Deron Davis, executive director of the Nature Conservancy-Georgia, at Glen Emerald Park, part of the South River Forest. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

By Maria Saporta

The Nature Conservancy in Georgia is undergoing a transition in leadership.

Deron Davis, executive director of the Nature Conservancy-Georgia for more than eight years, will be stepping down on Sept. 16. He has been with the Nature Conservancy for 12 years, serving as director of conservation before becoming executive director.

Davis, however, is not going far. He has accepted the position of conservation project director for the Nature Conservancy’s North American region and will start his new role on Sept. 19.

“I will be working across a number of chapters in the organization to increase our collaboration with a large private landowner,” Davis said in a interview Tuesday afternoon. More information about the new collaboration will become public in the next six months or so.

ARC’s Mollie Bogle and the Nature Conservancy’s Deron Davis at the South River Forest community meeting on June 25. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)
ARC’s Mollie Bogle and the Nature Conservancy’s Deron Davis at the South River Forest community meeting on June 25. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

Meanwhile, Mark Williams, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, complemented Davis for all the work he’s done in the state.

“In the more than 12 years we have worked together, Deron Davis has been a true champion for Georgia’s environment,” Williams said in a statement. “He has made our state greener, our communities more resilient and our future brighter. Davis leaves behind a legacy of conservation that we would do well to continue.”

Davis has led a team of scientists, land acquisition and management specialists, community conservationists, policy strategists as well as nonprofit development, finance and marketing leaders. Under his leadership, the Conservancy has collaborated with philanthropists, supporters and partners statewide to deliver tangible lasting results for Georgia.

Impactful initiatives during his tenure include:

  • The protection of more than 100,000 acres of land for biodiversity
  • The growth of the land management program, which just celebrated a record year by burning more acres than ever before for forest health
  • The launch of a program that replaces culverts and removes dams to allow safe passage for rare fish and other animals
  • The launch of a program to help solar energy developers reduce negative impacts on wildlife
  • The launch of a program to support coastal communities in adapting to increasing flooding
  • The launch of a program that advocates for the protection, activation and management of 3,500 acres of greenspace in southeast Atlanta — also known as the South River Forest — as a driver for sustainable community development

The Nature Conservancy-Georgia also was instrumental in establishing a dedicated fund for Georgia that supports parks and trails and protects and acquires lands critical to wildlife, clean water and outdoor recreation across the state.

Davis said the Nature Conservancy is in a good place for the leadership transition.

(L-R) Deron Davis, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Georgia; Trees Atlanta Co-Executive Director Greg Levine; Parks Pride Executive Director Mark Halicki at Atlanta mayoral candidate forum on green space July 13, 2017. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

“The board has never been stronger, the staff has never been stronger and last year, we exceeded our private fundraising goal,” Davis said.

But Davis said the work is far from finished.

“At this moment in time in Georgia, the need for conservation has never been greater when you look at three factors — the biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis and population growth, Davis said. “Also, the opportunity has never been greater with new federal legislation that’s under implementation.”

And as any good nonprofit leader is prone to do, Davis continued with a call to action. “In order for those federal funds to touch ground in the most important places in Georgia, the Nature Conservancy must bring private donations as a match to access those federal dollars.”

Dan Ryan, the Nature Conservancy’s director of conservation, will become interim state director on Sept. 19. Stacey Sinkiewicz will become interim deputy state director in addition to serving in her current role as director of development. Ryan and Sinkiewicz will collaborate with the rest of the senior leadership team and the board’s executive committee throughout the transition.

A national search for Davis’ successor is underway, and people interested in the position can apply here. The deadline for applications Sept. 25.

Maria Saporta, executive editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state. From 2008 to 2020, she wrote weekly columns...

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