Coyote Valley, Martins Beach, Devil’s Slide: Prominent Bay Area environmental group names new leader

Julie Hutcheson named new executive director of Green Foothills, a Palo Alto group founded in 1962

For more than 60 years, a leading Bay Area environmental group has worked to limit Silicon Valley sprawl and preserve open space in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Green Foothills announced Tuesday that Julie Hutcheson will take over as executive director. Green Foothills, based in Palo Alto, was founded in 1962 by novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner and 26 other community leaders during a period of explosive post-World War II growth that transformed orchards and country roads into freeways and office parks.

In recent decades, the group, formerly known as the Committee for Green Foothills, has won lengthy battles to preserve thousands of acres of farmland and open space in Coyote Valley on San Jose’s southern outskirts, an area Cisco and Apple once eyed as a potential world headquarters in the 1980s and 1990s. It also influenced Caltrans to abandon plans to reroute Highway 1 over the hills at Devil’s Slide near Pacifica in favor of constructing a tunnel through the Coast Range.

The group has lobbied tech billionaire Vinod Khosla to make Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay accessible to the public. It has also advocated for the restoration of former Cargill industrial salt evaporation ponds around San Francisco Bay’s southern edges to wetlands for fish, wildlife, and public recreation.

Hutcheson has been with the organization since 2013, serving in a variety of capacities, including legislative advocate. She takes over for Megan Fluke, who was executive director for ten years before retiring to work as a nonprofit consultant and leadership coach.

Hutcheson stated that the organization’s top priorities in the coming years will be to continue opposing plans to build a gravel quarry on Sargent Ranch south of Gilroy, to expand wildlife corridors between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range, to support efforts to protect and restore bay wetlands, and to train a new generation of environmental advocates from diverse backgrounds.

“In the face of the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, our work is more vital than ever,” she went on to say.

The group is also pushing for a 3,500-acre open space or wildlife preserve to be restored at a major limestone quarry in the Cupertino Hills owned by Lehigh cement. The quarry’s cement plant was closed earlier this year after the company received hundreds of violations for air pollution, water pollution, and other issues.

Hutcheson is a co-author of two agriculture-related publications in the Santa Clara Valley: “Small Farms, Big Potential: Growing a Resilient Local Food System” (2020) and “Santa Clara County Food System Assessment” (2013). She has a master’s degree in Slavic Linguistics from the University of Virginia.

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