Background/Education: Mehmet was born in Sinop, Turkey and moved to U.S. with his Turkish mother and American father early on.. He grew up and attended university in Louisiana and now lives on the Tule River in the southern Sierra Nevada foothills of the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California. Educated at Louisiana State University with Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Chemistry in 1989, he took employment in hazard/toxic waste remediation/consulting at the state regulatory agencies. Even while volunteering for Baton Rouge Green, a local greening organization,, McMillan had yet to connect the dots between his career and the simple act of planting a tree...
Carreer/Transition: Working for the Louisiana Dept. Of Environmental Quality first exposed him to the control that the chemical industry had over regulatory agencies and the harmful effects on communities of color not to mention decades of environmental devastation. In 1992, he witnessed the Greenpeace blockade of the Mississippi River shipping channel where climbers and a banner stretched across the river in direct path of giant chemical ships brought media attention worldwide.
"That's when I knew what environmentalism looked like," says McMillan.
Soon he was fired from the regulatory agency, and thus began his career in activism.
It started in 1992 with opening of Bean Tree Coffees and Teas, a coffee shop/performance space offering a forum for independent thought, good coffee and collaboration. This endeavor brought business sense and community relations into McMillan’s toolbox.
In 1994, he moved to Los Angeles and took the position of Forestry Manager at TreePeople, a 32 year-old urban forestry and education organization based In Los Angeles. There, he began his career as a grassroots organizer and was introduced to Greenpeace, Action Resource Center, Rainforest Action Network, Amazon Watch and other non-violent civil disobedience efforts occurring locally, nationally and internationally. In 1998, Mr. McMillan co-founded the Burma Humanitarian Mission (www.burmamission.org) after participating in a high profile direct action against the Yandana Pipeline in Burma. He continues his commitment to provide urgently needed medical supplies to the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP's) of Burma by going regularly to the border regions of Burma and negotiating positive relations with the Karen and the Thai people and to bear personal witness to the Karen’s struggle for self determination, health care and safety.
"Meeting Aung San Suu Kyi in 2014 after she was released from 20 years house arrest was a peak experience for me. And when she thanked me directly for the sacrifices we made in the 1998 Unocal action and the creation of BHM, I was floored. Me. Sacrifices?", he says astonished that A nobel Prize Laureate and prisoine rof 20 years could suggest that McMillan had "sarificed".
But it was as a volunteer coordinator of diverse California habitat restorations and communities that he found his niche in a corner of California often neglected by progress, education, and connection to nature. That corner was Kern, Tulare , and Fresno Counties.
In 2001, McMillan launched WildPlaces: Stewardship in the Southern Sierra, a community benefits organization whose mission is to restore and protect California's wild and rural places and inspire reverance for Nature in its peoples through volunteer-driven restoration projects, education, cultural identity, career development and advocacy.
"At some point, it became clear that a focus on youth was the best expression of our limited (but growing) resources. As far as I was concerned, the adults had to be left behind as we engaged young people to fight for the rights and reverence for Mother Nature.," he says.
Today, his organizational affiliations are many and bond brilliantly with what surely he considers his extended family.
Josh was born and raised in the Central Valley with a lifelong outdoors background and a strong love for nature and our environment. Josh discovered WildPlaces at the Kaweah Oaks Preserve Volunteer Day and was instantly drawn to all that WildPlaces stands for. You wanna find Josh check outside cross cutting a trail away.
Daniel was raised in the Central Valley with roots from Nochistlan, Zacatecas where his parents were born and raised. He graduated from Fresno State with a Dual Bachelors in Printmaking and Chicano Studies. His cultural roots have instilled a deep respect for working with and for the land. As an artist his experiences in nature play a big part in the subject matter he presents in screen prints, woodblock carving and paintings. Working with WildPlaces is an amazing platform from which Daniel has been able to continue practicing his passion for art, culture and caring for the environment. When Daniel is not working and playing up in the mountains, he spends a lot of time traveling up and down the San Joaquin Valley sharing his art.
Anneka is a California Native and extreme outdoor enthusiast. Her love began to grow when she was about six years old through fly fishing. She could not believe the effects the river and nature already had in her soul. When she turned 17 and decided to head north to school at Humboldt State University, she began to search for all the outdoor activities she could. She found rafting and fell in love. She had the privilege to train and guide on the Trinity and Kaweah Rivers for a few seasons, class III and V. From there she also took many outdoor classes and found herself taking a Master Angler program at Clear Water Lodge, outside of Burney Ca. As her travels continued to lead her around California, she became lead guide and safety responder for Water Treks Eco Tours in Jenner, Ca. This place is amazing. We shared the estuary experiences through kayaking with tourists from all over and led school field trips with hands on eco sampling. In doing this, we were not only explaining the importance of nature and our planet, but clearly demonstrating the importance of keeping our rivers, oceans, and forests clean in hopes to help eliminate a carbon foot print. To further her experience, she obtained a Flood and Swift Water Techinician II certification through Specialized Rescue International. This has brought her the ability to save lives and aid in rescues on the river. Now she has found herseld at WildPlaces.
Trace is a certified naturalist, environmental activist, and writer from Tulare, California. With heritage from environmental refugees from the Dust Bowl, Trace seeks to open dialogue and activism in rural and agricultural communities with an ecocritical slant. He was worked with campaigns to reform pesticides in the Central Valley and against the reduction of the Bears Ear National Monument in Oregon. His other interests include critical theory, experimental music, and poetry.
Destiny was born and raised in Porterville, California, just at the foot of the Sequoia National Monument. As a young artist she loves to mix her passions for writing and painting with her love for the environment. She also studies American Sign Language at College of the Sequoias in order to make environmental advocacy more accessible to the deaf community. Destiny hopes to inspire other youth to take action in their communities and begin restoring our beautiful, natural lands.
Destiny Dawn Montes