural and historic resources. His firm, Bisnett Design Associates, specializes in land-use planning and conservation-oriented development. Brian lives on acreage in south Nevada County, in the Bear River watershed, where he enjoys skiing, hiking, and live music.

Louise Jackson

Louise is a botanist who has spent most of her life studying and playing in California’s natural and working lands. She did her PhD in the High Sierra, before transitioning to agroecological research in the Sacramento and Salinas Valleys. She moved to Nevada City in 2016, after retiring from the University of California Davis as an Emerita Professor in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources. Louise enjoys her newly found proximity to the Yuba River, and hiking, swimming, and botanizing in its beautiful watershed. She appreciates the opportunity to work with the local community on science-policy issues.

Shana Maziarz

Shana still vividly remembers the first time she smelled the Yuba Watershed in 1989. She was immediately put under the spell of Kitkitdizze and Ponderosa and California Bay Laurel, not to mention the seductive color of the iron red earth. She resolved at that time to make the Yuba Watershed her home. After rambling the earth for a while, she has been happily reunited with the Yuba for the past decade. Shana has a BA in Psychology and Adventure Education from Prescott College and an Ed.M from Harvard University. She spent ten years as an outdoor educator, and has also been a college professor, high school principal, river guide, and goat milkmaid. She was the Creative Director of SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival for two years, and currently owns Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Company in downtown Nevada City.

Kurt Lorenz

Kurt grew up on a farm near St Louis, MO, earning a BA from Kenyon College in Ohio, and an MAT from Webster University in St. Louis. He moved to his then home on San Juan Ridge (an incomplete garage with a partially broken roof) in 1976 and went to work teaching school in Camptonville and later for the Twin Ridges District and for Sutter County Office of Education. All along he installed solar panels, well pumps, and worked on construction projects. He retired from teaching eleven years ago, and with his wife Nancy, spent ten years exploring coastal Mexico, US, British Columbian, and Alaskan waters on their sailboat, Raven. Kurt has been a lifelong community activist in environmental causes, and served four years on the Nevada County Planning Commission. Kurt’s adult daughter, Emily, lives in Portland, OR, and Kurt and Nancy live off the grid at 4,000’ on the San Juan Ridge.

George Olive

A New Englander until 1975, George learned about fish and their habitats from his grandfather and the locals at the village store. He heard about creeks feeding Maine’s Kezar Lake in the Mt Washington Valley from mountains in New Hampshire, his first exposure to watersheds. George’s undergraduate and graduate degrees were earned at Harvard and his education credentials at Sac State. Living in Marin County, George and his spouse Suzanne discovered the Yuba in 1978, fishing around Downieville. Their South Yuba baptism occurred in July, 1980 while they hunted for housing. George taught at Nevada Union; Suzanne was a botanist with the Tahoe Nat’l Forest. Among George’s students was Caleb Dardick, later SYRCL’s executive director. Along the way, George moved into school administration and worked in Nevada City’s, Chicago Park’s and North San Juan’s elementary school districts. In 1994, he helped establish the Yuba River Charter School. Over three decades, George has explored the Yuba’s three forks and their many feeder creeks. SYRCL offers him an opportunity to give back to, and know more fully, this engaging, living system that calls for our protection.

Pamela Morey

It was standing on the old bridge of the Hwy 49 crossing of the Yuba river, gazing down onto the flowing waters that Pam knew she had found the place she and her family had been searching for; 25 years later, their life on the San Juan Ridge has her living between the forks of the Yuba. The Morey family has supported SYRCL for all of those years and Pam is honored to serve on the Board of Directors. In 2005 Pam founded the community event the Bridge of Giving that takes place at the same location where she first stood, this event supports the Food Bank of Nevada County and was intended to encourage awareness of the Yuba River to locals.

Fran Murphy

Escaping the busy life of Sacramento, Fran and his wife purchased a five-acre homestead in Penn Valley in 2005 and began Clarran Farms. In addition to summer fruit and vegetables, the warm microclimate of Clarran Farms produces a wide variety of citrus including lemons, oranges, limes, kumquats, and grapefruit. Living 15 minutes from the entrance of the South Yuba River State Park, Fran often enjoys taking in the river scenic views of Buttermilk Trail or appreciating the majestic oaks while hiking Point Defiance.

In his previous life, Fran worked for a large telecommunications company for over 36 years and retired as an Associate Vice President of Operations. He holds a Business Administration Degree and MA in Organization Management from the University of Phoenix. He is highly skilled in leadership development, business strategy, and budget management. Over the past few years, Fran provided support as the Venue Logistics Manager for the annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival responsible for much of the event’s setup, tear down, changeovers, and daily operational tasks.

Syd Brown

A third generation native Californian, Syd has called northern California “home” all her life. As a child, she spent summers tent camping, hiking, and whiling away the hours next to trout and steelhead rivers with family. She had a dream career, as the geologist for California State Parks, and worked to protect and manage the full spectrum of mountains, beaches, rivers and watersheds from Angel Island State Park to Zmudowski State Beach.

Syd and her husband Jesse moved to Nevada County in 1983, and built their home on previously mined land just outside of Nevada City, where they raised their two children, Parker and Hilary. After commuting to her Sacramento office for more than 30 years, Syd retired in late 2012, and began to immerse herself in community activities, volunteering and later working for the Center for the Arts. She continues her support activities for State Parks, serving on the Friends of North Bloomfield & Malakoff Diggins Executive Committee, and most recently as a director for the Sierra Gold Parks Foundation.