Thomas Minney of Elkins, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Central Appalachians program for the past eight years, has been named the Conservancy’s West Virginia state director.
The 44-year-old Gilmer County native replaces former TNC state director Rodney Bartgis, who resigned last July.
As director of the TNC’s Central Appalachians program, Minney helped plan and initiate multi-state cooperative conservation programs, including one involved in the restoration of the region’s high-elevation red spruce forest. Prior to that, Minney was conservation programs director for the conservancy’s West Virginia Chapter, where he worked with private landowners, industry representatives and state and federal researchers and scientists on conservation projects across the state, including the Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area in the New River Gorge, additions to the Monongahela National Forest and the conservation of private tracts in Smoke Hole Canyon. He has been directly involved in protecting more than 6,500 acres of the West Virginia landscape.
“I want to continue the Conservancy’s work in building partnerships and developing innovative conservation actions to continue to protect West Virginia’s most important natural places,” Minney said. “West Virginia is one of the best places in the world for plant and animal diversity, and the people here are very close to nature and have a close connection to the land.”
The Shepherd College alumnus said he would like to foster collaborative efforts involving a coalition of conservation groups, government agencies and private landowners in order to “increase the size and scale of conservation action in the state to manage and restore landscapes.”
Having already protected nearly 130,000 acres of land in West Virginia, the state chapter of TNC is “well poised to continue this important work over the next 50 years, helping to maintain our wild, wonderful state,” Minney said. “More than ever, it’s critical that we find a way to get more people connected to our work. Our recent work to protect the beloved Cheat Canyon is an outstanding example of the type of legacy we can create when we work with others and have the needs of both people and nature in mind.”
Minney, who holds an undergraduate degree from Shepherd University, grew up on a family farm in the Little Kanawha River watershed, said West Virginians “have a deep connection to the land here, regardless of their wealth, walk of life or political leanings. They want the land to remain natural and working and support people in the way it always has. People in West Virginia belong to the land as much as the land belongs to the people.”
After completing studies at Shepherd, he worked in Japan, completed a Master’s degree in England, and worked on international development issues in Africa and Central and South America before returning to West Virginia.
“Thomas knows the Conservancy and West Virginia extremely well and has proven his ability to create a clear vision and implement that vision across multiple states,” said Robert M. Steptoe Jr., board chair of TNC’s West Virginia chapter. “He has successfully completed many complex projects and brings a deep and personal commitment to conservation.”
Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.