Mission Statement

• Here in the Zone we protect wildlife and their habitats via research, education, advocacy, and restoration. Our projects focus on protecting biodiversity, reducing species extinctions, improving wild spaces, and enhancing peaceful coexistence between humans and our non-human neighbors.


• We connect people to nature in ways that benefit communities from the local to bioregional level. Knowing that the welfare of humans and non-humans is intimately linked to a healthy environment and sustainable community, we practice compassionate conservation that respects the intrinsic value of species from the individual to population level.


• Our multi-disciplinary, inclusionary approach leads to better conservation outcomes while engendering stakeholder support, community investment, and improved quality of life for all species involved.

 















Patrick Lee Hord - Executive Director

 Renée Owens - President

 Jill Fritz

After graduating from San Diego State University, Hoosier transplant Jill Fritz worked at KPBS Public Radio and Television for many years as a producer, director, and editor. She also served as president of San Diego Animal Advocates, where she organized campaigns and trained volunteers to protect wild and domestic animal species in southern California. She was the SDAA delegate to the California Animal Association, a coalition focused on passing animal protection laws statewide. In 2006 Jill joined the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as the Minnesota and Wisconsin State Director, and in 2009 became the Michigan Senior State Director. In Michigan Jill helped to pass a law phasing out inhumane animal confinement methods on factory farms, including battery cages for hens and crates used to severely restrict movement of gestating pigs and calves raised for veal. She also helped pass pivotal legislation to make Michigan’s animal fighting penalties the strongest in the United States. She was the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected referendum campaign, helping Michigan become the first state to overturn laws authorizing the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves. Jill is now a Director for Wildlife Protection at the HSUS headquarters in Maryland, focused on the passage of state laws to end cruel wildlife killing contests and wildlife trafficking. She also works to uphold state bans on trapping, snaring, and other cruel wildlife killing methods, while promoting transparancy and democratic processes in state wildlife agencies so that citizens are better represented in wildlife management policy. When she’s not making life better for wildlife, Jill enjoys creating and decorating gourmet vegan cakes for all occasions.

Erik LaCoste

As a southern California native Erik has been passionate about animals and the great outdoors since childhood. He earned a BS in Biology from San Diego State University in 1998 while working in several ecology labs studying the effects of military training and wildfire frequency on native plant communities at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Erik discovered a real passion for natural history and conservation field studies, honing his skills of native species identification while delving into research of species interactions increasingly impacted by anthropogenic factors, including habitat fragmentation and climate change. After graduating he specialized in studying the effects of development on threatened and endangered species throughout the American southwest, while acquiring permits from resource agencies to survey various endangered species, and earning a level III Tracking certification. Being the independent soul that he is Erik founded his own business as an independent wildlife biologist in 2003;  since 2011 he has been working as a biologist for several environmental consultancies based in San Diego. Having never lost his desire to further his education – instilled in him at an early age by his grandfather – he now spends a significant amount of time at Palomar College earning a Geographic Information Systems degree. When not working Erik spends as much time as he can with his wife Jude, who works in the advanced energy sector, their dog Olivia, and their twin 4-year old nieces in San Marcos, California.

Kathryn Burton

Kathryn has been a wildlife enthusiast for as far back as she can remember, and has been involved with non-profit work for decades. Her extensive community advocacy includes former board member Friends of Carmel Mountain Preserve, former President of Friends of Salk Coastal Canyon, and Former President of the Torrey Hills Community Coalition working to address environmental issues. She is currently President of Spotlight on Coastal Corruption (SOCC), a group she founded to help preserve California coastal habitats and state  democratic processes. SOCC’s incisive actions are holding California leaders to transparency and public trust standards set by law and supported by environmental stewards statewide. As a retired attorney Kathryn enjoys raising Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies while providing habitat for wild birds, lizards, and other pollinators. She also has a passion for organic gardening when her dogs, cat, parrot, and tortoises aren’t keeping her busy.

Jane Cartmill

When Renée was 12 and living in upstate NY she joined a campaign to Save the Tallgrass Prairie; she’d never seen a prairie but it seemed worthwhile. She’s been promoting wildlife conservation ever since, though she took a break to compete in triathlons, qualifying for the U.S. National Championships in 1989. Renée then established an international environmental consultancy specializing for the public and private sector; after 25 years based in Southern California she received a Special Commendation for Contributions to Environmental Conservation from the City of San Diego. With a Master’s in Biology (she studied cetacean bioacoustics and conservation) and another in Environmental Science Education (almost complete!) she has taught at several colleges including Boston University’s Tropical Ecology Program in Ecuador.  Her love for the tropics led her to be co-researcher of a long-term conservation project in Venezuela funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society; including novel research on green anacondas that was filmed by National Geographic, Dateline, BBC, and Discovery and was awarded the National Geographic Research and Exploration Award. She has studied a wide variety of species; some of the more charismatic include the capybara, Orinoco crocodile, California gnatcatcher, giant otter, Harbor seal, burrowing owl, and jaguar. Her non-profit involvement includes 6 years with Emergency Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Lakeside and creating a Wildlife Conservationist Certification Program for the Audubon Society. She continues to serve on wildlife and habitat policy committees for the National Sierra Club; in 2017 she received the San Diego Chapter’s highest award for her years of advocacy and leadership. One of her favorite things to do is nurture a love for Mother Nature through photography and outings for all ages. She is a proud mom to 2 rescued dogs and indentured slave to 4 cats and 19 spoiled chickens.


Marie Ida Johnson

As a child growing up in a redwood home in California built in 1900, Marie developed what would become a lifelong respect and fascination for wildlife and the environment while exploring every inch of their five-acre homestead for wildflowers, tadpoles, bugs, and everything else in between. She earned a BS in Communications from San Diego State University and promptly pursued a diverse career track that included television, manufacturing, law, and computer technology; she also taught elementary school in Orange County, California and in Cook County, Illinois. A firm believer in the power of volunteering, Marie helped create and adopt leadership roles in professional organizations in college broadcasting and legal secretary associations, as well as non-profit organizations that celebrate diversity and creativity.  As a musician, performance artist, and music teacher Marie has been a choral director, formed a cappella jazz and other ensembles, and enjoyed leading many workshops including Appalachian music, artistry, dancing, and storytelling.  Now retired, she is kept busy by her on- and off-air administrative work with KNSJ 89.1 FM, an independent volunteer-operated community radio station. Her advocacy focuses on finding solutions to global problems at the local level, including mitigating the climate change crisis, ensuring a free and democratically supported media, slowing species extinctions, and leaving a healthier planet for future generations.

Our Team

Jane has been a tireless champion of animals for most of her life. A Massachusetts native, Jane transplanted to Southern California years ago after graduating from the University of New Hampshire. She co-founded San Diego Animal Advocates in 1984, a group dedicated to helping the plight of animals, wild and domestic, through education, advocacy, and tireless campaigning. An activist with SDAA for 34 years, Jane was acting President for 20, where she promoted strategic discussion of controversial issues and implementation of successful solutions across a diverse field of volunteers, government agents, business professionals, neighborhood groups, political leaders, and journalists. Jane also served on the Rancho Coastal Humane Society Board of Directors for 8 years.  As a medical office administrator for many years, Jane was able to apply her compassion for people as well as for animals, while honing her skills in herding the cats that comprise our complicated and ever-changing health care system.  Now retired, she continues to support domestic and wild species via education and action both locally and through participation in national organizations. She shares her home with rescued animals; a terrier, a beagle mix, two parakeets and one very chatty Amazon parrot.
Patrick is a wildlife biologist, musician, carpenter, and animal rehabilitator living with a menagerie of creatures in San Diego’s backcountry. Born and raised in San Diego, his philosophy is straightforward: wildlife needs help to survive and thrive as unbridled human development continues with little thought for other species. He is co-owner of environmental consultancy Sage Wildlife Biology and has spent years researching threatened and endangered species like the California gnatcatcher, Least Bell's vireo, Southwestern Willow flycatcher, Burrowing owl, Desert tortoise, Flat-tail horned lizard, Quino Checkerspot butterfly and the Arroyo toad. He has worked with local non-profits and County Animal Control rescuing wildlife caught in urban environments, and was co-owner of a humane animal exclusion business. Patrick served as executive director of a California wildlife rehabilitation center that treated over 5000 injured animals yearly, was a community Representative for the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, and was former Co-chair of the San Diego Sierra Club's Wildlife Committee.  As founder and former Executive Director of the La Jolla Friends of the Seals, Patrick brought publicly supported coastal wildlife conservation to one of the world's premiere marine mammal viewing sites. To advance public stewardship he created SealCam - one of the first live internet wildlife cameras, trained hundreds of docents, promoted educational opportunities for local schools, and engendered an atmosphere of collaboration among otherwise disparate local entities. For this he received NOAA’s Environmental Hero Award signed by Vice President Al Gore.  Mr. Hord is a cabinet maker and finish carpenter and licensed California General Building Contractor.