About the Virginia Wilderness Committee
History | Bylaws
Our mission is to:
Organized in 1969, VWC works closely with the congressional delegation from Virginia to pass federal legislation under the 1964 Wilderness Act, which provides permanent protection to outstanding wild areas on public land in Virginia. VWC has been instrumental passing legislation that designated all existing wilderness areas in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests and in Shenandoah National Park.
The Virginia Wilderness Committee is a 501(C)3 non-profit citizens' group.
VWC Board - Executive Committee
John Hutchinson, President (Staunton)
John has been engaged in fundraising, development, and policy research related to land conservation and battlefield preservation in Virginia and nationally for more than 32 years. A land use planner, he directed land acquisition and conservation programs at the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, the lead managing partner for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District (SVBNHD).
In his private practice, Jennings Gap Inc., Mr. Hutchinson has conducted planning and land conservation projects in Fauquier, Frederick, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Spotsylvania counties in Virginia and Allegheny County, Maryland.
Steve Johnson, Vice President (Broadway)
Steve is head of the Visual and Communication Arts Dept. at EMU where he teaches Conservation Photography. His photography has appeared in Orion, National Geographic Kids Books, and numerous other publications. Over the last few years Steve has donated dozens of photos of animals, scenes, and waters in the GWNF, taken either by him or his students, for use in VWC's 50th Wilderness display, Facebook page, and website. Most recently he has been finding and photographing Cow Knob salamanders along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route. He has worked with stakeholders on forest issues in Oregon, so brings some familiarity with that process to VWC. Steve and his wife Anna Maria, a writer and teacher, have two young daughters that they often take on hikes.
Tom Engle, Secretary (Middlebrook)
Tom lives in Augusta County near Middlebrook with his wife Sharon and great niece Ivy. Tom retired from the U.S. State Department last year after a 31-year career as a Foreign Service officer. During that time he worked in U.S. embassies in China, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Germany and Afghanistan, as well as in several offices in the Washington headquarters. Tom has been an avid hiker since spending his high school years near the Smoky Mts., and his introduction to this region was through camping in the 1980’s in Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness.
Ron Stoltzfus, Ph.D., Treasurer (Harrisonburg)
Ron has been an accounting professor at Eastern Mennonite University since 1984, with a specialization in financial accounting reporting issues. He keeps an active CPA license. Ron is a dedicated hiker and for several years has been maintaining Buck Mtn. Trail in the proposed Little River Wilderness. Ron also works on other trails in the proposed Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: (540) 908-6901
Lynn Cameron, Past President (Mt. Crawford)
A native of West Virginia, Lynn Cameron moved to the Shenandoah Valley in 1981 and soon fell in love with the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. Lynn is proud to claim the late Ernie Dickerman as her mentor in wilderness advocacy. Lynn has served as a Forest Issues Chair and Wilderness Chair of the Sierra Club - Virginia Chapter. Now a Professor Emerita at James Madison University, Lynn is Co-Chair of Friends of Shenandoah Mountain and a hike leader for the local chapter of PATC. She spends a great deal of time building support for the Shenandoah Mountain Proposal and organizing worktrips in Ramseys Draft Wilderness and the proposed Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area.
Email: email@example.com, (540) 234-6273
Pete Bsumek, Sierra Club Representative (Harrisonburg)
A native of Utah, Pete Bsumek moved to Harrisonburg in 1996 to teach in the James Madison University School of Communication Studies. Pete is co-director of the JMU Center for Health and Environmental Communication and coordinator of the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program. He has been the Wilderness Issues Chair for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club since 2006 and currently serves on the National Sierra Club Wildlands Committee.
Michael Pelton, Ph.D., Science Advisor (Middlebrook)
Michael Pelton is Professor Emeritus in Wildlife Science, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He and his wife Tamra moved from Tennessee to Augusta County Virginia in 2000. Mike spent his career studying large mammals in the southern Appalachians, primarily black bears and raccoons. His bear research began in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee but expanded into many (16) other mountain and coastal study sites scattered over the Southeast, including the states of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Mike also worked with international colleagues on brown bear research projects in Norway, Spain, and Russia and Asiatic black bears in Japan. He is a founder of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) and served as President for two terms and a Council member for over 20 years; this organization publishes a peer-reviewed journal (Ursus) and currently consists of over 800 biologists/managers from 45 countries. He cofounded the Southern Appalachian Black Bear Study Group (SABBSG) and was Coordinator from 1976 until 2000. In 2012, Mike received the prestigious Caesar Kleberg Award from The Wildlife Society for his productive career in applied wildlife research. Mike is a "hobby peasant farmer" on their mountain farm, serves on the Board of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC) and teaches the Mammals section for various chapters of the State Master Naturalist Program. He stays active professionally by writing, giving presentations, reviewing manuscripts, and attending professional meetings.
Zach Foster is the founder and Program Director of the Great Appalachian Valley Conservation Corps (GAVCC). Through his work with the GAVCC, Zach works to connect young adults to meaningful conservation service projects on public lands across Virginia. Zach has a background in youth and young adult conservation programs in Colorado, Vermont and Tennessee. As a native to Bridgewater, VA, Zach grew up with Shenandoah Mountain defining the skyline and found his earliest conservation mentors when Rockingham County high school educators helped him connect to internships and opportunities with public land managers. Zach loves to spend time in the mountains with his wife, Lara Mack and is an avid public lands hunter and trail runner.
Bart Koehler (Florida), Board Advisor
Bart Koehler is one of the most respected wilderness leaders in the United States. He worked 19 years with The Wilderness Society and from 1999-2011, was Director and then Senior Wilderness Campaign Director of TWS’s Wilderness Support Center in Durango, CO. After being the coordinator of the American Wilderness Project for several years, Bart has been trying to learn how to retire while being on the boards of directors of a number of wilderness conservation groups across the country.
During the course of his four-decade career, he has helped many bedrock grassroots groups, including the Virginia Wilderness Committee, secure permanent protections for numerous areas encompassing over 10 million acres of public land...from Wyoming to Alaska, from Nevada to New Hampshire, and beyond. Bart helped with successful passage of wilderness legislation for Three Ridges and The Priest in 2000 and Virginia Ridge and Valley Act in 2009.
Although he lives in Alaska, Bart’s ties with Virginia Wilderness
Committee go back to the 1970s when Bart learned the ropes of
wilderness advocacy from our own Ernie Dickerman. After Ernie’s
death, Bart helped VWC team up with mountain bike leaders to develop
the Shenandoah Mountain Proposal, and he continues to give sage advice and counsel from afar. In his spare time Bart is also a
singer-songwriter. One special song by Bart is "The Ernie Song", which he wrote as a tribute to our own Ernie Dickerman.
Mercer Cronemeyer, Newsletter Editor (Richmond)
Mercer is a VPDES permit writer for Virginia DEQ. She is passionate about proactively protecting the environment in general and has been a lifelong lover of wild places. She grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, where her love of wilderness was inspired. In her spare time, Mercer loves to run outdoors and take walks in the woods with her Boston Terrier. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellen Stuart-Haentjens, Ph.D., Executive Director (Richmond)
Ellen Stuart-Haentjens, our new Executive Director, comes to us from the U.S. Geological Survey where she conducted research on forest and wetland ecosystems as a Physical Research Scientist. She has published 20 articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed scientific publications,
authored science and policy articles on public platforms, taught university seminars on forest ecology and environmental research techniques, and directed an undergraduate Environmental Scholars Program at the Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has covered diverse natural terrain, from wetlands at the VCU Rice Rivers Center and along the west coast, to forests at the University of Michigan Biological Station and tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ellen further connects with the outdoors through hiking, camping, and rock-climbing as well as volunteering as the native plant garden chair at her daughters’ elementary school in Richmond.
Mark Miller, Field Director (Lexington)
Office: (540) 464-1661
Cell: (540) 460-0593
Mark has worked on Wilderness and roadless issues in Virginia for the past 12 years. He was instrumental in the passage of the Ridge and Valley Act, a part of the Omnibus Lands Bill of 2009, which placed 43,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest in the National Wilderness Preservation System and designated an additional 12,000 acres as National Scenic Area. He has worked extensively on planning issues for both the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests in Virginia. In 2012, Mark won the 2012 McCarthy Award for Environmental Conflict Resolution.
Mark, along with co-author Steven Carroll, has written four hiking guides including two on wilderness and roadless areas in Virginia. He is also author of Virginia's Mountain Treasures: Unprotected Wildlands in the George Washington National Forest. Mark lives in Lexington with his wife, Cindy. He has three daughters and more foreign exchange students that call him Dad than he can keep track of.
Lacey Dean, Education & Outreach Coordinator (Staunton)
Lacey is a Virginia Master Naturalist with 12 years of experience working in informal science education. She enjoys getting out in the woods with her husband, two children, and 95lb dog.
Eric Giebelstein (Roanoke)
Eric is the Regional Director for the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS). He leads a team of field crews, wilderness rangers and specialists, and volunteers, and partners with the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, the Monongahela National Forest, the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Ozark National Forest to help improve capacity for wilderness stewardship, increase relevancy of wilderness through education, and help the US Forest Service measure and preserve wilderness character. Eric brings an extensive knowledge of wilderness history, wilderness law and policy, and public lands stewardship to VWC.
Tim Mahoney (Little North Mountain)
Tim had a 40 year career in conservation and public lands, working for Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and the Pew Charitable Trusts and as a private consultant, representing groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, Campaign for American Wilderness, Alaska Native corporations, and land conservancies in the Northwest and Southern California. In all, he worked on wilderness legislation for lands in 40 states, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the 1984 Virginia Wilderness Act and the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The nature of this work involved coordinating with leaders in state and local campaigns, direct contacts with members of Congress, the Administration and staff, determination of strategy for campaigns and direct negotiation.
Tyler Meader (Glen Allen)
Tyler’s family moved from the suburbs outside Harrisburg, PA to a historic home surrounded by woods, creeks and the James River when he was 10, beginning his love of the outdoors. Through the Boy Scout program he became well acquainted with the wonderful opportunities for hiking and camping that Virginia has to offer. His love of the mountains and being outdoors has continued into his adult life, and for over 25 years he has spent many nights in some of the wilderness areas in Virginia. Tyler lives in Glen Allen and works for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation-Division of Natural Heritage.
Laura Neale, Past President (Fairfield)
Laura was born and raised in Virginia, grew up on a farm in Orange County, and graduated from Virginia Tech. After working in garden centers and public gardens, including the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, North Carolina where she met her husband Chris, she moved to Rockbridge County in 1988. She has served as one of the founders and Board member of both the Upper James River Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society and the revived Rockbridge Bird Club. She is a Virginia Master Naturalist, and an Appalachian Trail Maintainer of 2.7 miles in James River Face Wilderness. While as a child she roamed the farm, she now enjoys the thousands of acres of the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests. Email: email@example.com