A decades-long civic activist who died at her home last month is being remembered by community members as a mother of three and champion for local environmental issues.
Following her death on July 21, activists in the Santa Clarita Valley and Southern California biological protection community called Teresa Savaikie someone with a love of small creatures and with a “prominent place in the hearts of all that care about our valley and the creatures that inhabit it.”
“She had a pure energy that I miss,” said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the first national organizations that Savaikie contacted in her efforts to save local endangered species. “She was tireless in her river-protection efforts, attending meetings, doing press, writing letters. She was on fire with her activism, all while raising a family. She had kind of transformed from a regular suburban mom into a super activist with the passion and drive that is so very rare. In a sense, she was like one of the rare species on the river that she fought for.”
Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, said that from beginning to end, Savaikie cared for birds and all the other creatures in the world and took action when she saw something or someone harming their habitats.
“I think that’s what’s so amazing because so many people are just closed down when they see problems, but Teresa didn’t do that,” said Plambeck. “She really wanted the world to be more open to saving nature and our community to be more open to saving nature. She tried really hard to have people understand how we could live in harmony and how we do things in such a way that wouldn’t hurt all these creatures.”
Savaikie’s local activism began almost two decades ago when she called local wildlife agencies about new construction interfering with rare nesting birds. She eventually graduated to calling for the end of ammonia being found in a sanitation outflow in the Santa Clara River, took a live fish in a fish bowl to a City Council meeting in an effort to protect local wetlands, and continually fought against the planned CEMEX sand and gravel mine to protect the wildlife habitat of the arroyo toads.
In 2005, after American Rivers, a national advocacy organization, named the Santa Clara River one of the most endangered in the country, Savaikie held a press conference upon hearing the ranking in order to educate people about the local wildlife.
She held a kids rally at Bridgeport Lake to help protect migrating birds, and assisted in the restoration of Bouquet Creek.
On July 16, 2015, Savaikie’s 14-year-old son was killed after being hit by a car near her home, and while the devastating loss took an emotional and physical toll on her, she turned her grief toward activism and fought to lower speed limits and create better signage, according to Plambeck.
“These last few years were not kind to Teresa,” said Plambeck. “Painful health issues made her life difficult. Now she has left for a brighter new day.”
A memorial service is scheduled to be held at Eternal Valley on Saturday, Aug. 14, beginning with visitation at 12:30 p.m.