About Us

Connecting the community to habitat restoration through service learning and native plant education.

Back to Natives assists in the recovery of Orange County’s
biodiversity through the restoration of open spaces, and the
development of habitat gardens. Our environmental education programs educate students and community members about the importance of native plants and biodiversity.

Download our brochure: Inside and Outside

Through our efforts we increase public understanding and appreciation of our quickly diminishing resources, and as a result, inspire the public to use wilderness resources wisely and respectfully, and to assist in the effort to protect our
wild land areas. Back to Natives works to create public awareness of the rich environmental resources the County and the State have to offer, and the need to preserve them for generations to come.

Our Mission
“To encourage and actively participate in the restoration
and conservation of Orange County and California wildlands,
through education and restoration programs featuring native
plants and biodiversity as a centralizing theme.”To that end, Back to Natives serves the growing number of land managers in need of restoration services by facilitating dialogue with the community, promoting awareness of and public support for restoration and restorative management; and, of course, bringing about the recovery of damaged ecosystems through ecological restoration!
Our Goals
  • Restore open space (private and publicly held land) with
    appropriate plant species, while reaching out to the
    community through restoration-based education programs and volunteer opportunities.
  • Coordinate with land managers to provide
    service-learning programs using curriculum aligned with the California state science and social science standards.
  • Assist land managers with the recruitment, training and
    retaining of volunteers to assist with the task of
    restoration and education at their sites.
  • Promote native plant gardening to local schools and
    public facilities.

Upcoming Board Meeting!
Meeting in ProgressBoard meetings are held once each month immediately following our monthly volunteer events. All are welcome to attend!Meetings are open to the public. To attend a meeting,
you may RSVP to info @ backtonatives.org or call
949-509-4787, to be sure we have
adequate space to accommodate all attendees.Location:
Back to Natives Nursery @ Santiago Park (or at locations as designated in prior Board Meetings). RSVP for directions.RSVP to
info@backtonatives.org as soon as possible.
Past Board Members

2015-2016 Board of Directors

  • J. Mark Sugars, Ph.D., B.S., President
  • Mark Bowler, J.D., B.A., Secretary
  • Naomi Gruenthal, Treasurer
  • Alice Apkarian, Ph.D.
  • Stephenie Duncan
  • Lori Whalen, M.A. B.S.
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.

2014 – 2015

  • John Kaiser, Ph.D., M.S., B.S., President
  • Peter Conlon, M.A., B.A., Treasurer
  • Mark Bowler, J.D., B.A., Co-Secretary
  • J. Mark Sugars, Ph.D., B.S., Director-at-Large
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.,Executive Director

2013 – 2014

  • Naomi L Gruenthal, L.A., B.S, B.S., President
  • John Kaiser, Ph.D., M.S., B.S., Vice President
  • Peter Conlon, M.A., B.A., Secretary
  • Peter Collison, J.D., B.A., Co-Treasurer
  • J. Mark Sugars, Ph.D., B.S., Director-at-Large
  • Craig Torres, Director-at-Large
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.,Executive Director

2012 – 2013

  • Naomi L Gruenthal, L.A., B.S, B.S., President
  • John Kaiser, Ph.D., M.S., B.S., Vice President
  • Peter Conlon, M.A., B.A., Secretary
  • Peter Collison, J.D., B.A., Co-Treasurer
  • Kevin Doherty, B.A., Co-Treasurer
  • J. Mark Sugars, Ph.D., B.S., Director-at-Large
  • Kathleen Shanfield, M.S., B.S., Director-at-Large
  • June Yamada, M.S., B.S., Director-at-Large
  • Craig Torres, Director-at-Large
  • Bob Miller, Director-at-Large
  • Erik Roberts, Director-at-Large
  • Carol Roberts, Director-at-Large
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.,Executive Director

2011 – 2012

  • Erik Roberts, President
  • John Kaiser, Ph.D. Vice President
  • Carol Roberts, Secretary
  • Naomi L Gruenthal, Treasurer
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.,Executive Director

2010-2011

  • Erik Roberts, President
  • Dennis Litton, Vice President
  • Carol Roberts, Secretary
  • Naomi L Gruenthal, Treasurer
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.,Executive Directo

2009-2010

  • Edgar Becerra, MBA President
  • Dennis Litton, Vice President
  • Sandy DeSimone, Ph.D. Secretary
  • John Bellendir., Treasurer
  • Robert Carreon, Director, Past-President
  • Stephen Barker, Ph.D.*, Director
  • Delilah Snell, Director
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.,Executive Director

2008-2009

  • Robert Carreon, President
  • Sandy DeSimone, Secretary
  • John Bellendir, Treasurer
  • Stephen Barker, Ph.D.*, Director
  • Delilah Snell, Director
  • Robert Carreon, Director
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A., Executive Director

2007-2008

  • Patricia (Trish) Smith, President
  • Sandy DeSimone, Secretary
  • John Bellendir, Treasurer
  • Stephen Barker, Ph.D.*, Director
  • Delilah Snell, Director
  • Robert Carreon, Director
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S. Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A.,Executive Director

2006-2007 Founding Board

  • Patricia (Trish) Smith, President
  • Lori Whalen, M.A., B.S., Secretary/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A., Director of
    Restoration/Executive Director/Treasurer
  • Stephen Barker, Ph.D.*, Director

 Staff and Officers

Office Staff:
949-509-4787

Reginald I. Durant, Executive Director

Lori Whalen, Director of Community Relations

Tessa Altstatt, Landscape Crew

Native Plant Interns

Lila Takwa, Architecture: International University of Science and Technology , Landscape Architecture: Cal Poly Pomona

Victoria Masjuan, Environmental Studies, UC Santa Barbara

Position available!

Communications Intern

Cassandra Winston, B.A. Communications Studies, Cal State Long Beach


2016-2017 Board of Directors

  • J. Mark Sugars, Ph.D. UC Irvine, B.S. and B.A. UC Irvine, President
  • Mark Bowler, Engineer, Boeing, Secretary
  • Naomi Gruenthal, Community Services Project Planner at the City of Anaheim, Treasurer
  • Stephenie Duncan, sole proprietor of a small local business for 25 years.
  • Lori Whalen, M.A. Cal State University Fullerton, B.S. Cal Poly Pomona, Director/Director of Education
  • Reginald Durant, B.A. UC Irvine, U.S. Army, Director of
    Restoration/Executive Director

Honorary Board of Directors

  • Sandy DeSimone, Ph.D.*
  • Stephen Barker, Ph.D.**

* Director of Research and Education,
Audubon Starr Ranch Sanctuary

**Nephew
of Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management and the U.S.
wilderness system.


Advisory Council Members

  • Jas Batra
  • John Bellendir
  • Nancy Blackbrun, School Teacher
  • Scott Breeden, Software Programmer
  • Deborah Brin, Geneticist, Environmental Educator
  • Debra Clarke, Wilderness/Trails Manager, District Volunteer Coordinator, Cleveland NF, Trabuco Ranger District
  • Frank Colver, Retired Engineer
  • Peter Collison, Attorney
  • Peter Conlon, M.A. Claremont Graduate University, B.A. Pomona College, past BTN Board Treasurer and Secretary
  • Don Cribb, Park Santiago Community Leader
  • Kari Dahlgren, Marketing Director, Flint
  • Judith M. Gielow, Retired
  • John Kaiser, Ph.D. and M.S. Stanford, B.S. Virginia Tech, Retired University Professor and Aeronautical Engineer, past BTB Board President
  • Robin Keber, Biologist, Avian Specialist
  • Colleen Kirtland, (Grants)
  • Mary Pax Lenney, Ph.D., ArcGIS Specialist, College Professor
  • Karen OBrien, Ph.D.
  • Vicente Perez Jr., Biology Teacher, The Academy
  • Rainbow Pharoan, Educator
  • Silvia Pule, Elementary Principal
  • David Reule, MBA, B.A. Tax Partner KMJ Corbin
  • Gerald Tiritilli, Park Santiago Community Leader
  • Craig Torres, Artist & Native American Educator
  • Molly Varela, B.A Communications Advertising, CSUF
  • Jean Watt, Non-profit Management and Leadership

Honorary Board of Directors

  • Sandy DeSimone, Ph.D.
  • Stephen Barker, Ph.D.*

*Nephew
of Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management and the U.S.
wilderness system.