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Seminar Faculty Bios

Judy Anderson of Community Consultants has worked in the land trust sector for 25 years. She currently assists nonprofit organizations throughout the country on practical and strategic conservation initiatives incorporating local communities, climate change, governance, communications and community-based outreach and fundraising strategies. A central part of her work focuses on developing a comprehensive and targeted approach to communications and fundraising to increase greater relevance and broaden community support.

Mark Anderson director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy, and provides science leadership, ecological analysis, and landscape assessment tools for conservation efforts across eighteen states in the Nature Conservancy's Eastern Division.  He holds a doctorate in ecology from University of New Hampshire and has worked as an ecologist for over 27 years, 22 with The Conservancy. In addition to leading regional-scale ecological assessments, Mark has published widely on biodiversity conservation, forest dynamics, and climate change resilience, and was a co-author of the National Vegetation Classification.  His current research interests include ecological resilience, disturbance processes, geophysical landscape properties, and seafloor mapping.  He manages a team of six scientists specializing in landscape ecology, aquatic biology, marine spatial planning and regional data management.

Jeff Appel is a practicing attorney in Salt Lake City. He is also a member of the board of directors of a land trust, and has extensive experience with both water rights and conservation easements. He is a board member of a land trust in southeast Utah.

Sylvia Bates is the director of Standards and Research for the Land Trust Alliance and, since 2006, leads the Alliance's work on Land Trust Standards and Practices, land trust assessments, the Standards and Practices Curriculum and other cutting-edge issues.  She has worked in the land conservation field since 1987, most recently as an independent consultant and real estate broker, providing assistance to land trusts, landowners and public agencies on land conservation projects, easement stewardship and organizational development.  She was formerly the director of land protection for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.  Sylvia has a degree in environmental biology from Yale University and has done graduate work at the Yale School of Forestry.

Allan Beezley is a Colorado attorney specializing in land conservation. Since 1991 he has been involved in more than 1800 land conservation transactions throughout the western United States, encompassing more than 4.5 million acres. Allan served as western regional counsel for The Nature Conservancy and was a peer reviewer for the Land Trust Alliance publication “Acquiring Land and Conservation Easements” (2009).

Jennifer Brady-Connor is the program manager for the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Jennifer previously worked for the Land Trust Alliance assisting in the development of the 2004 Land Trust Standards and Practices, helping in the creation of the land trust accreditation program, and providing technical assistance to land trusts across New York and the northeast. Jennifer previously worked for and volunteered with a local land trust and other nonprofits for many years in various positions.

Vanessa Chase is an international nonprofit consultant, thought leader, trainer and speaker. Currently, Vanessa is president of The Storytelling Non-Profit, which she founded in 2012 because she wanted to help nonprofit organizations articulate their impact to donors in a way that would help them exceed fundraising goals. The Storytelling Non-Profit provides consulting, training and coaching to nonprofits around the world. To date she has helped nonprofits raise over $10 million in philanthropic support.

Daniel Cline is a Michigan attorney practicing in the areas of nonprofit organization, employment and real estate law. He has been in the private practice of law since 1981, and has worked with many nonprofit organizations, both as legal counsel and as a volunteer board member. Dan serves as a Commissioner on the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance.

Rich Cochran is president/CEO of Western Reserve Land Conservancy. In 1996 Rich became the first employee of Chagrin River Land Conservancy. The result of mergers among 13 land conservation organizations, today the organization serves 19 counties in northern and eastern Ohio, and operates under the name Western Reserve Land Conservancy. It employs about 40 people, operates 8 field offices in addition to its headquarters, has established nearly 20 county land banks in Ohio, and has preserved about 550 properties totaling 40,000 acres in its history.

Paul Doscher is the former vice president for land conservation at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests where he worked for 27 years. He retired from that position in 2014, and is now the board chair of the Piscataquog Land Conservancy. He also serves as the secretary of the National Leadership Council, and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Trout Unlimited (TU). He serves on the Risk Management Committee of TU. He and his wife own and operate a small organic farm and Christmas Tree farm in Weare, NH.

Peter Dykstra practices conservation and water law with Plache & Carr in Seattle. Formerly, he was regional director, Pacific Northwest at The Wilderness Society.

Donna Fletcher is a nationally recognized expert in fundraising and communications for land trusts, having worked with more than 200 organizations and helping them raise more than $500,000,000 in funding through capital, membership and annual campaigns. Donna is currently working on a comprehensive curriculum of fundraising tools that will equip new fundraisers with the knowledge needed to help their organizations raise more money and engage more supporters.

Ellen Fred is an attorney and mediator practicing law in California and Michigan in the areas of real estate and tax law, focusing primarily on land conservation transactions and nonprofit tax issues.

Darla Guenzler is the executive director of the California Council of Land Trusts, where she leads the Council’s policy and law, communications, education and research programs. She founded the California Conservation Law Forum. She is a frequent instructor and speaker on land and water conservation. She holds a doctorate from University of California, Berkeley in city and regional planning with specializations in land conservation, land use planning and environmental policy. In addition, she holds master’s degrees in city and regional planning and in landscape architecture, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science.

Sarah Hardgrave is an environmental planner with the Big Sur Land Trust. As their conservation program manager, Sarah is overseeing the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement Project, a partnership project with Monterey County. Sarah has also worked in both local government and consulting.  She has been involved in land use and water resource issues on the Monterey Peninsula for 15 years, working on regional projects and programs for land use planning, water supply augmentation, groundwater management, as well as storm water management and water quality monitoring. She has an undergraduate degree in environmental studies from Mount Holyoke College and master’s degrees in community and regional planning and public administration from the University of Oregon.

Paul Hardy is the founder and executive director of the Feather River Land Trust, a position he has held since 2000. Paul has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California (FRLT) and a master’s degree from the University of Arizona in wildlife biology. He helped design and implement FRLT’s Learning Landscapes program and loves connecting kids to nature, including his own four school-aged children.

Jessica Jay is founder and principal attorney of Conservation Law, P.C., a law firm devoted to ensuring the permanence of land conservation through sound transactions. Jessica represents easement holders and landowners to conserve working landscapes and environmentally significant properties in the Rocky Mountain West. She engages easement holders, professionals, and landowners in educational workshops, and guides the next generation of land conservationists through her Land Conservation Law courses at the Vermont Law School and the Denver University Law School. Jessica collaborates with the conservation community to design new conservation incentives, shape emerging conservation law, and discover new frontiers in land conservation.

Megan Knott is director of stewardship for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT). Megan joined CCALT in 2008 after spending the past two years working for the Piedmont Environmental Council in Virginia. Her background is in forest Management and she has a master’s degree in forestry and environmental management from the Nicholas School at Duke University.

Kris Larson is the executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust, where he has worked in various capacities since 1998. In his current capacity, Kris oversees a program with one of the largest conservation easement portfolio’s in the county. Kris previously served as the executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts and worked at the Brandywine Conservancy in Pennsylvania. He has a master's degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia’s School of Environmental Design and is also a graduate of Carleton College.

Debbie Leonard is an attorney and mediator with McDonald Carano Wilson LLP in Reno, Nevada. Her practice, which includes Nevada and California, focuses on natural resource, land use and water disputes. She is an advisory board member of Nevada Land Trust.

Melissa Levy is the principal of Community Roots Consulting. She has experience working closely with local governments, nonprofit organizations, land trusts, foundations and businesses in the areas of organizational planning and measurement. Melissa received her master’s degree in natural resource planning from the University of Vermont. Melissa lives in Hinesburg, Vermont where she is chair of the Hinesburg Economic Development Commission. She is a board member and secretary of the Vermont Environmental Consortium.

Gil Livingston is the president of the Vermont Land Trust, after having served as counsel and vice president for land conservation. Gil's long record of public service includes having managed Vermont's statewide land use permit program.

Tom Masland is considered one of the foremost land conservation attorneys in New Hampshire, representing both landowners and conservation organizations in land protection projects and conservation transactions. Tom is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (and formerly served as New Hampshire State Chair) and concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and administration, land conservation, elder law and probate matters; he is also a trained Mediator. In addition, Tom is a frequent writer and lecturer on conservation easements and estate planning topics to professionals as well as the general public. Tom is a member of the board of Conservation New Hampshire, a statewide political advocacy and education organization, and is a former board member of two regional land trusts. Tom also is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and was the founding chair of the Elder Law Section of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Peter Nichols is a partner at Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP, Boulder, Colorado practicing water, environmental, conservation, and related law. Peter served as the initial executive director and is a board member emeritus of the Colorado Water Trust. He is the principle co-author of “Water Rights Handbook for Colorado Conservation Professionals” (Bradford 2005; 2011).

MaryKay O’Donnell is the Midwest conservation manager for the Land Trust Alliance. Prior to joining the Alliance, she worked on land conservation acquisitions for 16 years, first at The Conservation Fund (CO) and later at the Little Traverse Conservancy (MI). MaryKay is one of the authors of the Land Trust Alliance publication “Acquiring Land and Conservation Easements” (2009).

Lori Pelech is the lead conservation account manager for nonprofit organizations at Esri.  She assists Esri’s nonprofit conservation clients in leveraging spatial technology into all aspects of their organization from scientific research to targeting donors, and sharing campaign stories with stakeholders.  Lori is passionate about enabling the conservation community to do the best science in the most efficient manner possible and to communicate their work to a wide variety of audiences in order to advance the protection of landscapes and resources.  Prior to joining Esri in January 2015, she worked as a contractor to the US Fish and Wildlife Service the Landscape Conservation Cooperative network.  She has 10 years of professional GIS experience across the state, federal, nonprofit and academic sectors for conservation decision-making.

Leslie Ratley-Beach joined the Land Trust Alliance as its first conservation defense director in 2007. Leslie leads the national conservation defense insurance program (Terrafirma) and the Alliance's conservation defense center. Previously, she worked with the Vermont Land Trust as stewardship director and project counsel.

Breece Robertson is the National GIS Director for the Trust for Public Land (TPL).  Since 2001, Breece Robertson has directed enterprise GIS applications for TPL. She manages a team of staff and consultants to design sophisticated models and analysis maps that include a wide range of land protection issues. She holds a master’s degree in geography and planning from Appalachian State University.

Eric Rowley is a Certified Public Accountant with over 30 years’ experience. He has served on numerous boards of nonprofit organizations and provides tax, governmental compliance and financial reporting and consulting services to many organizations with special emphasis on land trusts and other conservation entities. He is co-author of the publication "Financial Management of Land Trusts".

Stuart Somach is a partner at Somach Simons & Dunn in Sacramento. His practice emphasizes water and land conservation law, and works with major national land trusts in California.

Marc Smiley is an organizational development consultant and owner of Solid Ground Consulting, who has worked with hundreds of land trusts since 1989. Marc’s background as a staff member, executive director, board member, and officer for land conservation groups is complemented with 25 years of consulting experience covering the “core muscles” needed for effective land trusts: governance, planning, structure, engagement, and of course, fundraising. Marc was one in the first group of Accreditation Commissioners, and has presented at more than 25 Rallies.

Bill Silberstein is a partner in the law firm of Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLP. Bill Silberstein has built a land conservation practice that has a national reputation for excellence. Mr. Silberstein earned a bachelor’s degree in conservation and focused his law education at the University of Colorado on environmental issues. He is a frequent lecturer and author on conservation easements and other conservation topics. He has represented landowners and conservation organizations in hundreds of conservation easement transactions and in over 30 IRS audits of conservation easements.

Stephen J. Small is a tax attorney at his own firm, the Law Office of Stephen J. Small, Esq., P.C., in Newton, Massachusetts.  He is the author of The Federal Tax Law of Conservation Easements (Land Trust Alliance, 1985); Preserving Family Lands:  Book I (special updated fourth edition, Landowner Planning Center, 2009); Preserving Family Lands:  Book II -- More Planning Strategies for the Future (Landowner Planning Center, 1997); Preserving Family Lands:  Book III -- New Tax Rules and Strategies and a Checklist (Landowner Planning Center, 2002); The Business of Open Space:  What’s Next?? (Landowner Planning Center, 2013).  More than 150,000 copies of the Preserving Family Lands books have been sold. Before going into private practice, Mr. Small was an attorney-advisor in the Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C., where he wrote the federal income tax regulations on conservation easements. Mr. Small has worked directly on matters that have resulted in the protection of more than 1.5 million acres of land around the country.  He advises business and individual landowners and is recognized as the nation’s leading authority on private land protection options.  He advises private landowners on federal income and estate tax planning to help preserve valued family land, including planning for the next generation of ownership.  He has worked with landowners around the country to preserve a wide range of property, from small family parcels, timberland, and dairy farms to western and southwestern ranches, southern plantations, Atlantic coast barrier islands, farmland, and wildlife habitat.   Mr. Small has given more than 400 speeches, seminars, and workshops around the country on tax planning for landowners, succession planning for family lands, and tax incentives for land conservation.  He is a member of the Massachusetts and District of Columbia Bars.

Marie Vicek has been a paralegal at Allan C. Beezley, P.C. in Boulder since 2001. During that time she has worked almost exclusively on land conservation matters and has been involved in over 1000 land conservation transactions. She has extensive experience in title review in conservation matters.

Rob Wade is a place-based educator in the Upper Feather River region of California’s northern Sierra Nevada. He is the creator/coordinator of Learning Landscapes, a K-12 partnership between the Feather River Land Trust and regional schools that supports all teachers and some 2000 students annually. Rob has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley in conservation and resource studies and a master’s degree from the School of Education at the University of San Francisco.

Abigail Weinberg is the director of conservation research at the Open Space Institute (OSI). She develops science-based approaches for landscape-scale conservation for foundations, public agency and nonprofits. Her work also informs investment of OSI's conservation grant programs across the eastern United States. Abby has a master's degree in forestry from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a bachelor's degree in classics from St. John's College. Her current work focuses on applying current research on water quality and climate change to land protection.

Sarah Wells coordinates the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership (NQRLP) and manages the Landscape Conservation Program for Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust in north-central Massachusetts. Before joining Mount Grace in 2012, she assisted the NQRLP for two years through the MassLIFT AmeriCorps program. Currently, she focuses on designing and implementing multi-landowner, multi-partner land protection projects.

Mark Weston has nearly 30 years of experience as an independent real estate appraiser and consultant, with longstanding special interest in the valuation of conservation easements encumbering private land. His new firm is Mark S. Weston, Ltd., in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Tim Wohlgenant is Colorado state director for The Trust for Public Land (TPL).  Prior to joining TPL, Tim worked for over 10 years as a principle with Western Land Group, a private consulting firm specializing in public land exchange facilitation.  Working in concert with Federal and State agencies, Tim has successfully completed a number of complex, multi-party transactions involving the acquisition of conservation properties throughout the West.  In Colorado, Tim has consulted to local governments and land trusts on open lands and natural resources planning.  Tim sits on the board of the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust.

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