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Rewarding “Excellence in Volunteerism”


Irvine Ranch Conservancy selects recipients of the 2013 Excellence in Volunteerism award. 

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy helps manage nearly 30,000 acres of open space in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks – supported by a dedicated, active volunteer team of more than 350. On Saturday, June 8, the Conservancy and its partners will honor the outstanding volunteers who made public enjoyment of this natural landscape possible over the last year. The awards ceremony will include recognition of 10 recipients of the 2013 Excellence in Volunteerism award. 

The Conservancy selected the recipients based on their exemplary efforts in support of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, work that stood out even among their talented and committed peers. They contributed thousands of combined hours to the land leading public programs, participating in habitat restoration work, monitoring scientific research projects, and performing other jobs that support excellent land stewardship.

During the awards presentation, open space landowners and partners such as OC Parks, the City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach will also thank the entire volunteer team for helping to provide public access and enjoyment of these spectacular lands.

Conservancy volunteers contributed more than 25,000 combined hours of service to the land and their community in 2012 – the equivalent of 12 full-time employees. The 2013 recipients of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Excellence in Volunteerism award are:

Joe Bramblett, Tustin

Joe Bramblett is a leader and role model, serving as Docent for one or more hikes per week, year-round.  He is an active member of the Conservancy’s Fire Watch program, and also contributes to the website and data management aspects of our organization.  Joe has contributed nearly 1,800 hours during his years of service as a Conservancy volunteer.

Ross Gough, Foothill Ranch

Ross has contributed greatly to the design, planning, and scheduling of new activities on the land.  He has been a terrific ambassador, educating various groups on the importance of sustainable recreation.  Ross provides a strong yet engaging leadership presence, and willingly shares his own experiences and resources to help other volunteers excel. 

Ed Hill, Orange

Ed is a Conservancy “Founding Volunteer” who’s given over 1,600 hours of service since the Conservancy began.  Ed is the “go-to” Docent for large group tours, skillfully maneuvering a large truck while talking about the land.  Ed supports the Fire Watch program, and also supports the Conservancy science team by servicing the wildlife monitoring cameras located throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.

Dave Mihalik, Lake Forest

In his comparatively short time as a volunteer, Dave has logged roughly 1,300 hours supporting the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. His thorough and accurate field reports are invaluable to staff, as is his leadership, organization and calm demeanor.  Dave’s keen judgment in assessing trail conditions while servicing wildlife monitoring cameras helps the Conservancy better serve the public. 

Russ Smeall, Santa Ana

As a Trail Boss, Russ has taken ownership of an entire trail system, committed to protecting and improving it. He provides staff with detailed assessments, and often initiates and leads new trail improvement projects.  Russ also provides outstanding leadership to our mountain biking program. He has a sincere interest in balancing trail sustainability and recreation, which benefits the public and the land.

John Mooney, Irvine

When asked to adopt a trail, John adopted three. As a Trail Boss, he leads volunteer activities and often enlists the help of his family, friends and students.  John does not shy away from a challenge– he has chiseled away at rock-hard dirt and planted cactus.  John also works closely with the Conservancy science division to control invasive plant species.

Steve Rodriguez, Irvine

Steve contributes to the Conservancy in many areas – from data entry to wildlife camera monitoring — leading the public through a variety of activities as a Docent, Lead Land Steward, and Trail Boss. He has adopted his own area for invasive weed control, and has made significant contributions to the success of the Conservancy’s wildlife monitoring program.

Peter Wetzel, Orange

Peter Wetzel has provided over 1,000 hours of volunteer service the Irvine Ranch Conservancy since its conception in 2007, volunteering at least once a week. As a Lead Land Steward, Peter participates in annual raptor surveys and in invasive plant removal activities, and also works as a Docent and Fire Watch volunteer.

David Wilson, Aliso Viejo

Retired OCFA Battalion Chief David Wilson contributes many skills as a volunteer.  He is not only an indispensible Lead Land Steward, but also supports numerous recreational activities. David is a true leader and a role model: his quiet and highly competent manner, his stamina, and his integrity have made him an inspiration to volunteers and staff.

Don Wintz, Irvine

Don Wintz is a dedicated and humble individual, always keeping his focus on benefitting the land. As a Docent, Don constantly seeks out ways to support and improve public programs.  Don also volunteers for Fire Watch and Trail Boss duties. His passion for the preservation of the open space shines in all he does.

Each year Irvine Ranch Conservancy recognizes outstanding contributions among the more than 350 active, dedicated volunteers. These 10 volunteers were also honored during the 2013 One OC Spirit of Volunteerism Awards on April 19. For more information on volunteering with Irvine Ranch Conservancy, please visit