Heather Furman is Director of The Nature Conservancy's Appalachians Program.
As State Director of TNC in Vermont between 2013 and June 2023, Heather Furman led a statewide team of conservation and programmatic talent to achieve a resilient and connected landscape for both nature and people. Within the New England Division, Heather also guided a team of scientists and conservation experts to achieve large-scale protection for land and water.
During her tenure, Heather grew the visibility, influence, and scope of TNC’s conservation work in Vermont. She provides leadership for strategic conservation actions including landscape-scale protection, partnership building and scientific research. In 2018, Heather initiated Vermont’s first and largest forest carbon project eligible for the California carbon market. Under Heather’s leadership, the chapter has also launched an innovative program focused on nature-based solutions to advance water quality, created both trustee and staff fellowship programs to broaden engagement, and created the chapter’s first program focused on state and federal policy solutions.
Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, Heather spent a decade as Executive Director of Stowe Land Trust where she guided the organization through transformative growth, dramatically accelerating the pace and scale of conservation initiatives. Heather has held planning positions with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and was co-founder of the Climbing Resource Access group of Vermont (CRAG-VT), a non-profit dedicated to land protection for recreation access and habitat. She served as its Board president from 1999-2005. In 2006 she joined the Board of the Access Fund, a climbing advocacy organization based in Boulder, CO, and worked nationally to protect land for recreation access. She served as the Access Fund’s vice-president from 2007-2009 and helped steer the organization through a multi-million-dollar capital campaign for land conservation priorities around the country.
Heather has spent several years living, working and traveling throughout Latin America and Asia. From 1995-1997, she lived in Nepal, where she carried out conservation and community development initiatives for the World Wildlife Fund and the US Peace Corps.
An Ohio native, Heather earned her BA from the Ohio State University in Anthropology and is a graduate of The Rubenstein School of Environmental & Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, where she received her MS in Natural Resource Planning. She currently serves on Lake Champlain Sea Grant’s Program Advisory Committee. Heather moved to Vermont in 1998, where she enjoys trail running, fly-fishing, hunting and spending time with her husband, a black lab named Macintosh and an assortment of cats.
December 7, 2022
I often pause during the holiday season to reflect on the gifts that this planet has given me. The local food on my table, the clean water in my glass and the immense solace I find in nature. I also increasingly feel how vulnerable these gifts are as we experience the unmistakable impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Fortunately, I am not alone in my concern, and as the Vermont state director of The Nature Conservancy, I get to work every day with Vermonters and people across the globe who want to see nature and people thrive into the future.
While the climate and biodiversity loss statistics are stark, our focus is not on counting losses but mounting gains, and we have reason to be hopeful. Now more than ever, the global community is recognizing the needs to address both climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Next week, 200 nations will gather in Montreal as part of the United Nation’s Biodiversity Conference (COP 15). The purpose is to agree to a new set of goals for the protection of nature and to transform our relationship with biodiversity. Why? Because if we don’t protect biodiversity, our communities, food systems and collective health are at risk.
The Nature Conservancy will be there, joining world leaders, ecologists, economists and health experts, to secure a future where wildlife can thrive in abundance and people share equitably in the benefits that nature provides. To accomplish these ambitious goals, we must build more sustainable food and energy systems, while also protecting the natural communities that are the building blocks of our collective health—our rivers, forests, grasslands and oceans.
Here in Vermont and throughout the northeast, where we host one of the last remaining and largest temperate forests in the world, we are committed to conserving healthy forest and waters, through a combination of on the ground projects, policy actions and local engagement.
The Nature Conservancy is working with forest landowners on climate friendly management practices to increase carbon storage, and with State lawmakers to improve our communities’ flood resilience through river corridor protections. In southern Vermont, we recently helped the US Fish and Wildlife Service expand the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge through the permanent protection of 3,500 acres at Glebe Mountain.
Underpinned by biodiversity, healthy ecosystems provide clean water, clean air, protect against natural disasters, furnish life-saving medications and ensure long-term food security. Protecting natural ecosystems and wildlife will reduce risk from new zoonotic diseases spreading to humans and mitigates the risk of another pandemic like COVID-19.
When we lose nature, we risk our health and safety, as the impacts of climate change are exacerbated. For the sake of our economies, livelihoods and physical and mental well-being—and those of future generations—it’s imperative that we tackle the nature crisis in conjunction with the climate emergency and bend the curve on both climate change and nature loss now. This is the time.
To learn more about The Nature Conservancy and our work to protect biodiversity, visit nature.org/Vermont.
Heather Furman, State Director
When Nature Unites Us
Read Heather Furman's series of commentaries.
Investing in Natural Infrastructure
Times Argus | Dec 03, 2021
A once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure was just made possible by Congress passing the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Read More
Nature is at the Heart of Our Recovery
Times Argus | Feb 19, 2021
Next month marks the one-year anniversary of our worlds contracting, many of us into our homes, families or ourselves. During this great contraction, many were drawn to the outdoors as a place to escape. Read More
Times Argus | Mar 27, 2020
We have long recognized the restorative power of nature, but in times of social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis, nature becomes even more essential. Read More
Green Transportation Investment Has Rural Support
VTDigger | Jan 11, 2020
The time has come for us to think differently about how we get around in Vermont while investing in our rural communities, and rural voters seem to agree. Read More
Decade Ahead Calls for New Conservation Vision
Times Argus | Dec 20, 2019
The decade ahead demands a new vision for our Green Mountain State, one that will turn the tide on our environmental impacts and fully address our way of living on this planet. Read More
Hunting & Conservation: Making Room for All
Times Argus | Nov 01, 2019
Hunting & conservation have helped recover much of our wildlife, their habitats and our forests. Vermonters directly benefit from making room for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. Read More
Focus On What Unites Us
Times Argus | Sep 13, 2019
If we are serious about tackling the biggest challenge facing people and the planet today, there is one thing we can do that will make the biggest difference: Talk to one another. Read More
Tapping the Potential of Our Forests
Times Argus | Jul 26, 2019
Healthy forests are key to a climate-resilient future. Forests can offer 37% of the emissions reductions needed to keep the earth's warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. Read More
A Changing Landscape
Times Argus | May 03, 2019
Change in Vermont’s landscapes can be unsettling, but it can also hold opportunities to implement creative solutions to some of our state’s most pressing issues. Read More