PALTA’s Policy Advisory Committee is charged with studying and discussing opportunities to improve public policy at all levels of government and private measures that could be taken by the land conservation community to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of conservation efforts. The committee makes recommendations to the PALTA board and staff on these matters.
Committee members are appointed by the board of directors. Individuals wishing to serve should contact PALTA for more information.
In addition to members of the board, the following individuals serve on the committee:
Land Conservation Manager, ClearWater Conservancy
Kevin Abbey joined ClearWater in 2013. His chief responsibility is to work with landowners who want to protect their land with a legal agreement called a conservation easement. He is also responsible for monitoring ClearWater’s protected properties and maintaining strong relationships with the owners of those lands.
Kevin brings more than 30 years of experience in community development, technical outreach, environmental management, and transportation policy to ClearWater. His former position of general manager of the Centre Area Transportation Authority brought Abbey and his young family to the Centre Region in 1984. Followed by service in the Pennsylvania Senate as executive director of the Transportation Committee and more recent assignments at Penn State’s Institute of Energy and the Environment, PennTAP and the College of Engineering, he has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the environment.
He holds a B.S. in zoology from the University of Michigan, an M.A. in language and literature from Central Michigan University and has a professional certification in applied river morphology.
Attorney, Saul Ewing, LLP
In his real estate and land use practice spanning more than 20 years, George Asimos divides his practice between development advocacy and transactional work. He is particularly experienced representing clients in the areas of telecommunications, oil and gas, as well as the growing Marcellus Shale industry.
On the development side, he represents developers, land owners and others seeking project approvals from municipalities in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania in matters relating to zoning, subdivision, and land development. His projects include telecommunications facilities, quarries, warehouses, and residential communities. As a result of his experience in the municipal approval of telecommunications facilities, representing most of the largest telecommunications and tower companies, he has been heavily involved in litigation on behalf of telecommunications companies under the antenna siting provisions of the Federal Telecommunications Act. Though his clients are limited to private sector developers, industrial companies and landowners, his work is informed by his 17 years in Township government and eight years on the Chester County Planning Commission Board.
On the transactional side, George represents real estate owners and investors in the purchase, sale, and leasing of all basic categories of real estate, including office, commercial, and industrial properties, raw land for development, and unique properties such as quarries, telecommunications towers and golf courses.
A substantial part of George’s practice also involves advising land owners and nonprofit land trusts on the donation of conservation easements and related real estate planning. He has drafted, or advised landowners on, more than 200 conservation easement donations protecting more than 40,000 acres of land in more than 10 states.
Vice President, Government and Community Relations, Western PA Conservancy
Cynthia Carrow oversees WPC’s public policy work, as well as the Community Gardens and Greenspace program which is responsible for more than 140 signature gardens and greening projects in 19 western Pennsylvania counties.
Cynthia is a long-time conservationist and advocate for protection of the natural environment. She participates in a wide variety of conservation and environmental programs and activities across Pennsylvania. She is chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). She has served as a member of the council since 1997. Created by law and reporting to the governor, the General Assembly, DEP, and the public, the council’s duty is to review the work of the DEP and make recommendations for improvements, study major environmental issues facing Pennsylvania, and promote sound environmental legislation. She is co-chair of the PA Abandoned Mine Land Campaign, a statewide coalition of conservation/environmental organizations advancing reauthorization of the federal program to clean up lands and waters.
Cynthia also is actively involved in the Pittsburgh community and serves on the following boards and advisory committees: WQED Multimedia Community Advisory Board; the advisory board for the Department of Science, Robert Morris University; the board of Conservation Consultants, Inc.; the board of Healthy Home Resources; the advisory council of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania; the Pttsburgh Cultural Trust Advisory Committee; past president of the board of directors of the Animal Rescue League/Pennsylvania Wildlife Center; and a member of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Capital Bicentennial Committee.
Cynthia attended Clemson University and the University of Pittsburgh where she received a B.S. degree.
Executive Director, French Creek Valley Conservancy
Brenda Costa joined French Creek Valley Conservancy in 2016 as the Executive Director. Previously, Brenda worked in environmental and geologic consulting for more than 20 years, with a concentration on groundwater. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Allegheny College and her Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Penn State, and has served on the Board of the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists. Brenda focuses on land protection and conservation efforts in northwest Pennsylvania, as well as providing educational programs to schools and community groups. She enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors- traveling, hiking, kayaking, and skiing- especially in the company of her husband and two sons.
Executive Director, Tinicum Conservancy
Jim brings 16 years of land conservancy experience and a lifelong passion for the natural environment. His family roots include Pennsylvania and he has a special love for the Delaware River and its tributaries. Jim joined the conservancy in February of 2008 and the Conservancy is benefiting from his knowledge accumulated through seven years as the executive director of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and fundraising positions with The Nature Conservancy and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. Jim and his wife, Dawn, and daughter, Abbey, live on a forested parcel adjacent to several thousand acres of preserved farmland.
Penn State University (retired)
Jim retired in 2017 after 42 years working for Penn State. At that time, he was the Ibberson Professor of Forest Resources, Director of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State which he founded in 2011, and Pennsylvania extension forester. During his tenure at Penn State, he conducted research and extension education programs focused on people and sustainable forest resource management on private forestland. He was the co-founder of Penn State’s Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment dual title graduate degree program, and senior research fellow for the Pinchot Institute for Conservation. He serves on the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Eden Hill Conservancy, and Foundation for Sustainable Forest boards. Linda Finley, his wife of nearly 20 years, and Jim own and 270 acres of forest in Elk County.
Public Policy and Government Relations Manager, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Brian has been with WPC since 1999, first in the garden and greenspace and conservation programs before joining the public policy team in 2004. He works on a number of issues including the federal farm bill, abandoned mine lands, and wildlife funding, and is also involved with WPC’s accreditation efforts.
Prior to joining the conservancy, he worked for an arts agency in Florida. He has a degree in cultural anthropology from Florida State University. He grew up in the Mid-Mon Valley, south of Pittsburgh, where he frequently visited Mingo Creek County Park.
Executive Director, French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust
Bill has over 30 years of public and private sector experience in land use and preservation. He was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and holds a master’s degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia. Bill began the Chester County chapter of his career in 1994 and was asked to establish the county’s department of open space preservation in 2004. The department is responsible for monitoring land preserved through County programs as well as the administration of grant programs that represent an investment of over $200 million and have helped finance the preservation of over 55,000 acres of farms, forests, parks and preserves. In 2018, Bill was named executive director of French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust.
Kathie Shirk Gonick
Director of Land Protection and In-House Counsel, Lancaster County Conservancy
As director of land protection, Kate works with landowners, businesses, funders, and local and state government to identify and protect Lancaster County’s most vital natural lands. Kate, a native of Lancaster County, previously held a position at the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, PA, drafting subdivision and land development, and zoning ordinances, and working on general land use and historic preservation planning. Kate also held the position of cultural resource and environmental planner/archaeologist for the Pinelands Commission and developed a program in archaeology for Cheyney University teaching several courses and establishing a laboratory and university guidelines.
Kate practiced land-use law for over 25 years before receiving her M.A. in anthropology/Aachaeology from Temple University where she is a doctoral candidate. Kate holds a B.A. from Sweet Briar College and a J.D. from Penn State University Dickinson School of Law. Kate enjoys all types of winter activities, including downhill and cross-country skiing and hiking. Other hobbies include gardening and writing. Kathie and her husband, Jeff, live in Manheim Township.
Western Area Manager, Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art
John conducts conservation easement outreach, participates in marketing efforts associated with the Conservancy’s Municipal Assistance Program, assists with monitoring, enforcement, and administration of conservation easements within our program area which encompasses approximately 24 townships in southwestern Chester County as well as adjacent townships in Lancaster County. He also coordinates and manages agricultural preservation outreach efforts that include conservation planning and implementation of best management practices to mitigate agricultural impacts on water quality. John is Director at the Conservancy’s 771-acre Laurels Preserve located in nearby East Fallowfield, Newlin and West Marlborough Townships and oversees the stewardship of the natural areas and trails.
Director of Land Preservation, Wildlands Conservancy
Before joining Wildlands in summer 2015, Dawn served as the executive director of Pocono Heritage Land Trust where she was responsible for the planning and implementation of a comprehensive land conservation program, as well as the day to day management of the small land trust. Today, Dawn’s years of land conservation expertise are supporting Wildlands’ mission to protect critical natural areas and waterways. She holds a Ph.D. in environmental and forest biology from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry and resides in the Poconos.
Sean P. Kenny
Executive Director, Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County
Sean has been with Farm & Natural Lands Trust of York County since 2008. FNLT has more than 10,000 acres under conservation easements on over 130 properties property of agricultural and environmental importance. Prior to joining FNLT, Sean was employed with the York County Chamber of Commerce following graduation from York College of Pennsylvania. Sean lives on a FNLT preserved farm, which is bisected by the Heritage Rail Trail, with his wife and two young children. Sean has or had leadership positions with local arts, young professional and culture organizations, as well as sitting on the York County Planning Commission.
Senior Land Conservationist, Heritage Conservancy
Kris has more than 10 years of land-use planning and conservation experience. In addition to assisting with Heritage Conservancy’s grant writing and fundraising efforts, Kris works with municipalities and private landowners to protect land via conservation easements and fee acquisitions. Before joining Heritage Conservancy, she worked for the County of Bucks, administering three grant programs under its open space program. Kris is a graduate of Kutztown University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a master’s degree in city and regional planning.
Christopher M. Kocher
President, Wildlands Conservancy PA
No stranger to the Lehigh Valley or Wildlands, president Christopher Kocher’s more than 15-year tenure began when he joined the organization as an environmental scientist in 1995. Throughout his career, he’s raised community awareness about the region’s specific conservation needs, and has notably developed several key, broad-based partnerships that continue to be vital to fulfilling our land protection, environmental stewardship and education mission.
His conservation work has been recognized statewide by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and other like-minded organizations.
Chris and his wife, Sheila, live in Whitehall and are parents to Ella, Jack and their loveable yellow lab, Daisy. As a family, they enjoy connecting with nature on the Ironton Rail Trail and the nearby Coplay Creek.
President, Heritage Conservancy
As president, Jeff leads the Conservancy’s principal mission-related initiatives including Lasting Landscapes, historic preservation, land protection negotiation, and high-level strategic master planning. Jeff has more than 25 years of combined experience in land protection and historic preservation. He is actively involved in administering the conservation easement and facade easement programs with expertise in the employment of protection strategies for significant resources. He gives public education programs and acts as a preservation advocate throughout the community. Numerous articles have been published on his endeavors in the preservation field.
Executive Director, ClearWater Conservancy
Deborah Nardone has primary strategic and operational responsibility of carrying out ClearWater’s mission and vision. She helps lead staff, volunteers, and friends of the organization to implement that mission while setting strategic direction for the organization. She is also the lead fundraiser and represents the organization to the community at large.
Deb has 20 years of broad experience in the field of natural conservation with local, state and national organizations including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Allegheny Ridge Heritage Area, Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Sierra Club.
She was awarded the Conservation Professional of the Year Award by National Trout Unlimited in 2010 and was named one of the top 40 Pennsylvanians under the age of 40 working to protect the environment by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. Nardone earned bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and political science from Juniata College and a master’s degree in environmental pollution control from Penn State University.
She resides on a small, wooded lot with her husband, Jason Little, and their son, Jonah. Together, they enjoy hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing, hunting, gardening and cooking.
Patricia L. Pregmon
Attorney, Pregmon Law Offices
Patricia L. Pregmon has more than 25 years experience as an attorney and has spent much of that career working specifically on conservation and real estate law. As one of the region’s foremost authorities on historic preservation and conservation law, Pat has served as a board member at such groups as Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association. She has written extensively about conservation law and recently served as principal author of the Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Commentary, a key publication of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. From 1981 to 1998 Pregmon was with the firm of Duane, Morris & Heckscher (now Duane Morris) as a partner in the real estate department, and is a member of the Pennsylvania and Montgomery County bar associations. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (magna cum laude with distinction), Pregmon earned an M.A. from Bryn Mawr College and law degree from Villanova University.
Senior Policy Advisor, The Nature Conservancy—Pennsylvania Chapter
Ron is the senior policy advisor for The Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania chapter.
Executive Director, Delaware Highlands Conservancy
Formerly a senior director at Natural Lands, Diane joined the Conservancy in 2016 with twenty years’ experience in land conservation. She is a registered landscape architect and her portfolio includes assisting landowners in preserving their properties through conservation easements and fee-simple transactions, landscape and watershed-scale projects, stewardship and trail plans, and park master plans. Diane has a B.S. in landscape architecture from Temple University.
President, Manada Conservancy
Sally is one of the original founders and Board members of Manada Conservancy and has served in several roles since its inception in 1997, both as a volunteer and as former Executive Director. She chaired the East Hanover Township Environmental Advisory Council for 10 years, is a former township supervisor and planning commission member. She has represented Manada Conservancy at a number of regional planning committees, including regional comprehensive planning, and the recent Return on Environment Study for Dauphin County, an analysis of the economic value of conserving natural resources. She is also a part-time writer, editor, and poet.