Congratulations to Kristina Loquist, who has been a valuable and trusted resource for the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, on receiving the Chapter's first Guardians of Nature Award for Outstanding Service by a Public Official's Staff Member! In an interview, I had the chance to talk to her about her background and work with local environmental organizations and her advice for others that want to volunteer and make this world a better place.
Q: What does this award mean to you and your work with the Loma Prieta Chapter and why is it important to you?
A: It is important to me because the last 10 years working for Supervisor Simitian we’ve been trying to make progress on some pretty big environmental issues, including land use regulations related to Stanford University and Lehigh Cement Plant and Quarry - issues that impact the larger community and the entire region. Having the support of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club really helped us to make progress in our campaigns about these issues. The Stanford Community Plan just got adopted unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in October, which shows how together we’ve been able to achieve a lot. I feel like there has been a really important partnership that we’ve fostered over these years and the award is a recognition for that partnership.
Q: How did you grow an interest in the outdoors and what was the first thing you did when you started to work with environmental groups?
A: I have always loved being in the outdoors. I remember going camping with my parents when I was a little kid. My dad would go fishing and I would follow around behind him reading my book and playing in the creek. In my senior year of college, I had to get an internship and I reached out to an environmental group called Heal the Bay. They focus on water issues, which was my first opportunity to really work at the grassroots level on an environmental issue. This group had sued the city of Los Angeles for dumping untreated wastewater into the Bay. Because they prevailed in their lawsuit, the City had to clean up the wastewater. The woman who was the attorney for ‘Heal the Bay’ ended up becoming the President of the Board of Public Works for the City. That way I could see how activism and government can work together, hand in hand, to make things better. That really helped me see a future for myself working within government on environmental issues.
Q: How did you get to know the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club and why did you want to collaborate with them?
A: Everyone knows about the Sierra Club because of all the amazing work they do, so when we were looking for allies to support our work it was just natural to reach out to the Sierra Club. James Eggers, who is the Chapter Director, was so responsive and the network of volunteers was so great. If you reach out to someone, they get back to you and then they get engaged and bring others along with them. The people who work for the Sierra Club are very committed, which leads to a lot of stability, trust and development over time in the relationship.
Q: What has been an outstanding or very important moment for you working with this chapter of the Sierra Club?
A: It was when I saw everything come together during a press conference. We were trying to build awareness about aspects of the formerly proposed Reclamation Plan for Lehigh Quarry. They had submitted a draft Plan and one of the things they wanted to do was, as Supervisor Simitian said, “chop the top” off the hillside. We brought together a really diverse group of people who had concerns - including the Sierra Club and organized labor. One of the few times I’ve seen Teamster’s, Operating Engineers and the Sierra Club all working for the same end goal. This was during COVID on Zoom and seeing the Hollywood Squares faces of Supervisor Simitian, James, and the Union Reps, I knew we had something special and that we were headed to a positive outcome. It made me realize the power we have when we work together for a just cause. The message that we were able to get out through the media added momentum. It was another layer in our campaign to bring attention to the impact Lehigh Cement Plant and Quarry had on the wider area. When Lehigh submitted their newest Reclamation Plan they eliminated their proposal to chop the top off the hillside. That’s real progress.
Q: What is your favorite outdoor activity and why?
A: I love hiking because it’s so meditative. Your brain can just relax and you never know where your thoughts will take you. Solutions to problems just come to me when I’m out in nature, when my brain can run free and I can just follow the trail.
Q: Is there any advice you have for environmental advocates for working with public officials and their staff?
A: Don’t be afraid to approach people in government. Sometimes you can feel intimidated if someone is a public official but they also need partners and they’re going to want to understand your point of view. The importance of engagement can’t be overstated, so don’t think that you can’t make a difference. You can and you will if you reach out, and if you do it through the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club you can amplify your impact.
Q: What can you say to encourage others to volunteer for this chapter?
A: It’s a great opportunity to get to know smart, thoughtful and committed activists who care about the environment and make a difference in our community.
Thank you for your work and sharing it to make the world a better place!
By Tine Vatankhah