Seventy-five of Pennsylvania’s most active conservation organizations count themselves as dues-paying members of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. These organizations elect the ten individuals who serve on PALTA’s board of directors
Kimberly J. Murphy, CFRE, President
Kim joined Berks Nature staff in January 2004 and became president in July that same year. Prior to coming to Berks Nature, Kim was director of development at Penn State for nearly 12 years. During her time at Penn State she managed the development , alumni, and university relations program for both the Berks Campus in Reading and the Lehigh Valley Campus in Fogelsville. While at Penn State, Kim raised over $17 million for the Berks campus and Berks–Lehigh Valley College added 39 new endowed funds, managed a successful capital campaign raising $4.7 million, and has executed a variety of special events and worked with many volunteers. Kim has served on the board of several charitable organizations in the community including: Beacon House, The American Red Cross–Berks County Chapter, and The Girl Scouts– Great Valley Council. Kim does numerous trainings throughout the community and enjoys sharing her experience in development and nonprofit administration with others.
Oliver Bass, Vice President
Oliver is president of Natural Lands. Before becoming president, he was the vice president of communications and engagement, where he oversaw communication and engagement efforts, including publications and Force of Nature volunteer program. He also works to foster partnerships between Natural Lands and area organizations, and advocates for natural resource conservation and related causes to state and national policy makers.
Oliver takes much satisfaction from his role in making Natural Lands’ preserves more accessible for people to enjoy. “The results of our work are tangible, permanent, and accessible to everyone regardless of means or background. It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Prior to joining Natural Lands in 1997, Oliver was executive director of the Philadelphia Singers and Performing Arts League of Philadelphia. Before that, he worked in radio.
He earned a B.S. in communications from Northwestern University.
John Conner, Treasurer
John was one of the original 1996 incorporators of the Manada Conservancy, and served as its president from its inception through 2007. He is a former member of the East Hanover Environmental Advisory Council and was active in efforts to update the zoning there. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1975 and is retired from the Internal Revenue Service, where he was employed for 35 years. Along with land preservation, John’s interests include working with other non-profit organizations, organic gardening and his golden retrievers. John serves on the Preservation Committee and chairs both Manada’s Administration and Finance Committees.
Thomas D. Saunders, Secretary
Tom Saunders came to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy from Florida where he was community development director for the City of Gainesville. In that role, Tom directed planning, growth management, redevelopment, housing, historic preservation, and neighborhood planning. Prior to that, Tom was director of the Maryland Environmental Trust, a statewide land trust that protects open space and supports the conservation work and capacity growth of 40 local land trusts across the state. As one of the largest conservation and voluntary preservation easement-holding organizations in the country, the Maryland Environmental Trust works with property owners across the state on permanent land protection. Tom was also a land use, historic preservation, and redevelopment attorney with Arent/Fox and Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. Tom holds an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, a masters in public affairs and urban and regional planning from Princeton, and a J.D. from Stanford.
Chris Beichner is the current executive director for Allegheny Land Trust. Before his position at Allegheny Land Trust, Chris worked most recently at the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, where he served as its executive director for four years. Prior to his current position he served for eight years in a number of different capacities with the Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission in Oil City, Pennsylvania. His final position with the Commission was as director of community development and planning. Chris received a B.S. in business administration from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
Reneé has been with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy since 1994, becoming executive director in 1998. She is currently serving as president of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association board. She also serves on the organization’s policy advisory committee, as well as the conference committee. Renee’ sits on the Pennsylvania Forestry Association Board and serves on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Forest Stewardship Committee. Additionally, she is involved with the Pine Creek Watershed Council, Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, and the commonwealth’s forest stewardship advisory committee.
Ellen M. Ferretti was named the director of the Brandywine Conservancy in June 2016. She brings more than 25 years of natural resource management and conservation/environmental experience. She served as secretary for Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and deputy secretary for Parks and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under her leadership, land conservation was a key priority and, working closely with staff and stakeholders, significant natural areas were protected as public lands. She also has proven success in strategic planning, partnerships and collaborations, and fiscal management and operations. Ferretti oversees the conservancy’s important work to protect water, preserve land, and engage communities. The organization’s three programs—Land Conservation, Land Stewardship, and Municipal Assistance—are renowned for their multi-tiered approach to conservation through working with private landowners who wish to see their lands protected forever, and providing innovative community planning services to municipalities and other government agencies. She is a graduate of Wilkes College with a B.S. in environmental science.
Steven J. Schiffman concentrates his practice in the fields of business, taxation (including business and estate planning and administration), commercial loans, bank-asset recovery, and workout and nonprofit corporation law. He also provides counsel in the areas of general litigation, real estate and personal injury. Steve is a graduate with distinction of the Pennsylvania State University, where he received a B.S. degree in 1974. In 1977, he graduated from Capital University School of Law with a Juris Doctorate magna cum laude, followed by a master’s of law in taxation from Temple University of Law in 1983. After graduation from law school in 1977, Steve served as an assistant attorney general with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue until 1980.
Kyle serves as The Conservation Fund’s Pennsylvania state director, located in Harrisburg. A native of Lancaster, he brought his lifelong love of the Pennsylvania outdoors to The Conservation Fund in 2007.
He oversees all aspects of the Fund’s work in Pennsylvania, focusing on high-priority conservation acquisitions and mitigation-fund management. The Conservation Fund has protected over 100,000 acres in the commonwealth through real estate transactions, bridge financing, and implementation of mitigation programs. Working with the nonprofit, business, and government sectors, Kyle spearheads conservation projects at multiple levels, from creating new local parks to expanding the footprint of state and federal lands.
He has a B.S. in geoenvironmental studies/GIS from Shippensburg University, and a M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from Temple University. Kyle is a former president of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association, and has served on the board of Green Urban Initiative. Kyle lives with wife and daughter in Camp Hill, and can often be found floating on the Susquehanna River or hiking through St. Anthony’s Wilderness.
Jeff is the chief operating officer of Lancaster Farmland Trust. In his 18-year tenure at Lancaster Farmland Trust, Swinehart has held several positions, most recently serving as deputy director since 2006. As COO, Swinehart assumes greater operational and management responsibilities, while continuing to work alongside the executive director.
Swinehart graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from Pennsylvania State University and has a B.S. in geography, plus minors in geology and regional planning from Mansfield University. Jeff is a member of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association Policy Committee, serves as vice-chairman of the Manheim Township Planning Commission, and is a member of the executive committee of the Lancaster Clean Water Partners.
Philip R. Wenger, a local business owner and community leader, became the Lancaster Conservancy’s new chief executive officer in 2016. During his first year at the Conservancy, an additional 570 acres were preserved, and he re-energized the primary focus of protecting wild places for future generations. Phil retired from active leadership at Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches in 2014. Both his success as an entrepreneur, and his passion have led to a proven track record for helping organizations grow.
Over the last 30 years, Phil has successfully led numerous community organizations, serving as board chair of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Lancaster County Community Foundation, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, and Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness, among others. He currently serves as chair of Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine. Phil leads a Conservancy that protects and manages over 6,000 acres and in recent years has transformed the former Camp Snyder in Pequea into the Susquehanna Riverlands Research and Education Center at Climbers Run Nature Preserve.