Environmental Defense Center to Honor Hillary Hauser of Heal the Ocean with 2024 Environmental Hero Award

May 20, 2024

Santa Barbara, CA – The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) – one of the nation’s longest-running nonprofit law firms working to protect California’s coast and the earth’s climate – today announced that its 2024 Environmental Hero award will be presented to Hillary Hauser at the organization’s annual event on Sunday, June 9th.

Ms. Hauser is the founder and Executive Director of Santa Barbara nonprofit Heal the Ocean (HTO), which focuses on wastewater infrastructure (sewers and septic systems) and on protecting the marine environment from dumping and other forms of pollution.

Ms. Hauser will accept the award at EDC’s annual fundraising event, Green & Blue: A Coastal Celebration, on June 9th at the Stow House in Goleta, CA. Prior recipients of the Environmental Hero award include Jane Fonda, Northern Chumash Tribal Council leader Violent Sage Walker, and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

“Hillary has been a force for protection and appreciation of the ocean throughout many different roles in her distinguished career, having a significant impact on our local communities and marine environment,” said EDC Assistant Director Betsy Weber. “As a writer, photojournalist, diver, adventurer, environmental activist, and leader of the HTO, she has been on the front lines of this fight for more than five decades. We are thrilled to honor her as a longstanding partner and environmental hero here on the Central Coast.”

During nearly three decades at the helm of Heal the Ocean, Ms. Hauser has led the organization to numerous victories – removing miles of septic systems from the Santa Barbara coast, upgrading wastewater treatment plants, protecting wildlife from Styrofoam pollution, and organizing countless beach cleanups. More recently, HTO has been leading the effort to cap the leaking oil wells off the coast of Summerland.  

“In the 28 years Heal the Ocean has been wrangling with environmental issues in Santa Barbara County, the Environmental Defense Center has remained a guiding star,” Ms. Hauser said. “The help and advice we’ve received over the years from this great group of clear-headed thinkers has cleared many paths of action for us. Special thanks to Linda Krop for being there, on the other end of the line, when I needed her special advice.”

Hillary has published six books and numerous articles about the sea and underwater exploration, including in National Geographic, Geo, Islands, The Surfer’s Journal, Reader’s Digest and the Los Angeles Times. From 1969-1977 she was West Coast stringer for Ocean Science News, Washington D.C., and from 1981-1986 was ocean/marine reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press. She also served as music critic for that newspaper and is a long-time classical pianist. 

In 1988, Hillary wrote about local beaches closing due to pollution in her watershed piece “Another Day at the Beach?” The article ignited a storm of public protest as well as a demonstration at the Santa Barbara County Administration Building. At the protest, Hillary and Jeff Young, a Santa Barbara oyster grower-now-attorney, announced they were founding Heal the Ocean.

Tickets and sponsorships are available for EDC’s Green & Blue: A Coastal Celebration on Sunday, June 9th, from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m. The event will be held in the beautiful gardens at Rancho La Patera & Stow House in Goleta, CA, bringing together around 500 guests from across the tri-county region. The event raises critical funds for the organization to continue its work protecting the region’s clean air and water, open space and agricultural lands, marine resources and wildlife, and our climate for generations to come. The afternoon will include a silent auction full of unique items, an exciting live auction, food and beverages, and a short program honoring this year’s Environmental Hero.

For tickets & sponsorship opportunities and more information visit: https://www.environmentaldefensecenter.org/gb/


The Environmental Defense Center defends nature and advances environmental justice on California’s Central Coast through advocacy and legal action. Since 1977, we have represented more than 140 nonprofit, community-based organizations to protect our environment and the earth’s climate. EDC is funded through private donations, receiving no government assistance. Learn more at www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org


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