Join NACD for the upcoming Winds, Water and Wildfires Virtual Summits this coming May. Disasters such as high winds, wildfires and flooding cause significant damage to natural resources in the South, North, East and West.
Conservation districts are uniquely positioned to assist communities with planning and preparedness before, during, and after disasters. Our sessions will allow you to see how conservation districts are working together with all community members to conquer the challenges facing private landowners. Success happens when landowners and agencies come together to meet the needs of our local communities.
These needs are identified in the three goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.
For questions, please contact NACD’s Natural Resource Policy Specialist Mary Scott at mary-scott[at]nacdnet.org.
Click here to view the agenda.
Speaker Profiles (click name to read more)
Craig Nelson has served as the Executive Director of the Okanogan Conservation District since 1996. He has a BA in Geography with a minor in Environmental Studies from Central Washington University. He is a 2006 graduate of the Washington Agriculture and Forestry Leadership Program (Class 27).
In his position as the Okanogan CD Executive Director, he has been coordinating the natural resource recovery from catastrophic wildfires in 2014, 2015, and 2020 with a combined burned footprint greater than 875,000 acres. In that role, he helped organize a first of its kind state and private lands Burned Area Emergency Response Team, lead local efforts to secure over $10 million in state funding, coordinated the installation of over 20 flood warning rain gauges, and lead the local effort to provide technical and financial support to hundred of landowners.
Outside of disaster preparedness and recovery efforts he has facilitated the development of multiple comprehensive watershed plans and coordinated conservation programs ranging from air quality to water conservation. Craig supervises professional staff and a diverse conservation program on a day-to-day basis while coordinating with multiple partnering agencies and non-governmental organizations on priority conservation projects in Okanogan County.
Craig currently serves in leadership roles with positions on the Washington State Conservation Commissions Joint Committee on Elections, Washington Association of Conservation Districts Tribal Relations Committee and Washington Association of Conservation Districts Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He has served in numerous other leadership positions at the state and national level.
Closer to home, and to his heart, Craig is actively engaged as an active board member of the North Central Washington Community Foundation and is actively engaged in supporting local youth sports athletes. He enjoys traveling with his wife, Connie, sons Austin and Alex and daughter-in-law Paxton.
A University of Washington graduate; I am a certified forester as well as a wildlife biologist. In addition to working in forestry in three states, I have managed wildlife areas, groundwater, instream flow and municipal water programs (among others), and agriculture.
Serving on my local conservation district board since 1994, I also serve on various Washington Association of Conservation Districts and state Conservation Commission committees, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) forestry committee and sit on the NACD board representing Washington state. I am currently the chair of the NACD Pacific Region.
He can be contacted at doug.rushton[at]conservewa.net.
Patt Dorsey is the West Region Director of Conservation Operations for the National Wild Turkey Federation. She comes to NWTF with 28 years of working experience with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. She has extensive knowledge in wildlife, habitat and people management. As the West Region Director she supervises District Biologists covering the small territory of lands between the Pacific Coast and the Rocky Mountain states. The NWTF is working at the landscape level to create fire resilient Western landscapes.
Heidi Ramsey, born and raised in California with deep roots to her Nevada ranching family, started her USDA, NRCS career in 2009 in Grants, NM as a Student Trainee. Since then, she has served as a Range Specialist, a District Conservationist, and now as the Western Governors’ Association Liaison. She has also served in various acting capacities at the Field Office, State, and National levels. She has recently served as a Board Director for the California-Pacific Section of the Society for Range Management, and held various positions on the California Civil Rights Advisory Committee. Heidi received her Bachelor of Science in Rangeland Resource Science with a minor in Wildland Soil Science from Humboldt State University in California. She also holds a Master of Science in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University in Utah. She is passionate about helping people help the land, and enjoys photography, the outdoors, and all creatures great and small.
Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan is a program specialist with the National Fire Protection Association’s Wildfire Division and the primary contact for the Firewise USA® program. Megan has a deep belief that a collaborative approach from all stakeholders is the best way to create a world safer from wildfire and other fire and life safety threats.
She has been working in and around wildfire since 2003 and has held operational and dispatcher wildland fire qualifications. Before joining NFPA in 2017, Megan worked for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, serving as their Firewise state liaison for a year and a half. Megan holds a master’s degree in Natural Resources from the University of Idaho and a certificate in Fire Ecology, Management and Technology.
Laurie Tippin is an active volunteer for conservation districts in California, serving as director for the Honey Lake Valley RCD in Susanville, CA, as chair of the Modoc Plateau Regional RCD, as a director for the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) and as chair of the Joint CARCD Forestry and Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee (Joint Forestry Committee).
Having served 34 years with the USDA Forest Service as a forestry technician, forester, national-level program manager, line officer and regional program director, Laurie could not walk away from natural resource conservation work upon retirement from the Forest Service in 2013. She became interested in the activities of her local RCD in 2014 and was appointed to the Honey Lake Valley RCD board of directors in April 2015. Laurie has been instrumental in improving the organizational structure and operations of the Joint Forestry Committee. “Being of service to my community and the conservation of our natural resources, especially forests, is a value I learned at an early age and one that tracked with me throughout my career and in post-retirement life”, she declared to the general audience of the 2016 CARCD annual conference. Laurie enjoys traveling, consulting with national and international organizations/governments on forestry matters, hiking and gardening. Laurie is also a Registered Professional Forester in the State of California.
Logan Sand is a Community Planner in FEMA Region VIII serving Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. As part of the Mitigation Planning program team, he provides technical assistance and guidance to State, tribal, and local officials to prepare for and mitigate multiple hazards by integrating resilience and hazard mitigation principles into plans, programs, policies, codes, and standards related to land use and the built environment. Logan conducts trainings and State consultations, and works with communities to ensure that all levels of government and community have the information they need to develop their own plans that will make them safer and more able to withstand natural disasters. Logan’s background is in resilience and land use planning and water policy. Prior to his work at FEMA, Logan was a Recovery and Resilience Planner for the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Division of Local Government.
Lisa Kilders is the Outreach and Education Program Manager for the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District, in the Portland metropolitan area. She has served in this capacity for twelve years. Before joining the Clackamas SWCD, Lisa held a position with the Oregon Department of Agriculture working on agricultural water quality plans and rules and had close interactions with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in her area of the state.
Lisa was introduced to conservation districts while working on a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science at Washington State University. Her graduate and post-graduate work at the State of Washington Water Research Center involved her in activities that included working with landowners as well as state and federal agencies to develop a management plan for Lake Roosevelt. In this process, she learned the importance of earning buy-in from the local landowners to make substantial differences in the landscape. Building partnerships and communicating with local stakeholders are the main goals in her outreach work.
The year before the pandemic, the Clackamas SWCD began building partnerships with local and state agencies, OSU Cooperative Extension, Clackamas Community College, and a landowner organization to begin talking about how the partners could work together in the event of a wildfire.
Kathy Clay serves as Battalion Chief Fire Marshal for Jackson Hole Fire/EMS. She is a former executive board member of the International Association of Wildland Fire, current steering committee for Vision 20/20, sits on the Wyoming Governor-appointed Council on Fire Prevention, serves as President for the Wyoming Association of Fire Marshals, and leads the FESHE Community Risk Reduction committee. Kathy has been enforcing the International Wildland Urban Interface Code effectively since 2011 and recently pushed and succeeded to remove wood shake shingles from mapped areas in the interface.
Kathy Clay, Battalion Chief Fire Marshal
Jackson Hole Fire/EMS
Julie Kraft is the Supervisor at Sublette County Weed and Pest. She is worked for the Wyoming Weed and Pest for over 15 years. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Rangeland Ecology with a concentration in Restoration in December of 2002 from Colorado State University. Julie also has a Master’s degree in Weed Science from Colorado State University.
Julie serves on many local, state, and international boards and committees. Is a past president of the North American Invasive Species Management Association, member of the Wyoming Governors Invasive Species Initiative and active in her community. She is a plant nerd at heart and loves many outdoor activities like hiking, hunting, and fishing with her family.
John F. Ruhs began serving as the BLM Idaho State Director in March 2019.
Before his current assignment, John worked as the BLM Assistant Director of Fire and Aviation at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.
John served as the BLM Nevada State Director from 2015 until 2018. During this time, he also worked as the acting Deputy Director of Operations for the BLM National Office from April 2017 until December 2017. Prior to joining BLM Nevada, John served as State Director for BLM Eastern States.
John has extensive experience in public land management, including previous assignments as District Manager of the BLM Ely District and Fire Management Officer for the BLM Winnemucca District in Nevada; and District Manager of the BLM High Desert District in Wyoming. John has also worked for the BLM in Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon in rangeland management and wild horse and burro management positions.
John is a native of Iowa and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from the University of Idaho. John and his wife Amy have seven daughters. He enjoys outdoor activities including riding horses, camping, and playing golf.
Jill Randall graduated with a degree in Biology from the College of Wooster, in Ohio. She completed a thesis studying the effects of different methods of select cut timber harvest on three different species of tree seedlings’ growth and survival. After college she worked in a variety of positions at Grand Teton National Park. In 2003 she started working for Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Jackson as a Brucellosis Feedground Habitat Biologist. In 2007 she switched to the Terrestrial Habitat Biologist position in Pinedale. In that position her work included improving a wide variety of habitats such as sagebrush, mountain shrub, aspen and her favorite, tall forb communities at the top of the Wyoming Range. Jill recently started a new position with Wyoming Game and Fish Department as the Statewide Big Game Migration Coordinator. In this position she works with regional personnel to engage stakeholders in the public process of corridor designation, help acquire funding to implement projects in migration corridors and work on statewide habitat issues. Jill enjoys pretty much all outdoor activities including hunting, fishing, camping and skiing with her eight your old son and husband.
Chris French is currently the Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment at the United States Department of Agriculture. His permanent position is Deputy Chief of National Forest System for the U.S.D.A. Forest Service Washington D.C. Chris accepted this appointment in July 2019 after serving as Acting Deputy Chief since October 2018. In this role, Chris is responsible for policy, oversight and direction for the natural resource and public service delivery programs across the 193 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands that comprise the National Forest System. He reports to the Chief of the agency and is a part of the agency’s Executive Leadership Team.
Prior to his current position, Chris served as Associate Deputy Chief of National Forest System, Director of the Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC) Staff, Deputy Director of Forest Management, and Assistant Director for Planning. In these positions he has led the agency’s implementation of forest management, range management, land management planning, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), administrative reviews, land management litigation, monitoring, timber sales, stewardship contracting, reforestation, and nursery programs.
Chris began his career in Arizona on the Coronado National Forest in 1991 and has worked in recreation, fire, fuels, wildlife, NEPA, forest planning, and wilderness. He has served in a variety of leadership positions on agency districts, forests, and now at the national headquarters.
Barry serves as a District Forester for Wyoming State Forestry Division. He has worked in forest management, fuels mitigation, prescribed fire, and wildland fire suppression in Illinois, Florida, and Wyoming as a forester, Certified Wildland Firefighter, and a FL Certified Prescribed Burn Manager. He is currently on the boards of the Wyoming Prescribed Fire Council and the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center as well as a member of the Alpine Area Wildfire Protection Coalition, Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition, Sublette County Forest Collaborative, and the Greys River Forest Collaborative.
Astor provides leadership and support to the State Conservationists and Partners on natural resource issues, concerns and the Agency’s mission.
Through his leadership NRCS has worked to address water quantity and quality issues, strengthened its partnership collaboration and customer service within the region.
He’s worked to improve private and public lands conservation and has worked to reduce the burden on landowners gaining access to USDA technical and financial assistance programs and services.
He’s a native Texan, grew up on a farm and ranch operation, he’s worked for USDA-NRCS for some 34 years. A graduate of Prairie View A&M University, He appreciates the outdoors, loves to hunt, fish and ride horses.
Click here to register for the West Region’s summit on May 6 (a one-day event).