Jessa Kay Cruz, Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist with The Xerces Society, was awarded the 2021 Frank R. Beeler Watershed Stewardship Award. Ms. Kay Cruz was nominated by Dr. Stephanie Bolton, Grower Research & Education/LODI RULES Director for the Lodi Winegrape Commission, with enthusiastic support from community leaders, LODI RULES growers, and past award recipients.

The Lower Mokelumne River Watershed Stewardship Steering Committee, in collaboration with the Lower Mokelumne River Partnership, a consortium between California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and East Bay Municipal Utility District, selected Jessa Kay Cruz to receive the 2021 Frank R. Beeler Watershed Stewardship Award.

The Frank R. Beeler Watershed Stewardship Award is presented annually to acknowledge and recognize an individual or organization within the Lower Mokelumne River watershed who has shown outstanding leadership, responsibility, or activism in the promotion of sound and innovative natural resource stewardship practices that help sustain the environment and enhance productivity and profitability in the Mokelumne River watershed.

Ms. Kay Cruz is the Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist for The Xerces Society in California, and a partner biologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Xerces Society is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. It is a science-based organization, conducting research and using the most up-to-date information to guide their conservation work.

Ms. Kay Cruz manages and coordinates many aspects of the pollinator program in California. Since joining Xerces in 2008, she has worked in agricultural and natural lands to create habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects, and to promote practices that support them. She provides education and technical support to a range of individuals and agencies, including farmers and ranchers, agricultural professionals, and land managers. A collaboration between Ms. Kay Cruz and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Lockeford Plant Materials Center (CAPMC) on the Lower Mokelumne River provides information on pollinator establishment and management.

Ms. Kay Cruz is a frequent speaker at outreach events and trainings that occur in the Watershed, such as CAPMC Field Days and Open Days, CAPMC training events, and Lodi Winegrape Commission grower meetings. As the local beneficial insect and native hedgerow expert, she has written outreach materials for the Lodi Growers, including an article on beneficial insects in their recent publication, What Every Winegrower Should Know: Viruses. Miles of new hedgerows have been planted in the past two years thanks to her outreach and skills in connecting local growers with the resources they need to select native plants, obtain financial assistance through grants, and access technical information for hedgerow management.

Ms. Kay Cruz embodies the Beeler Award spirit by enthusiastically supporting stewardship practices based on sound science, assisting others with conservation efforts to enhance the Mokelumne River watershed to encourage them to make the best use of the natural resources, and engaging with the community through education. Despite a busy schedule full of diverse responsibilities, she always makes time to provide help that really makes an impact, and even saves growers money in the long run by reducing the need for irrigation and pesticides!

Mr. Frank Robert Beeler (1953-2009), a world-record setter and former water/wastewater superintendent for the City of Lodi, was an active participant and advocate for the Lower Mokelumne River Watershed Stewardship Plan and the Lower Mokelumne River Watershed Stewardship Steering Committee. Mr. Beeler was a leader in the City’s stormwater program and tirelessly supported volunteer watershed stewardship activities such as the City’s Storm Drain Detectives. Mr. Beeler’s death from cancer, only nine weeks after diagnosis, in April 2009 was a great loss to the community.

The Mokelumne River is a valuable resource that supports the economic, environmental, and aesthetic welfare of California. The Lower Mokelumne River Watershed stretches from the base of Camanche Dam to the confluence of the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers, covering approximately 52,688 acres. For information about the Lower Mokelumne River Watershed Stewardship Group or to get involved in their conservation efforts, contact Committee Chair Kathy Grant: 209.327.2063 or

The Xerces Society is a science-based conservation organization, working with diverse partners that include scientists, land managers, educators, policymakers, farmers, and communities. By utilizing applied research, engaging in advocacy, providing educational resources, addressing policy implications, and building community, they endeavor to make meaningful long-term conservation a reality. To learn more about the local work of Jessa Kay Cruz and the Xerces Society, check out these links:


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