The Conservancy’s “Big Hat” Award is given to those who perform extraordinary service on behalf of the Conservancy. Candidates for the award are those not affiliated with the Conservancy as an employee or Board member.

The Award goes back to late 1999 and has been awarded only a few times. In all cases, the Award was given for extraordinary accomplishment that benefitted the Conservancy.

Award Winners

Ed Quinn, 2022

Ed Quinn served as the Conservancy’s legal counsel from the organization’s inception. He announced he was retiring from the practice of law in 2022. With nearly a quarter of a century as the Conservancy legal counsel, the Conservancy decided to recognize Ed for his service.

In addition to serving as the Conservancy’s point person on legal matters, Ed was the Managing Partner for the office of Best, Best & Krieger’s Sacramento office. Given the Conservancy’s need for diverse counsel in numerous specialty areas, Ed handled the task of orchestrating and coordinating the various legal counsel needs of the Conservancy.

Ed was an essential part of the founding of the Conservancy, guided it through challenging times, and was deemed by the Conservancy’s Board to have been essential to the Conservancy’s success. The Conservancy Board Chair, John Shirey, led the Conservancy’s Board in expressing its appreciation to Ed and awarding him the Conservancy’s Big Hat Award.

“Ed did some excellent work for the Conservancy over many years, and we want to recognize him for that. “

— Conservancy Board Chair John Shirey
Ed Quinn, 2022 Big Hat Award winner
Nick Advis receives the 2015 Big Hat Award from Conservancy Board Secretary David Christophel

Nick Avdis, 2015

Sacramento attorney Nick Avdis was awarded the Conservancy’s “Big Hat” Award in 2015.

Avdis was given the Award because he selflessly, voluntarily and on his own time, assisted the Conservancy in obtaining significantly lower flood insurance rates. The Conservancy had worked the matter, but had been unsuccessful in making a meaningful difference in insurance premiums. Because of Nick’s efforts, thousands of dollars were saved, and the savings were able to be applied more directly to the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan’s “Covered Species” conservation efforts.

“Nick went the extra mile in researching flood insurance rates and practices. In working with elected leaders, public agencies and Conservancy staff, Nick was able to get a lower flood insurance rate for the Conservancy.”

— Conservancy Board Secretary David Christophel

Randy Waite, 2009

CalSierra Construction’s Randy Waite was awarded the Conservancy’s “Big Hat” award in 2009 while serving as construction crew lead on a Conservancy managed marsh renovation project.

Waite came out on most weekends during the project on his own time, just to make sure things were going well and was always on the lookout for the HCP’s Covered Species. He found several, reporting them to the Conservancy and its biologists, pulling all construction equipment back to avoid the possibility of injury to the animal, and giving them plenty of opportunity to seek safety. Waite went so far as to hand dig hard, clay soils to trace suspected Giant garter snake (GGS) burrows in order to be certain his crews were not going to work at the expense of a GGS. Finally, he made numerous recommendations to the Conservancy, nearly all of them implemented, that reduced costs and improved the biological function of the finished managed marsh project.

“Randy worked on the Conservancy’s BKS South Course marsh channel project, and was on-site each and every day. He did more than just do his job.”

— Board President David Christophel
Randy Waite receiving the 2009 Big Hat Award from Board President David Christophel
Founding Board Chair Anne Rudin presenting the Big Hat Award to 2002 winner David Bugatto

David Bugatto, 2002

In 2002, Dave Bugatto voluntarily engaged in efforts to break a logjam of Conservancy mitigation land acquisition efforts. At the time, land was not being made available for mitigation purposes. The Conservancy needed to do mitigation land acquisitions in order to keep pace the NBHCP’s mitigation requirements. At the time, there were also significant budget constraints for the Conservancy in making land acquisitions. Dave identified land that was compliant with the NBHCP’s “land acquisition criteria,” secured a hard price from the seller, and made sure that the property was acquired at the favorable terms negotiated. That land acquisition, heretofore thought to be nearly impossible, was consummated and the Conservancy maintained its compliance with the NBHCP. Almost immediately, other sellers of potential mitigation land offered property for sale.

“This exemplifies a level of cooperation between the development community and the Conservancy that may surprise many. We are pleased to acknowledge Dave’s effort with this Award.”

— Founding Board Chair Anne Rudin