National Wildlife Refuge Association Staff
Badge Blackett, Project Manager, Conservation Programs
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Christine McGowan, Director of Strategic Communications
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Jared Brandwein, Director of Conservation Programs
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Refuge Association Advisors
National Wildlife Refuge Association Staff and Advisor Bios
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David has worked for and in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 25 years. After working abroad in Africa and Indonesia David’s first “real” job was at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge off Cape Cod, MA as a Biotech in 1987. At Monomoy he helped form the Friends of Monomoy and worked to recover piping plovers, roseate terns, and marine mammals. He moved to Rachel Carson Refuge in Maine and worked with the Friends of Rachel Carson to greatly expand Refuge ownership and then moved on to Rhode Island Refuge Complex as the Deputy Refuge Manager. At Rhode Island he helped form the Friends of Rhode Island Refuges where he worked to protect piping plovers and least terns and worked to develop the John Chaffee NWR along with a major addition to Block Island NWR. After leaving the Service in 1994, David worked for the Trust for Public Land where he helped the Service acquire and conserve land at Oxbow, Mashpee, Conte, Rachel Carson and Umbagog National Wildlife Refuges. Then as President of New Hampshire Audubon David worked to save loons at Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge at added land at Great Bay NWR.
David has been involved with the National Wildlife Refuge Association since 2000: as the Regional Representative for Region 5, serving two terms as a board member, working as a consultant, and later joining the staff as Vice President for Conservation. He began the Refuge Association’s Beyond the Boundaries Program, and has excelled as a leader on collaborative landscape conservation. David has been lucky to be involved in conserving more than 600,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat around this great nation and has even worked on international conservation projects in Canada, Indonesia, South Africa, India and Tanzania.
David has had a lifelong passion for wildlife and has worked tirelessly to further the goals of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association looks forward to building on the Association’s great work and continuing to help the men and women of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 40,000 Friends and Volunteers of the Service, and the many landowners, sportsmen, and non-profit partners who are essential to helping the world’s largest and greatest wildlife agency achieve its conservation mission.
David has a wildlife degree from the University of Vermont, lives in rural New Hampshire on a conserved farm with his family and three dogs, Tiger Lilly the cat, a couple of cows and as many woodcock and wood ducks as possible.
Vice-President of Government Affairs
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Desiree directs the Refuge Association’s government affairs activities including development and execution of legislative and regulatory strategy; advocating policies and programs in Congress and the Executive Branch; analyzing legislation; development of congressional testimony and communication tools, including position papers, testimony, speeches and articles for publications. Desiree also Assists the Refuge Association president in implementation of strategic plans and goals of the organization.
Prior to her current position, Desiree served as the Refuge Association’s director of grassroots outreach and was responsible for identifying, educating and mobilizing local conservation constituencies to support national wildlife refuges across the country with the goal of increasing community awareness, volunteer involvement and advocacy on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Before joining the Refuge Association, she was assistant director of grassroots for the National Audubon Society, where she also served as the Audubon representative on the Teaming With Wildlife Steering Committee, promoting the goals and objectives of the congressionally mandated State Wildlife Action Plans.
An Iowa native, Desiree was born into politics, participating in four presidential caucuses, with more active roles in the presidential races of Gov’s. Dukakis in ’88, and Clinton in ’92. Desiree earned her B.A. in Geography from George Washington University.
Vice-President of Conservation Programs
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Anne leads the implementation of the Refuge Association’s conservation programs, including our Beyond the Boundaries work to develop creative partnerships with the many landowners, user-groups, sister agencies and nonprofit organizations that play an essential role in conserving refuge landscapes. In addition, Anne directs the Refuge Association’s philanthropic development efforts with focus on foundation relations and individual giving.
Anne joined the staff at the Refuge Association in 2008 after four years as director of development at The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, one of the nation’s oldest forestry, advocacy and land conservation organizations. At the Forest Society, Anne led capital campaigns for land and easement acquisitions and worked to advance landscape-scale conservation initiatives such as the Quabbin to Cardigan Partnership in New Hampshire and Massachusetts as part of the Forest Society’s 25-year vision to conserve 1 million acres by 2026.
Anne earned her land conservation education at The Trust for Public Land, where she worked from 1997 to 2004 on such landmark projects as the 171,000-acre Connecticut Lakes Headwaters in northern New Hampshire, the expansion of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, additions to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and launched The Good Life Center at Helen and Scott Nearing’s Maine coastal homestead. She brings to the Refuge Association a range of experience, from operational fundraising and project financing to building local coalitions in support of land conservation efforts. Anne graduated with a B.A. in History from Middlebury College, worked on East European and Balkans issues early in her career, and now lives in an old schoolhouse in New Hampshire’s Monadnock region (along with her dog Henry).
Project Manager, Conservation Programs
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Badge comes to the Refuge Association’s Beyond the Boundaries program with more than 25 years of real estate experience protecting natural and historic resources around the country. Most recently, as vice president and senior Investment producer for MMA Sustainable Land Investments, he negotiated a national portfolio of investments, primarily in wetlands mitigation and species conservation banks. As an experienced and successful practitioner in ecosystem services markets, Badge joins the Refuge Association with a strong commitment to develop and strengthen the connections between those markets and the Beyond the Boundaries program as a way of broadening the funding base for the program’s landscape-scale conservation success.
Prior to SLI, Badge worked for The Trust for Public Land. In 17 years at TPL as director of projects and senior project manager for TPL’s New England Region, he completed close to 100 conservation transactions, drawing on his negotiating and marketing skills to build and manage strong project teams and diverse funding and advocacy coalitions. The results of Badge’s work can be seen across the spectrum of New England’s natural, historic and cultural landscapes: from large wilderness tracts along the Appalachian Trail in Maine, to farms and community forests in dozens of southern New England towns, to museums, neighborhood parks and trail conversions in several of the region’s cities.
Prior to TPL, Badge was a partner and general manager for the final phase of the redevelopment of Commercial Wharf on Boston’s Downtown waterfront. He holds a B.A. from Colorado College and an M.B.A. from Babson College, and lives in Norfolk, Mass.
Director of Strategic Communications
Christine is the Refuge Association’s first Director of Strategic Communications, a role designed to help the organization strengthen its brand and reputation. She manages a broad range of public relations activities and serves as an ambassador for the Refuge Association to help drive awareness, increase engagement among key constituencies of wildlife enthusiasts, and raise revenue.
Prior to working at the Refuge Association, Christine was the Senior Communications Director for National Wildlife Federation (NWF). At NWF, Christine oversaw all public relations and advocacy communications. She’s most proud of NWF’s role during the 2010 Gulf oil spill disaster that resulted in more than $1 million in donations and an invitation to participate as a select charity during CNN’s Larry King Live Gulf telethon. She also led the PR strategy for the 2013 Green Inaugural Ball, which resulted in a sold-out event and messaging that carried through to the remarks made at the event by Vice President Joe Biden. Christine also elevated the issue of climate change’s effect on wildlife through the media.
Before her tenure at NWF, Christine worked for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as a media relations specialist. At TNC, Christine developed and placed stories in national and global media outlets that bolstered The Nature Conservancy’s image as the world’s leading conservation organization.
Before working in conservation, Christine spent seven years on Capitol Hill as a regional reporter for Stephens Media Group. Prior to that, she was a local reporter for three years in Sherman, Texas, where she won a Texas Associated Press award for outstanding local reporting. She’s a graduate of the Ithaca College Roy H. Park School of Communication.
When she’s not promoting the great work of the Refuge Association, Christine spends her time at home in Vermont with her husband, two dogs, a cat – as well as white tail deer, foxes, black bears, wild turkeys and other assorted wildlife that visit their yard regularly.
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Debbie performs the administrative tasks necessary to keep the office functioning smoothly, such as routine bookkeeping and maintenance of membership databases. Prior to joining the the Refuge Association staff, Debbie roamed the country, teaching mathematics at community colleges in Ohio, Texas, and California.
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Emily assists with the Refuge Association’s social media outreach, website content, and publications. A recent grad from UC Davis, she comes to the Refuge Association with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Management and a minor in Communication. Emily grew up in San Jose, California with a family that loved to hike, camp, and explore nature. Starting at a young age, these experiences instilled a love for the natural world around her and the desire to protect it. Throughout high school, her interest in wildlife and conservation flourished leading her to study these topics in college. During her time at UC Davis she realized that there is a real need to educate the public about environmental issues; this led her to environmental education internships at the Student Farm on campus as well as the UC Davis Arboretum. Emily also interned at The Centaur Group, a new consulting firm also located in Davis, CA that works with the local community. It was then she realized she wanted to make an impact beyond the local level and decided to move to Washington, D.C. Emily believes that the Refuge Association is the perfect place to start her career and learn as much as she can about the conservation community.
Director of Conservation Programs
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Jared will lead the Refuge Association’s Beyond the Boundaries program, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many other partner organizations to safeguard the integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge System. He will be responsible for all wildlife biology content, issues and actions at the Refuge Association, both on and off refuge lands. He will also serve as the organization’s liaison with Partners for Conservation, an independent nonprofit led by private landowners that collaborates on conservation partnerships for working landscapes.
Jared recently retired after over 30 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working in the National Wildlife Refuge System. He began his career in the National Wildlife Refuge System as an assistant manager at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach, VA. After working at the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Charlestown, RI as the deputy refuge manager he moved to Arlington, VA to work in the planning branch of the Refuge System. Following his stint at headquarters, Brandwein crossed Service programs and became the field supervisor for the Ecological Services, Eastern Pennsylvania Field Office in Tobyhanna, PA. In 2003 Brandwein returned to the Refuge System as the manager of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. For the past two years, he served as the deputy chief of the Refuge System’s Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning in Arlington, VA.
Director of Grassroots Outreach
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Joan is responsible for the daily interaction and communication between “Friends” groups and the Refuge Association. She is charged with identifying, educating and mobilizing on the ground conservationists to support national wildlife refuges throughout the country, and the critical lands and water surrounding them, with the goal of increasing community awareness, volunteer involvement and advocacy on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System. This work is done in partnership with Desiree Sorensen-Groves, vice president of government affairs at the Refuge Association.
Joan has been an active member of Friends organizations since 1995. First, with the Friends of the Tualatin River NWR in Oregon working to build capacity and advocate successfully for federal funds for land acquisition, public use facilities and a visitor center. Since moving to Northern Virginia, she is volunteering with the Friends of the Potomac River Refuges. She is a member of the Refuge Service’s Mentoring Team, which is a group of veterans of the Friends movement that assists new and older Friends groups to strengthen their organizations.
Joan’s roots are in New England; yet she and her family have lived in the Midwest, Northwest and now Northern Virginia. Currently, she is working toward her certification in Environmental Education from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and sharing with her husband the joy of taxiing their two daughters to after school activities.
Conservation Programs Intern
Kayla assists with the Refuge Association’s conservation programs, including the Beyond the Boundaries efforts that work to foster partnerships with critical stakeholders that play an essential role in conserving refuge landscapes. As a recent graduate from the University of South Florida, she comes to The Refuge Association with a Bachelors of Science in Management and Organization and a minor in Environmental Policy. She hopes to incorporate the theories of management with the conservation and natural resource field to help develop a more holistic and adaptive approach to environmental management. Kayla grew up in central and south Florida with a family that took any chance to get outdoors. Her love of the natural world grew as she explored the unique ecosystems of Florida from the white sand, natural beaches of the panhandle to the swamps of the Everglades all the way down to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. In college Kayla held two internships that broadened her perspective on the importance of integrating scientific research with effective communication and outreach. She first had a position as a field technician on a sea turtle nest monitoring team and her second with US Geological Survey doing science communication and public outreach. She was also a heavily active member of her campus environmental student organization, which is a key driving role on campus and in the community for all things “green” and sustainable. These strategic experiences helped to develop her passion for natural resource management and the human dimension of the environment. Now, the National Wildlife Refuge Association is the perfect step towards environmental leadership to develop and immerse her in the conservation community.
Regional Representative, Region 7
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After a 35 year career working for the National Wildlife Refuge System in Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, California, Alaska and the Washington Headquarters, Mike retired as Refuge Supervisor in Alaska in December, 2012. In 12 years as Refuge Supervisor, Mike provided guidance on management strategies, policies, budgets, and personnel decisions to 12 of Alaska’s 16 refuges including such iconic landscapes as Arctic, Yukon Delta, Kodiak, Kenai and Alaska Maritime. At retirement, Mike was responsible for overseeing 60 million acres of Alaska’s 80 million acres of refuges and had provided leadership on initiatives such as Arctic Refuge’s 50th anniversary (2010), the Kenai Refuge recreation cabin program, and visitor facilities for Kanuti, Kodiak, Alaska Maritime, and Tetlin refuges, among others. He helped form a consortium of federal and state agencies to support the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) of the University of Alaska to recruit and educate Native students in wildlife biology leading to careers in the Service and other agencies, businesses and organizations. Mike was awarded the Department of Interior’s Meritorious Service Award in 2009. Prior to returning to Alaska, Mike was the Refuge System’s first Chief of Visitor Services in the Washington HQ and helped develop the Friends Initiative, the CARE group, and the original publication, Banking on Nature: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge System Visitation. He assisted the Service’s International Affairs Program by hosting training opportunities in the U.S. and led Service delegations to China and Russia. He has a B.A. in Journalism from Wayne State University, M.S. in Ecology from Ohio State University, and MPA in Public Policy from University of Southern California. His interest in wildlife viewing and photography has taken him to Ecuador and the Galapagos, Costa Rica, Brazil, Nepal, Tanzania, and South Africa. He lives in Eagle River, Alaska, 30 miles from Anchorage on a 6 acre mountain hideaway within the 500,000 acre Chugach State Park.
Conservation Programs Western Programs Manager
Ron is working on the Refuge Association’s sagebrush steppe conservation initiatives, with special focus in the Greater Hart-Sheldon region of southeast Oregon and northern Nevada. the Refuge Association is part of a collaborative effort there to protect habitat for greater sage-grouse and other sagebrush-dependent species. In addition, Ron is working on the Refuge Association’s Beyond the Boundaries initiatives in Southern Nevada and in the Bear River Watershed of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho.
Ron recently retired after over 31 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working in the National Wildlife Refuge System. His experience includes 7 years as a wildlife biologist and 25 years as a refuge manager and refuge supervisor, most recently at the Klamath Basin Refuge Complex. Over his career, Ron worked in 4 different regions, including 9 different states and numerous National Wildlife Refuges and Wetland Management Districts. Prior to his government career, Ron worked for his family’s cattle ranch and heavy equipment business where he helped develop the family’s green energy portfolio.
Ron and his wife Joan have two children, whom they raised on refuges all across the country. Ron comes from a family steeped in hunting heritage. When not pursuing mule deer or elk, he can be found in a waterfowl blind or chasing upland birds with his yellow lab Hoss. Ron and Joan now practice the art of living as empty nesters and currently reside in Klamath Falls, OR.
Executive Director, Partners for Conservation
Steve Jester is the Executive Director for Partners for Conservation (PFC). PFC is an organization of private landowners and partners that are practicing innovative, measurable and effective conservation practices on the ground for the long-term health and productivity of working landscapes and rural communities across the United States.
Prior to joining the the Refuge Association staff, Steve was the Executive Director of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, the first nationally accredited land trust in Texas. Prior to his work at the Trust, Steve was on the staff of The Nature Conservancy for almost a decade leading community-based conservation projects first in Texas and later in Wyoming. Before joining The Nature Conservancy, he spent a decade working with state fish and wildlife agencies in Florida and Texas. He has worked with private landowners throughout his career and has come to appreciate their critical importance in conserving working landscapes that comprise some of the most important wildlife habitats in the United States.
Steve earned a B.S. degree in Agriculture from Texas State University – San Marcos and a M.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University. He lives in Edwards Plateau region of Texas with his wife Suzanne and daughters Shelby and Shae.
Cissy has been a graphic designer for 30 years, and for more than 12 of those years, she has created everything from logos to annual reports for the Refuge Association.
A committed, near-vegan vegetarian for almost 25 years, an avid reader, a lover of music, a sometime-ukulele strummer and piano player, a once-aerobics instructor and mother to a now-grown daughter, her childhood was spent roaming the U.S. from military base to military base, from Quantico to Hawaii. She has now put down roots in historic downtown Wilmington, N.C. where her extended family has lived for generations.
Dave Griffin owns Confluence Visuals, a company that brings together high-quality and compelling visuals (both still and moving) with all forms of new digital media (web video, social media, mobile applications). Dave’s background is in software engineering, where artistry is interwoven into concepts like elegance and design. But before computers came along he always was fascinated with photography and video. Today he has the great joy of combining his passion for telling stories through great visuals with the latest digital technologies that he has been immersed in for over 30 years, including the implementation and operation of over 20 different websites that serve local, regional and national audiences. Based in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dave is also involved in local civic groups including a board member and past president of OARS (for the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord Rivers), advisory committee member for Emerson Hospital, president of the Maynard Historical Society. Dave is also well known for his photography of local rivers in the area, particularly the Assabet River.
Dennis has worked in fish and wildlife conservation for 40 years. As Regional Director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in the northern everglades, he was instrumental in fostering a close partnership with FWS Refuge leadership and constituents to win public support for establishing the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area (EHWNWR). Following his FWC retirement in 2012, he continued to work for FWS on the EHWNWR project.
Dennis began working with the Refuge Association in 2013 as “Conservation Project Manager” where he is responsible for continuing work in the Everglades as well as coordinating and assisting with special conservation projects benefiting Refuges. He brings extensive experience in helping facilitate projects that require intra-agency coordination, which will help manage Service projects that reach across multiple Service Division and Office lines. He is currently assisting refuge managers in identifying landscape and community-based conservation opportunities around Refuges in focal areas under the FWS Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed. He is also helping lead an integrated FWS team in an assessment of “at-risk” species conservation opportunities on Refuges.
Dennis obtained a B.S in Zoology from the University of South Florida in 1974 and immediately began a lifelong career working for FWC. His career included working as an alligator biologist for 20 years, serving in a leadership role as Deputy Vice Chairman for North America on the IUCN Species Survival Commission Crocodile Specialist Group for 10 years, traveling all around the globe working on crocodilian management, and serving as a Regional Director over central and northeast peninsular Florida.
When not working on conservation projects Dennis, his wife Ilonka and dog Riley are enjoying their “semi-retirement” life since recently relocating to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. They enjoy beach walks or taking time to fish, kayak and boat in the bountiful Indian River Lagoon waters located in and around the Merritt Island NWR.
Joe Guthrie is a wildlife biologist from Kentucky who moved to Florida to conduct research on the ecology and conservation of the Florida black bear. He wrote a masters thesis on the species relationship to roads and the function of wildlife corridors in facilitating connectivity in a fragmented bear population. After graduate school he was a co-leader of the 2012 Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, a 100-day, 1000-mile hiking and paddling expedition from Florida Bay in Everglades National Park to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. The expedition brought awareness for remaining ecological connections on both public and private lands that support wildlife populations and allow Florida’s outdoor and agriculture economies to thrive. Joe currently works in a contractor role with the National Wildlife Refuge Association, leading efforts by the Northern Everglades Alliance, a group of conservation-minded ranchers and non-governmental conservation partners, to establish a new 150,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge. He lives and works at Archbold Biological Station in Highlands County, Florida.
Peter Umhofer serves as a senior advisor to the Refuge Association and is the President of E2 Strategies, LLC, which assists organizations in the environmental and energy space. Peter has worked in both the public and private sectors including service on the Obama Presidential Transition Team, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of Interior and the White House. While working on the Transition Team, Mr. Umhofer conducted an agency review of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and served on the CEQ and EPA confirmation teams. He previously served as the top advisor on energy and environmental issues to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and as policy advisor to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. In this capacity, Mr. Umhofer prepared legislative and communications strategy, drafted legislation, and was a key player in the successful crafting of a bipartisan energy policy bill as well as successfully advancing a number of key projects through the appropriations process. Prior to his positions in the legislative branch, Mr. Umhofer served in the Clinton Administration as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of the Interior and special assistant at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Mr. Umhofer also implemented several public lands and conservation bills, including the Everglades restoration bill. He is widely regarded for his knowledge of energy, environmental and water policy, his strategic thinking and his ability to advance policy efforts that receive bipartisan support. Mr. Umhofer holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s College of California.
Sean Carnell is the Spirit Campaign Coordinator for the Refuge Association. As Spirit Campaign Coordinator and National Coordinator of the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition (NT4TC), Sean coordinates student groups of tiger mascot schools to generate mass awareness for tiger conservation. He develops national initiatives, conducts capacity-building programs and ensures effective collaboration among Tigers for Tigers clubs.
Sean recently graduated from Clemson University in May with a Bachelors in Science in Biological Sciences and a minor in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. As a student at Clemson University, Sean founded NT4TC, coordinated the first National Tigers for Tigers Summit and was President of Clemson Tigers for Tigers.
Sean wishes for students to find their passion and interests through opportunities provided by Tigers for Tigers. Sean is very excited to be working with the Refuge Association to develop and grow the coalition.
National Wildlife Refuge Association
1001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 905
Washington, D.C. 20036