Heather White has been chosen as the president and CEO of the merging Yellowstone Association and Yellowstone Park Foundation.
We previously reported that the YA and the YPF were merging into one organization in order to “continue the tradition and contribution made by both YA and YPF by connecting people to Yellowstone through outstanding visitor experiences and educational programs.”
According to a YA press release, the merger started in earnest in March 2016, and is slated to wrap up by October 2016. A new name for the consolidated organization will be announced when the merger is finished.
The merger was carried out with the express support of both Karen Kress (former YPF president) and Jeff Brown (former YA executive director). Each are retiring from their respective organizations before the merger.
The Yellowstone Association was originally founded in 1933 as the Park’s nonprofit educational partner. The Yellowstone Park Foundation, meanwhile, was founded in 1996, and serves as the Park’s fundraising partner.
White is slated to start August 15, and will be working out of Bozeman, Montana. From a YA press release:
White is a nationally-recognized environmental leader and a proven nonprofit executive. She was the executive director of Environmental Working Group (EWG), managing significant growth and change for the organization, increasing its impact and effectiveness while also directing successful, innovative fundraising strategies. Prior to EWG, White was the director of education advocacy for National Wildlife Federation and before that served as counsel to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.
“This is an exciting time for Yellowstone and for the future of our organization,” said Kay Yeager, board chair of YPF and of the combined organization. “We sought out a vibrant leader who could harness that excitement and take us to the next level in terms of engagement and education as well as philanthropy. Heather is all that and more. She is widely recognized as an accomplished environmental leader with a proven ability to direct a dynamic and effective organization. She is deeply passionate about Yellowstone and I am confident that she will make enormous contributions toward the shared goal of sustaining the world’s first national park for future generations,” said Yeager, who served as co-chair of the search committee.
“When we began this journey, we were clear that this was about more than just merging two organizations,” said Claire Campbell, board chair of YA and co-chair of the search committee. “We wanted to seize this opportunity to create something meaningful, and that’s exactly what we have done. We are building a new partnership model with the National Park Service, one that will engage more visitors and future stewards than ever before. That vision is a bold one and we found a correspondingly bold leader in Heather. She embodies a new generation of leadership for our public lands and iconic spaces. She has deep roots in environmental education and conservation, and a demonstrated record as an effective advocate. We are thrilled to have such a talented, strong leader at the helm and we look forward to an exciting future, together,” said Campbell.
“Yellowstone is truly a national treasure, one that offers unique opportunities to connect with something larger than ourselves, to change lives, and to be a part of our shared national history,” said White. “The merger of these two extraordinary institutions will serve as a beacon for what conservation organizations can be in the 21st century. I am thrilled by the opportunity to be part of this exciting future, to channel my passion for preserving important places, and my dedication to connecting people, especially young people, to the beauty and wonder of nature. I look forward to working with the exceptional board and staff of this organization to make real and lasting contributions to the world’s first national park.”
White, originally born in East Tennessee, first came into contact with the national park system as a child, when her family would hike and camp in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She first visited Yellowstone at the age of 12, on a cross-country national park tour with her father. From a Yellowstone Park Foundation press release:
Heather has been widely praised for her work, including being named one of the “Top 20 Women Leaders in Sustainability” by Green Building & Design magazine in 2015 and “100 Women to Watch in Wellness” by MindBodyGreen. Heather is often cited in national press outlets on conservation matters, including MSNBC, PBS, CBS, New York Times, The Guardian and The Washington Post. She serves on the board of directors of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum (now the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument), Maryland League of Conservation Voters, The Center for the Environment at Catawba College, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Erin Brockovich Foundation, and Cookies for Kids Cancer.
Heather received a B.A. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia as an Echols Scholar and a J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law magna cum laude. Early in her academic career, she also studied conservation biology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand and comparative natural resources law in Nairobi, Kenya. She lives in Bozeman, Montana with her family.
All told, the combined organizations hold 70 year-round employees and 85 seasonal employees, spread across two offices and 12 Park Stores in Montana and Wyoming.