Every two years at the State of the Estuary Conference, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership presents the Jean Auer Environmental Award to an outstanding individual to honor his/her significant contribution toward improving environmental quality in the Bay-Delta Estuary. The award is given in memory of Jean Auer, a Bay Area environmentalist, whose ground-breaking efforts were directed particularly at improving water management in California.
Dr. Young has dedicated her professional life to protecting the environment. For nearly four decades, she has advised Bay Area environmental organizations and selected corporations on environmental science and policy, and is known for having a practical eye for the possible. Her expertise spans water pollution, ecological risk assessment, ecological indicators, and the use of economic incentives to decrease pollution and protect endangered species.
Dr. Young also served on numerous national science boards and advisory committees in Washington, D.C. and in California. As a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board, on which she served for twelve years, Dr. Young chaired the standing committee on Ecological Processes and Effects, as well as being a member of the Executive Committee and Board. She served on Panels of the National Research Council evaluating research at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Her work on environmental indicators included serving on the steering committees for the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment development of “The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems” in 2002 and “The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems 2008”, as well as being a member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences Committee on Puget Sound Indicators. Most recently, Dr. Young was a member of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. Appointed by the governor in 2006, she was Vice-Chair from 2008–2013 and Chair from 2014–2019. In this capacity, Dr. Young worked with the agency to not only protect and restore the Bay Area’s water resources, but also to partner with the larger Bay Area community to adapt to the current challenges of climate change and new-generation chemical pollution.
Dr. Young holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Environmental Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in Chemistry from Yale University, and has lived in the Bay Area with her husband and family for 45 years.
Jean Auer, born in Youngstown, Ohio, played a prominent role in California’s water issues for over thirty years. She first learned about water issues with the League of Women Voters and was appointed to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. When her family moved to San Francisco she was appointed to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Auers moved to Hillsborough in 1973, where she was elected to the Town Council and later became mayor.
From 1972 to 1977, Jean served as a public member of the State Water Resources Control Board, voting on regulations to control pollution and establish water rights. Judge Ron Robie, associate justice of the State Court of Appeal in Sacramento, who served with Jean on the board, called her “a marvelous person of great spirit, enthusiasm and intelligence…She was really courageous and not at all timid.’’
Starting in 1987, Jean worked on the management committee of the San Francisco Estuary Project (now Partnership). Marcia Brockbank describes her ability to forge agreements, saying, “She was a phenomenal woman, a consummate Renaissance woman.” In 1991, Jean became the second female president of the Commonwealth Club, and for the next decade ran a fellowship program for young professionals at the nonprofit Water Education Foundation. Jean is survived by her three beloved sons, Lance, Grant and Brad Auer.
Past recipients of the award include: