The Leadership Nature Podcast

The Leadership Nature Podcast features one-on-one interviews with diverse leaders from across the forestry and natural resources nation, and it is intended to spread the seeds of leadership insights, lessons learned and personal advice from experienced leaders to current and future generations of natural resource leaders. Each episode also includes a leadership tip of the week from the interviewer.
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Mar 18, 2021

Wallace Wood has been an active member of the McCormick County, SC community for over 38 years. He served as the Executive Director of the Upper Savannah Land Trust for six years and has been on the board of directors several times since the organization began in 2000. In 2011, he was named South Carolina Tree Farmer of the Year.

Wallace walks both Tom and Emily through his farm and provides an American history lesson, as well as a personal lesson, on how the property has developed over the years and what it has meant to his family.


Key Takeaways:

[4:35] How did Wallace get started in tree farming?

[7:10] What did the farm look like when Wallace got his hands on it vs. what does it look like now?

[9:25] Wallace’s father struggled financially early on and many people wanted to buy this land, but he would not budge.

[13:10] Wallace shares a fun story of what he and his family would do on Christmas Eve on the farm.

[16:10] Wallace talks about the Master Tree Farm program and how it’s helped him and his farm grow.

[16:55] What’s it like being nominated Master Tree Farmer of the year?

[19:20] What is a conservation easement and who should consider getting it?

[23:20] One of the largest gold mines was developed here, and this was before the Civil War.

[28:45] Wallace is very proud of his property and the vast diversity of God’s creation. He is passionate about sharing everything he’s learned with others.

[29:10] What advice does Wallace have for landowners?

[32:20] Wallace is so grateful and blessed he doesn’t see any city lights anywhere near his property.

[35:25] We don’t know what the future holds, so it’s important that you have some flexibility with your land use.

[39:30] Wallace’s motto is to leave the land better than when you’ve found it.

[42:20] The biggest hurdle Wallace and his team have found within the Master Tree Farm program is helping other tree farmers go through a tree management plan.

[44:55] Wallace is so passionate about the outdoors because during his childhood he was sick in bed for nine months. After that experience, he never wanted to be stuck indoors ever again.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Mar 11, 2021

Walt McPhail, Brother Bill, and Dr. George Kessler (from a previous episode!) join Tom and Emily to discuss Walt’s farm. Walt and his ancestors have managed to keep the property within the family tree for a long, long time. He shares how he always knew he wanted to be a forester, why he’s been “retired” for nearly his entire career, and so much more, in this week’s episode!


Key Takeaways:

[1:35] Before we hear from Walt, we first hear from Brother Bill on what he’s learned from Walt.

[3:45] If you ever get a chance to work with Walt, do it.

[4:45] Walt did the master tree farm course in the early ’90s.

[6:35] Building a legacy is very important to Walt and he made it a priority to take his children along with him to show them what he was doing.

[8:20] Walt’s girls were hesitant to take on the property, they would not sell it, but they had no idea how they were going to manage it when Dad’s gone. Walt came up with a solution.

[11:50] How do you best manage tree poles?

[15:55] How did Walt get into planting tree poles?

[20:35] What’s Walt’s favorite spot on his property?

[24:50] How do you determine what is a pole?

[34:35] Walt talks about his family lineage and how they first came to America.

[38:00] Walt always knew he wanted to be a forester, but he got into veterinary school to fund his forestry habit.

[42:05] What lessons has Walt learned over the years?

[45:00] What’s the best way to manage a tree farm? Brother Bill offers some advice.

[48:50] What are the men most proud of in their career?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Mar 4, 2021

Dr. George Kessler is a Certified Tree Farmer and a Registered Forester. Dr. George is a recognized treasure in South Carolina for his extensive work in the tree farm community. He has dedicated his most of his career to extension forestry and has created millions of acres of healthy forests. Find out about Dr. George and his journey into forestry, his impact on the South Carolina community, and so much more! 


Key Takeaways:

[4:10] A little bit about Dr. George and his family.

[8:25] Dr. George knew he wanted to be a forester in highschool.

[11:35] How did Dr. George get started in forestry? 

[13:00] What is Dr. George most proud of in his career so far? 

[18:20] Land owners were eager to take any sort of forestry education they could get their hands on. 

[21:45] Dr. George shares how he got children involved and excited about learning more about the environment. It was a slow start at first.

[26:50] Dr. George is involved in a Christmas tree farm. He explains what that means. 

[30:00] How did the tree farm program get started in South Carolina? 

[33:30] Dr. George has created a beautiful community of tree farmers in South Carolina. 

[35:45] How did Dr. George and his committee finance the South Carolina Tree Farm Program? 

[37:00] Dr. George and his team are proud to announce that they have about 600,000 acres of actively managed tree farms in the program! 

[39:00] What does Dr. George see for the future when it comes to the South Carolina Tree Farm Program? 

[42:00] We hear a fun story about Dr. George and how he approaches tree farming. He can be stubborn as a mule! 

[44:40] What legacy would Dr. George like to leave behind?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Feb 25, 2021

Skeet and Gayle Burris are proud owners of Cypress Bay Plantation, a 2500+ acre farm and is nationally recognized for exceptional forestry, wildlife management and conservation. Skeet and Gayle share what it was like working on the farm in the very early days when it was an undeveloped 95-acre property. Lean in as Skeet and Gayle talk about how their vision back in 1986 has come true, and how they plan to keep the family legacy alive. 


Key Takeaways:

[2:00] How did Skeet get his start in tree farming? 

[6:00] Gayle shares her version of the story on how the family got involved in tree farming. 

[7:25] Feeding four boys during the very early days was not easy, but Gayle believed in Skeet. 

[10:50] Skeet shares how he came up with his big picture vision for the farm.
[16:25] Skeet was fortunate that he purchased abandoned and exhausted land and, over time, built it into something. 

[17:40] How did Skeet get tree farm certified? 

[19:40] What does tree farming mean to Skeet? 

[22:15] Skeet’s vision came true. What’s his vision going forward in 2021 and beyond? 

[24:35] Skeet and his family have made an active effort to support conservation efforts on their farm and it’s paid off! 

[26:45] Gayle realized in the early days that the boys had a negative association with the farm because it meant ‘hard work’. So she worked on creating long-lasting traditions and positive memories with the whole family and friends in the community. Now, whenever her boys come, they’re proud to show their children what they’ve built. 

[31:25] As Skeet was building up the farm, Gayle realized she also needed a niche and decided to get into photography. 

[34:15] How did the name Cypress Bay come about? 

[35:40] Skeet talks a little bit about his love for South Carolina. 

[43:00] What words of wisdom and tips does Skeet  and Gayle have for fellow tree farmers? 


Mentioned in This Episode:

Feb 18, 2021

John Spearman is a retired Colonel for the US Army and the President of Deer Hill, an award winning tree farming operation. John has been part of this farm since 1977 and shares a little bit about its rich history, the family legacy he is building with his farm, and just his love for being outdoors. John and his family have been able to create alternative income sources on his property that go beyond timber and trees! 


Key Takeaways:

[2:10] Colonel John introduces his son, Von, who is a forester! 

[5:50] Both Colonel John and Von describe their land and some of it’s important historical landmarks.

[11:00] How did Colonel John find his property and purchase it? 

[14:10] Colonel John proposed the idea to his father-in-law to plant pine trees on the property.

[15:45] Colonel John was working two jobs, one for the military and one on his farm. He was a younger man back then and could do that kind of work. 

[20:00] When Colonel John’s father in law passed away, his father took on the role of managing the farm in Colonel John’s absence. 

[21:25] When Colonel John received the district tree farm award, he wondered why they didn’t receive the state tree farm award. 

[22:15] How do you properly market the timber on a tree farm? Colonel John got creative. 

[25:25] By preparing Colonel John’s thesis, it gave him a long-term plan and it deeply rooted himself in his business.

[26:45] Do quail and turkey flourish in a pine plantation? 

[29:10] What research projects is Colonel John currently involved in and what has he learned thus far? 

[30:35] Von explains what ‘trashy farming’ looks like. 

[32:45] Von shares what kind of things he’s planted on the farm thus far. 

[35:05] Colonel John provides a bit of backstory to the watershed and it’s importance to making this whole ecosystem work. 

[36:00] Von shares how they make money off of their tree farm, and it’s not just from the trees! 

[37:30] Colonel John shares his plans for the future and what he hopes to achieve with the farm. 

[40:10] It’s Colonel John’s duty to leave the land in a better condition than when he started. 

[40:40] How does Colonel John plan to pass on the tree farming business to his children? 


Mentioned in This Episode:

Feb 11, 2021

Annie Ruth Jones is a three-generation landowner and has successfully used her land to plant and sell trees. Her grandparents bought the land she is currently standing on in 1935 and she is very proud that she has kept the family legacy alive all these years later. She also credits the Center of Heirs Property for helping guide her to find the right resources to make a living out of her land. Find out more about Annie and her property in this week’s episode!


Key Takeaways:

[2:15] Annie shares a little bit about her land and her family.

[4:25] Annie shares her family tree and how she came to inherit her property.

[9:25] Annie’s father stressed the importance that everyone in his family finish high school.

[11:00] Annie talks about her father and what kind of man he is.

[12:00] Hold on to the land because they’re not making any more of it.

[13:40] A quick introduction to Kenneth Dunn and what he does for the Center of Heirs Property.

[17:45] Annie cannot stand the tree frogs!

[24:00] Annie does a tour of her property and talks about why she loves a particular tree.

[27:45] As a black family, trying to hold onto property is very expensive. This is why Annie loves resources provided by Kenneth Dunn and others.

[31:05] Annie made a promise to herself that she would not sell her land.

[32:55] Annie feels so blessed to have been able to keep the property in her family name thus far.

[34:15] It’s up to the younger generation now to see if they want to keep up tree farming.

[34:40] Kenneth explains some of the challenges African-American landowners have when it comes to keeping their land.

[38:20] Without Heirs Property help, landowners really can get taken advantage of.

[41:25] Annie shares how the family makes a decision together when it comes to their property.

[42:50] What do you need to do to become a certified tree farmer?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Feb 4, 2021

Randell Ewing is a tree farmer with deep roots in Darlington County, South Carolina. He got into tree farming by accident when he purchased a small piece of land in his early 20s for hunting purposes. Since then, he’s grown his property by thousands of acres and it’s now turned into a family business with him and his son. Listen in as you hear Randell’s stories about his tree farm and the amount of pride he has for growing trees.


Key Takeaways:

[1:40] Where did the name for Randell’s farm, Indian Summer, come from?

[2:40] How did Randell get started in tree farming?

[5:50] Randell got his start on 15 acres and originally wanted to use it for hunting. However, he never actually hunted on it, instead, he used it for conservation.

[7:25] Randell shares a little bit about his wife, who has since passed on.

[10:35] Randell shows Tom and Emily some of the coolest things he owns in his barn/storage.

[15:45] Randell dives into how he found out about tree farming.

[17:40] How did Randell and his son start working together?

[19:30] Randell was worried at first that the business would struggle if he brought his son in, but it has been a blessing.

[22:35] We hear a little bit from Randell’s son, Randell Jr.!

[26:35] Why is Randell so passionate about tree farming?

[29:25] It’s just common sense to plant trees. You’re helping the environment.

[30:10] A walk through the forest is almost like going to church.

[31:05] Randell Jr. shares a fond memory he had on his dad’s farm.

[37:00] If you can’t look after your business, better hire someone to help you.

[41:05] Everything Randell has learned today has come from the tree farm program. There are a lot of programs and resources out there for you!

[41:45] It’s important to be an advocate for trees, the environment, and more because the politicians in big cities aren’t aware of their importance. You have to let them know.

[45:15] What is Randell thankful for?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Jan 28, 2021

Eddie and Linda Drayton are the owners of Cat Tail Tree Farm. Eddie is a retired forester and spends his retirement days as a tree farmer. As a man in his 80s, Eddie wakes up everyday excited for a new adventure on his farm and shares a little bit about his love for forestry as well as provides a bit of a background on how the surrounding area was discovered. Join Tom and Emily on this adventure as they talk with Eddie and Linda about the work they put into their beautiful property. 


Key Takeaways:

[1:40] Tom shares a little bit about Eddie and Linda’s farm. 

[2:15] As a professional forester, how did Eddie get into forestry?

[4:00] Eddie was originally going to be a dentist. 

[6:35] Eddie shares how he got into tree farming and how he went about purchasing his first property.

[8:45] Linda is a 50% owner and Edide is a 100% worker. 

[9:00] Linda shares her first impressions of the land when they finally bought it. It was definitely runned down. 

[11:05] Eddie shares a little bit about the history of forestry in Society Hill. 

[18:30] The United States saw a huge boom in cotton production in 1917 to provide uniforms to WW1 soldiers. 

[20:45] How has timber farming evolved over the decades? 

[26:55] Eddie bought this tree farm in the late 90s/early 2000s. He had a lot of work ahead of him. 

[29:45] Eddie breaks down in detail some of the beautiful trees and foliage he has on his property. 

[37:35] This property is now in its 6th generation of growing trees. Eddie’s spent a lot of time to get the tree more in harmony with nature and to make it appealing to wildlife. 

[40:35] Eddie shares where he sees the future of his farm headed. 

[44:05] Eddie has an easement on his property. What does that mean and what lessons can he share to other land owners? 

[46:45] What you leave behind is really important. 


Mentioned in This Episode:

Jan 21, 2021

Tom and Emily meet with legacy tree farmer Pat Dorn, based in South Carolina, to learn more about his beautiful property and how he got into the business of planting trees! You’ll hear some background noise as Tom and Emily march through the wilderness with Pat as they uncover what makes Pat’s property so special.


Key Takeaways:

[1:35] You find Tom and Emily with legacy tree farm owner Pat as he does a tour of his property in South Carolina.

[2:40] How did Pat get into the tree farming business?

[4:50] Pat remembers fondly planting trees with his pa and how they were able to turn it into a profit.

[6:00] When Pat was in his early 20s, he bought the worst land available because he knew how to work the tree programs.

[6:40] After 40 years, these sub-par lands look fantastic now. Hard work pays off.

[7:40] Timberland is a long term investment that requires a long term mindset.

[8:40] Pat rents out his land to hunting groups, which further helps his return on investment.

[10:00] So many people want to have 50 or 100 acres in the country, but they’re not willing to do the work to care for the land.

[10:50] What lessons did Pat learn from his dad about the outdoors?

[12:50] Pat shares a little bit about his family and his three children.

[18:10] It’s important to keep your forester happy. The best money Pat has spent was on a consulting forestry company. There’s too much room for error in this business.

[19:50] When you have timberland, it’s also important to have a road system on your property. It pays off when people are coming to bring equipment in to chop the timber.

[22:50] Land is going to get more and more valuable in South Carolina.

[24:45] What should you think about when you're about to buy land?  

[27:40] Pat explains the furniture he’s made over the years that’s located in his home.

[36:15] Don’t take advice from the average Joe, most of them don’t know anything! Find the most qualified expert, and then go ask them.

[39:55] Pat looks at his forester like he looks at his doctor. He’s trained. He knows his stuff.

[42:50] Why is it important to get into the tree business?

[45:20] Pat talks about his lovely wife Jane, her love, and her support. It’s hard to get anything done without the support of your spouse!


Mentioned in This Episode:

Jan 14, 2021

Tom is on the road and interviewing Mike Meetze from South Carolina! Mike shares his heritage property with Tom and explains how the property has evolved over the years. Everything from growing Soybeans to cattle to now timber. Mike has been on the tractor since he was eight years old, but he is actually an engineer by trade. Take a journey with Mike as he walks you through his property on this week’s episode!


Key Takeaways:

[1:40] Tom is recording from the road. Come join him on an adventure in South Carolina!

[2:10] How did Mike first acquire his farm?

[3:30] Mike’s property used to grow soybeans and wheat in the ’80s. Now it grows timber. How did Mike and his family make that transition?

[4:25] Mike shares a little bit about his wife, Lucy Anne, and how she got into agriculture.

[7:50] Mike talks about his family heritage and how his father bought his first property.

[13:40] Mike has a pesticide license and is able to take care of his trees more effectively. He also performs controlled burns on his property.

[18:10] Mike has four sons! Two are both professional engineers like Mike and his father and the other two are in education. He also has four grandchildren.

[24:15] How often does Mike do controlled burns?

[28:40] Mike shares a special moment he had with his grandson and the joys of working on the land with his family.

[31:40] What does the future have in store for Mike and his property?

[38:25] What kind of equipment does Mike use for his land?

[49:25] Mike shares how he knows when he’s cut a quality piece of timber or not.

[52:25] What’s Mike’s advice for landowners and tree farmers?

[54:40] Quick words of wisdom from Mike’s grandson.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Dec 28, 2020

Dr. Myron F. Floyd currently serves as Dean of the College of Natural Resources at NC State University. He first joined the college in 2005 as a professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management. In 2010, he was appointed to serve as director of graduate programs for the department, and in 2014, he became department head. Dr. Myron discusses the importance of mentorship in his career, his role as a department head and professor, and what makes an exceptional leader.


Key Takeaways:

[:45] A quick intro about Dr. Myron’s background.

[2:45] How did Dr. Myron get started in natural resources?

[4:50] Dr. Myron fell in love with the history of why we have parks, public lands, and forests. He wanted to be part of it.

[5:55] What makes a good teacher? Dr. Myron shares a little bit about one of his favorite professors in school and how it helped captivate his love for forests.

[8:05] What was Dr. Myron’s first leadership position?

[12:30] Dr. Myron shares the skillsets he had to learn when he transitioned from a team of one to leading others.

[14:55] Faculty members are a unique species. They tend to be focused on people with their own expertise, but it can sometimes be difficult to have a broader view of the whole ecosystem as a whole.

[16:55] How does Dr. Myron define leadership?

[18:10] Mentoring is really rewarding work for Dr. Myron. He wants to help a student see their full potential. He believes the job of a leader is to help people unlock this potential.

[19:25] Who were some of Dr. Myron’s mentors?

[27:05] How do you find a good mentor?

[31:55] What is Dr. Myron proud of in his career?

[36:25] What does Dr. Myron wish he’d learned sooner in his career?

[40:25] Where is the future of the forestry profession headed?

[46:45] How do you make an exceptional leader?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Dr. Myron on Twitter

Oct 21, 2019

Garth Fisher is the National Training Director of the Wildland Fire Management branch for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Garth also services as the Chair and BIA Representative on the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and he has over 15 years of wildland fire operations and wildland fire management. In this week’s episode, Garth explains a little bit about what the BIA agency does and how they pride themselves on being able to provide ongoing leadership training to their staff. If you’re looking to get started in wildland fire, this is an episode you don’t want to miss!


Key Takeaways:

[1:10] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:50] A quick intro about Garth’s background.

[2:55] How did Garth first get introduced to this industry?

[7:10] What made Garth pick wildland firefighting?

[10:35] What types of responsibilities does Garth have as the director of fire training?

[12:35] What does the BIA agency do?

[16:45] Garth explains some common ways people get into wildland firefighting.

[17:45] It’s important to set the right expectations for yourself. This is extremely difficult work to do!

[20:25] Garth shares some of the memorable experiences he’s had on the job over the years. 

[22:35] What has Garth learned about people and teams?

[23:50] If you want to move forward, you need to make yourself uncomfortable.

[27:00] Has Garth run into any close calls before?

[30:05] What type of training opportunities are available at BIA?

[35:30] Garth shares some of the good surprises he’s had along the way.

[38:25] What types of mentors has Garth had over the years?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Oct 9, 2019

Katie Lighthall is the Coordinator for the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy in the Western Region. She assists federal, state, local, and tribal agencies as well as non-governmental organizations so that they can be ready in case of a large fire disaster. When you’re coordinating for multiple agencies, it’s important that everybody is on the same page as quickly as possible. Katie shares her experiences on today’s show and showcases how she got into this field, in the first place!


Key Takeaways:

[1:10] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:50] A quick intro about Katie’s background.

[3:35] How did Katie first get introduced to this industry?

[8:15] What kind of training do you need to get started in this work?

[11:0] When Katie had her first child, she still wanted to be involved with the fire department, but without taking calls in the middle of the night.

[14:05] Katie explains why we need a national cohesive wildland fire management strategy.

[20:50] Large fires are not handled by local firefighters. When big fires happen, they call state or even federal crews. This means there are multiple agencies coming in to tackle the fire.

[23:50] Everybody has a small part to play when it comes to wildland fire.

[27:25] What is the end-vision for the cohesive strategy?

[32:15] You need to evacuate your home earlier on red-flag warning day if you are caring for someone who has a disability and depends on you. Don’t wait till you receive an evacuation notice. The system is overwhelmed and by the time they get to you, it could be too late.

[36:25] What do leaders need to do better?

[41:15] What is Katie the proudest of about her career?


Mentioned in This Episode:

“California fire forces senior living community evacuations”

Sep 25, 2019

John Miller is the State Wildland Fire Chief for the Virginia Department of Forestry. John is responsible for oversight and state-wide coordination of the agency’s wildfire control, emergency management, and prescribed burning programs. John shares some tips about how you can coordinate with multiple government agencies so that everyone is on the same page when a fire is happening and he shares some close calls he’s gotten while he was in the field.


Key Takeaways:

[1:15] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:50] A quick intro about John’s background.

[3:15] How did John first get started in forestry?

[11:55] John explains why controlled burns are necessary for longleaf pine trees.

[17:10] How did John rise through the ranks and get the position he is in now?

[22:35] What does John enjoy the most about being in wildland fire?

[26:35] There’s a lot of coordination and collaborative work between agencies when it comes to wildland fire, how does it get all done?

[28:55] You’ve got to build connections between people and agencies long before the fire starts.

[29:20] What kinds of job opportunities are available for those that are interested in wildland fire?

[31:50] What types of qualifications do you need?

[34:30] What types of important leadership lessons has John learned along the way?

[37:25] How does leadership change as you transition into different job roles and leadership positions?

[40:50] John shares some memorable stories and a tale of caution about what you need to be aware of when fighting fire.

[47:25] John shares some advice for those who are looking to get started in wildland fire.

[49:45] What is John most proud of in his career?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Sep 11, 2019

Kristel Johnson is the Support Services Program Leader for the USDA Forest Service. Kristel started her career in 1990 as a temporary firefighter and, later, she attended the Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Academy. Over her career, Kristel has worked in wildland firefighting, fire training, district management, employee relations, human resources, critical instant stress management, and more. In 2006, Kristel served as a family liaison for a fallen colleague and it opened her eyes to how the agency manages tragedy. Find out more in this week’s episode.


Key Takeaways:

[1:15] A message from Leadership Nature.

[2:00] A quick intro about Kristel’s background.

[3:25] How did Kristel first get interested in firefighting?

[5:15] What does Kristel currently do for the USDA?

[7:30] The agency has never really had a program to support colleagues and families of the fallen men and women in this field.

[9:50] Kristel shares how the loss of colleagues and tragedies have affected her over the years.

[12:10] Kristel realized that the agency had a lot more to do in terms of training and education and preparing for tragic incidents.

[17:25] Kristel developed the course, ‘You Will Not Stand Alone’ to help agency members feel more connected to one another and supportive during tragic events that have happened in their community.

[19:55] What’s it like being a wildland firefighter?

[21:25] How can someone get into wildland fire?

[24:00] How can someone specialize or find a specialty in this field?

[24:55] Kristel shares some of the mentors she’s had over the years.

[33:05] What advice does Kristel have for people who are just getting started in their career?

[35:15] What is Kristel most proud of?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Aug 28, 2019

Robyn Broyles is the Fire Communication and Education Specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the national interagency fire center in Boise, Idaho. In Robyn’s role, she focuses on the accomplishments of the Indian country’s wildland fire management and aviation programs.

Robyn is also a tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Find out more about Robyn and her role with the BIA on this week’s episode!


Key Takeaways:

[1:10] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:50] A quick intro about Robyn’s background.

[3:40] Robyn shares what she does for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

[8:15] Robyn gives an insightful overview of what the fire management team does.

[12:05] Everything is tightly woven together, you can’t have fire management without timber management, and you can’t have timber management without vegetation management.

[16:20] Has Robyn moved around a lot due to her job?

[20:00] Robyn had to overcome her fear of heights during training.

[24:55] What is the wildland fire community like?

[27:45] How can someone get started in wildland fire?

[31:15] Robyn shares how you can get experience in this field. You don’t have to start from the bottom. The fire community is always looking for mid-level experience!

[34:25] What kinds of challenges has Robyn faced so far in her career?

[38:15] What’s it like being part of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG)?

[41:45] Robyn shares the kinds of mentors she’s had over the years who have made an impact on her.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Aug 14, 2019

Dan Smith is the Fire Director for the National Association of State Foresters. He is the Wildland Fire Representative for 50 states and 8 territories at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. In this role, Dan works collaboratively with the Federal Wildland Fire Directors and serves as a member of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which provides wildland fire response on a national level. Dan shares leadership advice, some of the challenges the fire community is facing, and so much more!


Key Takeaways:

[1:10] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:55] A quick intro about Dan’s background.

[3:25] How did Dan first get started in his fire career?

[7:35] Dan shares a little bit of history about NWCG.

[10:55] What are some of the best ways to get qualified in this field?

[14:35] What kind of work is Dan up to these days?

[17:40] Dan shares a little bit about his work history and some of the most memorable moments of his career.

[21:40] What are some of the rewards and challenges of being in wildland fire?

[29:00] Each fire has a lesson learned; how does Dan transfer those lessons into practical training for his team?

[31:45] Where is the direction that the fire community is going and what additional challenges has the community come across, over the years?

[35:00] Getting communities educated about forest health is an uphill climb.

[37:50] Dan offers some leadership advice, wisdom, and tips.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Jul 31, 2019

Brian Pisarek is the Advanced Wildlife Instructor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and he is also the Structured Fire Chief for the City of Aitkin, Minnesota. Brian has a B.S. in Forestry and has an extensive list of fire qualifications, too! In today’s episode, Brian shares a little bit about how to keep yourself safe during a wildland fire, how to best manage family expectations when you’ve got to abruptly cancel plans to fight a fire, and so much more!


Key Takeaways:

[1:15] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:50] A quick intro about Brian’s background.

[3:30] How did Brian first get started in his fire career?

[7:15] Be hungry for new opportunities.

[8:00] Firefighting is dangerous work; how does Brian manage the expectations of his friends and family?

[10:00] Brian has had a few close calls when it comes to fighting fire. It’s important to stay up-to-date with safety information and listen closely to your safety officer.

[10:50] What kind of work does Brian do now?

[11:35] What’s unique about the firefighting community?

[12:55] How can young and aspiring professionals get started in this career?

[14:40] Communication is what clogs the system. A good leader needs to know how to communicate clearly and effectively.

[18:35] What’s the difference in the work environment when it comes to wildland fire vs. structured fire?

[20:35] What kinds of mentors has Brian had over the years?

[22:45] How does the fire community manage their work/life balance?

[26:20] What is Brian most proud of about his career?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Jul 24, 2019

Will Novy-Hildesley is the Executive Director of the North American Forest Partnership (NAFP), a diverse set of people and organizations who are passionate about the future of forests. NAFP is also the driver of #forestproud, where they collect stories from all over the world of what the forest means to individuals and natural resource professionals. Find out more about what NAFP is doing and how you can get involved in their amazing work in this week’s episode!


Key Takeaways:

[1:00] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:40] A quick intro about Will’s background.

[3:40] How did Will first get into natural resources?

[7:15] There aren’t many sectors where people are so passionate about what they do that they stay with one company throughout their entire career.

[10:25] People are losing touch with their natural environment and there are consequences to that.

[11:00] Human beings are meant to spend time in nature.

[11:50] Will shares the differences he has noticed between the U.S. and the UK.

[17:25] How did the North American Forest Partnership (NAFP) first get started?

[24:50] How does the #forestproud platform connect with NAFP?

[30:15] Everyone has an answer when it comes to what makes them proud about being in forestry.

[35:25] Will explains how to develop content that works.

[42:55] Will is very proud of his team and shares a little bit more about what they are up to.

[45:15] How can people get involved with #forestproud?

[48:15] What makes Will #forestproud?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Will on LinkedIn

Jul 17, 2019

Buddy Huffaker is the Board President and Executive Director for Aldo Leopold Foundation, a non-profit conservation organization located in Wisconsin. Buddy is very proud to be part of the Aldo Leopold Foundation,  an organization he joined over 20 years ago as an intern. In today’s episode, Buddy shares a little bit about how the foundation got started, what exciting new things the foundation is working on right now, and how students can get involved in its exciting projects!


Key Takeaways:

[1:00] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:40] A quick intro about Buddy’s background.

[3:10] What got Buddy interested in natural resources?

[6:40] How did Buddy get started with the Aldo Leopold Foundation?

[9:25] Buddy shares a bit about the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s history and what they do.

[11:25] The Aldo Leopold Foundation is celebrating their 70 year anniversary of the A Sand County Almanac book!

[14:25] What projects is the Aldo Leopold Foundation focused on right now?

[19:40] Are you mentoring young professionals? Let them know about the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s programs!

[24:00] What leadership advice does Buddy have for young professionals?

[29:30] What is Buddy’s team like?

[32:25] What advice does Buddy have about leadership when it comes to his team?

[35:35] Part of buddy’s job is to help teach his staff how to say no to things!

[40:15] Partnerships are critical for any NGO, but what makes a good partnership succeed?

[46:30] Buddy offers ways you can support the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

[48:30] What is Buddy most proud of, so far?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Future Leaders Program

Jul 3, 2019

Chris Joe is an NRCS District Conservationist and a landowner in Alabama. He is a Fourth-Generation African American landowner and he raises cattle on his land. However, through tapping into the NRCS resources, he’s found out how to maximize his land by providing bird and nature tours! The NRCS has a wide range of resources that not many people are aware of and on today’s episode, Chris shares some of these amazing and fantastic resources today.


Key Takeaways:

[1:35] A message from Leadership Nature.

[2:20] A quick intro about Chris’s background.

[4:40] How did Chris get into cattle farming?

[6:35] Chris explains the definition of ‘black belt’ and how it relates to the soil.

[9:30] What kind of work ethic did Chris learn while working on the farm?

[12:15] Chris shares a bit of his family history.

[15:25] How has Chris been able to diversify his land?

[21:20] NRCS has SO many resources for landowners!

[24:05] Chris has people from all over the states coming to his land to watch birds. He never knew that would be possible without the help of forestry professionals.

[25:55] Chris keeps a journal for his farm. It’s helped him tremendously keep track of the history of the farm!

[30:25] What’s next for Chris and his farm?

[35:55] Chris shares a bit about his educational journey on how he got into farming and conservation.

[42:40] You don’t want to go on to somebody’s farm and tell them what they have to change. It will rub them the wrong way. You’ve gotta do a bit of pre-work first to build trust.

[52:15] The NRCS has a lot of available resources and programs for landowners who might not be able to afford it, too.

[59:15] Chris loves being able to partner with the community and teach them practical lessons on how to efficiently use the land.

[1:03:25] Another resource that the NRCS teaches is about game hunting on your property; what’s legal and what’s not legal to do.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Website for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities:

More information on the SFLR Program: Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program (SFLR)

More information on USDA NRCS:

High Tunnel System Initiative

Connecting with Birds and Nature Tours on Twitter

Jul 3, 2019

Elaine Snowberger kicks off this new season of Leadership Nature. In this season, Tom will be featuring up-and-coming forestry and natural resource students to share their educational experiences. Elaine shares some of the benefits of joining a forestry club, why she loves being part of the Clemson University family, and shares tips on how she scored her first forestry position!


Key Takeaways:

[1:15] A message from Leadership Nature.

[1:55] A quick intro about Elaine’s background.

[3:10] What got Elaine interested in forestry?

[6:55] Elaine shares what her experience at the Clemson forestry club was like.

[9:45] Elaine was elected treasurer of the club, then she went on to be vice president, and then president of the club.

[10:10] At the club, Elaine mainly did crosscut events.

[12:00] What are some of the benefits of being in the forestry club?

[16:20] Elaine loves being part of the Clemson family.

[20:35] Elaine shares how she found her first job in forestry.

[23:10] What advice does Elaine have for new students?

[24:50] Don’t be afraid to job shadow industry professionals!

[26:45] Elaine has made a good impression in being seen as a leader to her peers.

[29:45] What were some of the most memorable courses Elaine had in school?


Mentioned in This Episode:

Clemson University

Jun 26, 2019

John Littles is the Executive Director for Mcintosh Sustainable Environment Economic Development. He provides technical assistance to grassroots organizations and asset-based economic development, food systems, education systems, land preservation and retention, and so much more! In his role, John has generated over $8 million dollars in funding for the organization and works as an outreach provider for the United States Department of Agriculture for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. On the show, John shares his expertise and experience working with landowners in rural communities!


Key Takeaways:

[1:35] A message from Leadership Nature.

[2:20] A quick intro about John’s background.

[4:15] How did John get started in this field?

[9:50] John relies heavily on volunteers and partnerships to help keep these community projects going.

[10:35] What lessons has John learned about leading volunteers?

[12:15] How did John first find out about the SFLR program and how has it helped the community so far?

[14:45] By introducing diversity into the forestry industry, it has helped make an impact in the communities John and his team serve in.

[15:25] John shares an example of how he helps landowners with their property.

[17:30] How has John been able to build trust in the community?

[19:20] The landowner always comes first!

[19:45] What kind of partnerships has John been able to develop, so far?

[20:40] John is in the third year of phase one for the SFLR program. What will phase two look like?

[21:40] How have John and his team made the transition from serving people on a local front to a national front?

[24:25] John shares a story about a young landowner he was able to help.

[27:25] Trust takes time to build but once it’s built, you can really move mountains with it.

[31:10] Can John help people clean up their title and getting ahold of the property’s farm number?

[33:20] Why is this work so important to John?

[34:40] What kind of advice does John have for landowners?

[36:45] John shares his final thoughts about the importance of educating rural African American communities.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Website for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities:

More information on the SFLR Program: Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program (SFLR)

More information on USDA NRCS:

Danielle Atkins on Leadership Nature

Jun 19, 2019

Yvonne Knight-Carter and Eleanor Cooper-Brown are both sisters and the owners of Broadaxe Branch Partners. Their property goes back almost 150 years and they are proud to be connected to the land once again. Both successful in their respective careers, Yvonne and Eleanor are taking on the task to make their land sustainable and to help educate the community about the free land management resources that are available to them. Do not be afraid to go into the USDA’s office to ask for what you need!


Key Takeaways:

[1:40] A message from Leadership Nature.

[2:20] A quick intro about Yvonne’s and Eleanor’s background.

[6:00] Yvonne shares her journey and how she found her family land.

[13:45] Vconne and Eleanor’s family farm was visited by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.

[17:15] Eleanor shares her journey and how she found her family land.

[24:05] Yvonne shares a bit more of the history of the land.

[35:35] The sisters have such an emotional tie to the land.

[37:00] When did Yvonne and Eleanor get their first forest management plan?

[38:25] Did the sisters have any challenges with transferring the title into their names?

[41:00] The Center of Heirs Property has free will-creation services for community members.

[45:00] What advice do Yvonne and Eleanor have for other landowners?

[55:50] How has their purpose in life changed since taking on this property?

[1:00:00] Eleanor is very proud to call this property home and wants to pass it down for their children.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Website for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities:

More information on the SFLR Program: Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program (SFLR)

More information on USDA NRCS:

Jun 12, 2019

Lillian “Ebonie” Alexander is the Executive Director of the Black Family Land Trust, one of the United States’ only conservation land trusts dedicated to the conversation, preservation, and protection of African American and other historically underserved landowner assets. Ebonie and her team host regular workshops in the community to educate and share the importance of keeping land within the family. Find out more about Ebonie’s important work on this week’s show!


Key Takeaways:

[1:40] A message from Leadership Nature.

[2:20] A quick intro about Ebonie’s background.

[3:35] How did the Black Family Land Trust first get started?

[5:35] What did Ebonie do before joining BFLT?

[9:55] What does the BFLT do and how do they help African American landowners?

[14:50] What is the definition of a land trust?

[16:15] Ebonie explains who typically needs and uses their services.

[19:50] What is “heirs’ property”?

[21:50] Why does Ebonie recommend against doing land petitions?

[25:45] Many next-generation landowners don’t want to own farmland due to its slavery ties.

[30:40] How does Ebonie educate the community on the benefits of owning land?

[33:10] Ebonie explains the important partnerships she has built over the years.

[39:15] Ebonie shares a client success story!

[46:45] Ebonie shares some final thoughts about the importance of keeping the land within the family.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Website for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities:

More information on the SFLR Program: Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program (SFLR)

More information on USDA NRCS:

Ebonie on LinkedIn

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