Ventura Land Trust (VLT) honored distinguished donors and volunteers

Assemblymember Steve Bennett presented with “Environmental Champion” award.

Ventura Land Trust (VLT) honored distinguished donors and volunteers at its annual Supporter Spotlight event on Friday, November 3rd. Ventura Land Trust supporters joined the VLT Board of Trustees and staff members for happy hour and dinner while celebrating the 2023 VLT accomplishments and community impact.

The Environmental Champion Award was presented to Assemblymember Steve Bennett, representing California’s 38th district. Early in his career, Assemblymember Bennett co-authored the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiatives that have made Ventura County a national leader in land-use planning. As a legislator, Bennett focuses on renewable energy, supporting children in the foster care system, and improving access to resources for farmworkers and Ventura’s homeless population. He has continually been a champion for environmental causes and shows his commitment by protecting open spaces and his work with VLT. In 2023, he focused on raising environmental awareness by securing funding for trail improvements in California Assembly Bill 411. With Assemblymember Bennett’s support, VLT received a grant of $7.2 million dollars that is being used to prepare Mariano Rancho for opening to the public, as well as other capital needs at Harmon Canyon Preserve.

VLT also honors Heidi and Mike Whitcomb for their significant contributions towards the 20th Anniversary Gala held on October 14th 2023. Heidi and Mike chaired the gala committee and were pivotal in the planning, design, and execution of an event that pushed VLT’s boundaries in terms of sophistication and scope

Recognition was also provided for volunteer Michael Connolly. Volunteering as a VLT docent at Harmon Canyon Preserve (HCP) since December 2021, Michael has dedicated over 550 hours of service to VLT,

consistently going above and beyond his docent role by actively participating in VLT events.

“As a community-based organization, VLT is only able to accomplish the work we do thanks to the unwavering support of our volunteers, donors, and community members at large,” said VLT Executive Director Melissa Baffa. “We are so grateful for the hard work and dedication of Michael Connolly and the Whitcombs – their volunteerism and broad support have made a huge difference at VLT. And where to start with Assemblymember Bennett? His decades of activism and leadership in the environmental arena have helped to preserve the quality of life for residents of Ventura County and surrounding regions. The funding he helped to secure for VLT is a game changer, allowing us to get a tremendous amount of work done in a short time and to open the 1,645-acre Mariano Rancho preserve to the public much sooner than we would have otherwise. It’s not just a gift to VLT – it’s a gift to the community and the native plants and animals that call this area home.”

VLT staff and board members expressed their gratitude for the dedication of all of the organization’s passionate volunteers and generous donors for supporting Ventura Land Trust, as well as Topa Topa Brewing Company, Ventura Spirits, and Himalaya for sponsoring the special event. Those interested in learning more about volunteering, donating, or becoming a member should visit the VLT website at

Ventura Land Trust · 3451 Foothill Rd, Suite 201,

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