Don and Barbara's Story

Don and Barbara Rivenes
After moving to California in the 60s, Don and Barbara Rivenes became outdoor recreationists and then conservation activists.

As a young couple, Don and Barbara Rivenes decided to travel west to make a future for themselves. Their migration from the Midwest to California in 1967 changed their lives.

Barbara remembers the adventure “really opened our eyes to the unparalleled landscapes offered in this state.”

A history of recreation and activism

Their move led to extensive hiking, camping and beach trips with their two children, as well as decades of conservation activism to protect the Sierra Nevada and other areas that they love. While Don worked as a computer consultant, Barbara was a stay-at-home mother when her children were young. Then she returned to school to get a bachelor’s degree in conservation of natural resources from the University of California at Berkeley.

“I believe that the California outdoor experiences have changed us profoundly,” Barbara says. “It absolutely has led to our activism in and advocacy for protection of the environment, particularly forested environments. We are both very active in conservation organizations.”

Don was a primary organizer in the Yuba Wildlands Campaign, where he assisted with efforts to get wilderness protection for Grouse Lakes and Castle Peak in Nevada County. Politicians at both the local and Congressional levels were not receptive, Barbara recalls, “but there is always hope for a change.”

"The California outdoor experiences have changed us profoundly. It absolutely has led to our activism in and advocacy for protection of the environment.”

- Barbara Rivenes

Now at ages 77 and 73, respectively, Don and Barbara are retired on nine acres outside Nevada City, which allows them quick access to the Yuba River and the Sierra Nevada. They take advantage of outdoor opportunities by journeying with their four-year-old granddaughter to the Yuba River every week during the summer. They also stay active in conservation efforts and extend this legacy of caring for wildlands to the younger generations in their family.

Why they work for wilderness

Don says that a person doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in wilderness to recognize its value. “Just knowing there are areas that wildlife can thrive unimpeded by humans is good enough without actually having to go there,” he points out.

Barbara agrees. “We as a species need not destroy or leave our imprint everywhere on Earth. It helps to know that even just the small amount we have protected is left alone and untrammeled.”

See also:

Top place: Sierra Nevada