Our Board of Directors is comprised of a variety of local activists, organizational leaders, and professionals interested in a wide range of environmental topics throughout the County. OFFICERS Michael WellbornMichael Wellborn, President Michael is a public policy consultant and retired land use planning manager / Zoning Administrator with the County of Orange. Mike is a graduate of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley and is the President of the Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks. He also serves on the Boards of Directors of the California Watershed Network and the Orange County League of Conservation Voters. Throughout the years, he has also been a member of the Housing and Community Development Advisory Board for the City of Fountain Valley, and has served as a Planning Commissioner for the Talega Valley Planning Authority. He was the public co-chair of the California Watershed Council Integrated Planning Workgroup, the co-founder of the Santa Ana Sucker Discussion Group, and helped establish watershed restoration programs throughout Orange County.
Gloria SeftonGloria Sefton, Vice President Gloria Sefton is a long-time environmental advocate. She is Vice President of Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks (FHBP) and co-founder of the Saddleback Canyons Conservancy, established in 2001 to preserve Orange County’s rural canyons. Through conservation activism, she has helped protect several hundreds of acres as natural open space in the canyons. Gloria has received environmental leadership awards from the Sierra Club, Orange County League of Conservation Voters, FHBP, Sea & Sage Audubon, and the California State Senate and Assembly. Gloria is a graduate of Whittier Law School (summa cum laude) where she was selected as a Donald G. Hagman Student Scholar in land use law and received awards for merit, leadership, and service. She holds undergraduate degrees from CSUN in Biology and Chemistry, and currently practices law in the life sciences as Vice President, General Counsel at AcuFocus, Inc. She has authored numerous editorials and articles on the environment, land use, and climate change.
Helen HigginsHelen Higgins, Secretary-Treasurer Helen began her call to activism more than 30 years ago, when she joined Animal Welfare Educators in Michigan. After moving to California, she became a docent for Amigos de Bolsa Chica. In addition to her docent field work, she also taught History at docent training classes. Helen joined the board of Friends of Coyote Hills of Fullerton in 2002. She engaged in multiple public outreach and educational events and currently continues to participate in political & legal activities including lawsuits, referendum, and fundraising. In 2005, Helen was elected to the Board of Directors of Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks (FHBP) serving as a representative for Friends of Coyote Hills. She was elected Secretary of FHBP in 2012, a position she continues to serve. Helen assists at various events: Earth Day, Great American Write-in, and attends various government and agency hearings on behalf of FHBP and coalition members. Helen retired from her accounting position with Advanced Medical Management in December 2014.
BOARD MEMBERS Connor Basile Connor Basile is a wildlife biologist and graduate student in the University of California’s Masters in Conservation and Restoration Sciences Program. He has a passion for marine biology with an emphasis on protection and has spent his life in the ocean. During his undergraduate studies, he worked in the Sorte Marine Biodiversity Lab studying the impacts of climate change on the intertidal zone. He has conducted wetland restoration in the Huntington Beach Marsh removing non-native spaces while replanting the land with natural habitat. He was also a four year oarsmen and captain of the Men’s Rowing Team, organizing the team’s first trip to Henley Royal Regatta in 39 years. His current project is working on the management aspects of protecting endangered coastal California bird species, specifically ridgeway’s rails, California least terns and snowy plovers.
Dana Briggs Dana’s passion for biology and environmental science stems from her early life growing up along the coast in Southern California and exploring the diverse natural habitats in her region. Upon realizing the damage being inflicted by individuals and corporations, she knew her mission in life would be to understand and preserve these cherished places. For her undergraduate studies, she attended CSU Monterey Bay, CA to receive her B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology. She interned for NOAA in Santa Cruz assisting with a groundfish fecundity study to help reassess outdated fish stock projections and spent a month abroad in Australia restoring former dairyland back to its native forest habitat. In 2020, she was accepted into UC Irvine’s Masters in Conservation and Restoration Science Program (MCRS). Through her studies and participation in FHBP, she hopes to contribute long-term solutions to habitat degradation, increase community engagement in local habitats, and integrate nature into our cities and lives.
Mina Brown Mina Brown was raised in Laguna Canyon, which was the base for her mother Elisabeth’s leadership to preserve open space around Laguna Beach. The family spent summers exploring and defending nature in Mono County. In 2020, Mina was appointed to the Laguna Beach Environmental Sustainability Committee, where her priority is to protect the health of Laguna’s wildlife until their “island” of open space is connected to the mountains by the Irvine-Laguna Wildlife Corridor. Mina has worked for several small nonprofit organizations in Southern California and Idaho with missions related to public health, affordable housing, historic preservation, conservation, and economic development. While in San Diego, she was involved in regional efforts to reduce food waste and recycle organic material. With a Master in Urban and Regional Planning degree from UC Irvine, she has helped cities, counties, and their residents to plan futures for their neighborhoods, commercial areas, and parks.
Julie Coffey Julie Coffey is an avid birder and ecologist with a love of orange county’s unique natural heritage. She currently conducts research on UC Irvine’s natural reserves with a focus on solving pressing conservation problems. She grew up in rural NH with parents who were leaders in local land preservation movements, which prompted a lifelong dedication to preserving natural areas. She is a graduate of the Rubenstein School at UVM and has worked on a variety of field research and water quality projects across New England. In 2016, she came to CSULA to pursue an M.Sc. looking at the ecological response to invasive plant management along the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. She loves advocacy as a way to meet new people and build community and spends her free time exploring California’s beautiful places.
Jack EidtJack Eidt Jack Eidt has been on the Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks Board since 2006, is Founder and Publisher of WilderUtopia, an online news magazine dedicated to the question of Earth sustainability, finding society-level solutions to environmental, community, economic, transportation and energy needs. Jack is an award-winning novelist, urban planner, and environmental advocate. In addition to writing regular articles for WilderUtopia, he has published opinion/editorials in various periodicals, including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, EcoWatch, CommonDreams, Voice of OC, LA Progressive, CityWatch LA, and CounterPunch, and has been featured on Pacifica Radio, NPR, and public television. Jack is a co-founder of a local climate change organization called SoCal 350 Climate Action, and serves on the board of the Biodiesel Coop of Los Angeles.
Maureen GatesMaureen Gates Maureen Gates is a long-time Orange County resident by way of upstate New York. She works as a therapist for Los Angeles County, and has worked part-time for REI since 2010. Maureen initially became involved with local environmental advocacy projects while volunteering with the Banning Ranch Conservancy while doing door-to-door meetings with community members to educate them on developers’ intent to develop the Banning Ranch property. She holds a Masters in Public Health from the University of Southern California, a Masters of Science in Recreation and Tourism from Cal State East Bay, and a BA in Communications from the University of Albany, and has participated in various public health research projects in Mexico and Panama. Maureen’s passions include environmental advocacy, particularly the intersection of climate change and public health, road trips with her beloved German Shepherd, backpacking, and triathlons.
Amy LittonAmy Litton Amy Litton was elected to the board of Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks in 2008 and assists with outreach and the Safe Trails Coalition. She is employed with the City of Irvine’s Community Services Department overseeing restoration activities for the “Second Saturdays” land steward program and coordinating Eagle Scout projects. Previously Amy served as a Volunteer Naturalist for the Newport Bay Conservancy, formerly the Newport Bay Naturalists and Friends. She served as Publicity Committee Coordinator and served on the Board of Directors. Before that Amy served as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the California Natural Resources Federation, the California affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. Amy has been an Orange County resident since 1970 and currently resides in Costa Mesa. She is an avid hiker and backpacker with advanced interests in birding, tracking, Native American resources, native plant gardening, invasive weeds and the preservation of open space.
Kaitlyn Matyuch Kaitlyn is currently a senior at California State University, Fullerton, majoring in Geography and the Environment with a concentration in environmental analysis and a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate. Kaitlyn is planning on getting her masters in geography as well. She has lived in Southern California her whole life and constantly visit local harbors, beaches, and parks. She has always wanted to be apart of helping keep parks and open spaces protected. Before Covid, she was always try to get out and volunteer for Laguna Canyon Foundation, One Tree Planted, Coast Keeper, STEM girl scout expo, etc.
Theresa SearsTheresa Sears Theresa is a community leader who has been involved in land use, conservation, and regional public benefit issues in Orange County since 1992. Her leadership skills have helped with the following efforts: Barham Ranch (which was threatened by development is now part of Santiago Oaks Park), Sully Miller (where two ill-conceived projects have been stopped), East Orange & Santiago Hills II (the proposed urban sprawl has been reduced and contained), Ridgeline (including a legal victory before the State Supreme Court to uphold planning law & voter rights), Orange County Fairgrounds (now preserved for future generations), and the 301 (h) waiver (which forced OC Sanitation District to stop using the waiver for sewage treatment). As a solutions-oriented activist, her leadership in grass root efforts has supported the public’s right to know and petition their government, community engagement, legal remedies, and direct democracy. She joined the Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks board in 1999 and has hosted the Quarterly Meetings with the OC Parks Director since 2008.
Tina Thompson RichardsTina Thompson Richards Tina Thompson became involved with park issues as a long time-volunteer at the OC County Zoo, which at the time was suffering from neglect. She credits FHBP with helping it get the attention it needed and now it is thriving. She has been involved in land use issues since 2005, advocating for responsible development in the east OC foothills. She is currently editor of the Foothills Sentry newspaper, serving 43,000 residents in Orange, North Tustin, Villa Park, and the canyons.