Lee Heller, Sabrina Venskus, and Naomi Kovacs Join Board of Environmental Defense Center

September 30, 2019

Santa Barbara — The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) is proud to announce a major expansion of its board of directors. The organization has three new veteran environmental voices on its leadership team, with the addition of animal welfare and environmental activist Lee Heller; environmental attorney Sabrina Venskus; and longtime nonprofit and civic leader Naomi Kovacs. The three join EDC’s experienced board of directors at a time of profound importance for our climate and local environment.

Lee Heller returns to EDC’s board after a three-year absence, having served as board president and as the longtime chair of EDC’s annual fundraiser. In 2016, Dr. Heller was recognized as both a Sant Barbara Independent Local Hero and a Cox Conserves Hero for her work on animal and environmental issues. Dr. Heller was also honored as EDC’s volunteer of the year in 2013. She received a doctorate from Brandeis University and a Juris Doctor from the Santa Barbara College of Law, and has served on numerous boards of directors including ASAP, Get Oil Out! (GOO!), SB CAN, and Dog PAC.

Sabrina Venskus is the principle of Venskus & Association APC, a litigation practice in Los Angeles and Ventura counties which covers environmental and natural resources, land use and zoning, housing rights, historic and archeological resource preservation, energy regulation, and open government law. Ms. Venskus graduated with honors from UCLA and received her law degree from the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, earning a certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law.

Naomi Kovacs has served as District Representative for Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf, and Executive Director for both the Citizens Planning Association and Santa Barbara Village. A longtime board member and current president of the Santa Barbara Peace Corps Association, she has also served on the Santa Barbara Conservancy board and has volunteered for numerous local nonprofits. She holds B.A. degrees in Psychology and French from the University of California Santa Barbara and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from University of Southern California.

The three will join the following members of EDC’s board of directors: Judy Pirkowitsch (President), Dave Davis (Vice President), Diane Wondolowski (Treasurer), Katy Allen (Secretary), David Andreasen, Daniel Emmett, Richard Francis, Vijaya Jammalamadaka, Rocio Lozano-Knowlton, Jim Salzman, Leanne Schlinger, and Rob Tadlock.


The Environmental Defense Center protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has empowered community-based organizations to advance environmental protection. EDC’s focus areas include protection of the Santa Barbara Channel, ensuring clean water, preserving open space and wildlife, and addressing climate and energy. Learn more about EDC at www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org.


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