2018 Summer Meeting Speakers

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USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey
United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Bill Northey provided a keynote address during Monday’s general session.

Under Secretary Northey was confirmed in February to oversee the department’s farm production and conservation mission area, which includes the Farm Services Agency (FSA), the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Clyde Cristman

Clyde Cristman is director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Cristman has more than 30 years of experience in budgeting, strategic planning, human resource management and oversight of various state and local government programs.

Cristman has previously served as legislative fiscal analyst for the General Assembly Senate Finance Committee, where he advised senators on agriculture, forestry, natural resources, land conservation, Chesapeake Bay clean-up, land preservation tax credits and more. Cristman provided a keynote address during Monday’s general session.

Vickie Roberts-Ratliff
Vickie Roberts-Ratliff provided one of the keynote addresses during Tuesday’s general session.

Roberts-Ratliff is a sixth-generation landowner in Mississippi, where she and her mother own property designated as an agroforestry demonstration site. Roberts-Ratliff also serves as a program assistant for the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts, and assists landowners, especially female and African-American landowners, with conservation practices and forest management plans. Roberts-Ratliff is the author of the book “Roberts Rules of Land Retention.”

Bettina Ring

Bettina Ring was appointed Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry by Governor Ralph Northam in 2018. Previously, Ring served as the Virginia state forester, appointed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and also worked as senior vice president of family forests for the American Forest Foundation.

Ring spent 14 years at the Virginia Department of Forestry, leaving the agency in 2001 as deputy state forester. As deputy state forester, Ring was responsible for operations and helped develop and implement a new mission, vision and strategic plan for the department. Ring also has held various leadership positions with conservation and natural resource management nonprofit organizations, including the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, the Wilderness Land Trust and the Bay Area Open Space Council. Ring provided one of the keynote addresses during Tuesday’s general session.

Joe Maroon

Joe Maroon is the executive director for the Virginia Environmental Endowment. Maroon has more than 30 years of experience with natural resource issues, working on Chesapeake Bay restoration, land conservation, stormwater management and nonpoint source pollution. Prior to this role, Maroon served as the agency director for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for two terms and as the Virginia Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for more than 16 years.

Maroon provided one of Tuesday’s general session keynotes, entitled “Forty Years of Environmental Protection.”

Ross Melinchuk

Ross Melinchuk is the vice president of conservation for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Melinchuk has more than four decades of experience in the natural resources field and previously served as director of conservation programs and partnerships for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Prior to that position, he served as deputy executive director for natural resources for Texas Parks and Wildlife and as director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited.

Melinchuk provided one of Monday’s general session keynotes during the Conservation Forum.

Leonard Jordan

Leonard Jordan is the acting chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and previously served as the NRCS associate chief for conservation. In this role, Jordan led the agency’s conservation mission area, including all of NRCS’ conservation programs. During his distinguished 37-year career with NRCS, Jordan has also served as the Regional Conservationist for the Southeast Region, Deputy Chief for Strategic Planning and Accountability, Division Director of Conservation Planning and Technical Assistance and Director of the Conservation Easement Programs Division.

Jordan provided a keynote speech during Tuesday’s general session.

Secretary Matthew Strickler

Matthew Strickler, originally from Lexington, Va., is the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to this position, he served as Senior Policy Advisor to democratic members of the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. Strickler also gained experience working as a legislative assistant to previous State Senator Ralph Northam in the Virginia General Assembly.


Kelly Altizer

Kelly Altizer is the program manager at the University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation and coordinator for the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute (VNRLI). The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute (VNRLI) is a professional development program that strives to develop leaders who will utilize collaborative problem solving and conflict resolution skills to help solve natural resource issues.

Pam Northam

Pam Northam is the First Lady of Virginia, an educator, environmentalist and longtime advocate of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia’s waters. Northam recently served as the community outreach coordinator for the non-profit group Lynnhaven River NOW, where she helped Virginians learn sustainability practices.


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