State Director, Idaho
Mark came to The Nature Conservancy after serving for 14 years as the Executive Director for the Idaho-based Winter Wildlands Alliance. His recent accomplishments also include co-founding the Outdoor Alliance and the Idaho Outdoor Business Council. Prior to that, Mark served as President of the Utah Ski Association/Ski Utah and in communications positions with the U.S. Ski Team, 2002 Winter Olympic Games and Park City Ski Area.
Through these efforts, Mark has been a leading voice and advocate for federal and state conservation funding, public lands policy, climate science and engaging the outdoor recreation community in conservation. Mark feeds his passion for and commitment to Idaho’s wild places through fly fishing, whitewater rafting, backcountry skiing, camping and hiking, most often with his wife, Dana, and his teenaged children, Asa and Eliza.
Mark understands that as the nation’s fastest growing state, Idaho faces unprecedented challenges to the health of its lands, waters and wildlife. And he believes that The Nature Conservancy is uniquely positioned to meet these challenges. Mark earned a BA in Journalism from the University of Utah and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Arizona.
October 15th, 2023
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to spend a week rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with an Indigenous organization called River Newe, whose mission is to reconnect Tribal youth and elders with their ancestral homelands. It was a profound experience that strengthened my commitment to The Nature Conservancy’s mission to conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends.
The opportunity to raft through this sacred landscape helped me reflect on the plight of the river and its namesake fish. The Middle Fork flows through the heart of the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness and is protected by some of the most durable conservation tools we have for public lands. In other reaches of the Salmon River system lacking federal protection, TNC and our partners have spent decades conserving and restoring habitat for salmon. Yet salmon face many challenges to their survival, and the species is dangerously close to extinction.
These iconic fish and the amazing biodiversity they support, as a keystone species in the ecosystem, are threatened because of climate change and the resulting ocean conditions, and by impoundments and blockages that prevent them from reaching their spawning sites. These are all indicators of a system that is out of alignment with nature.
This urgent situation reinforces my belief that all things are connected and that our fate as humans is inextricably tied to the natural world. The solutions to the crises we face are equally connected and interdependent.
It will take all of us working in coordination at the local, regional and global scales to address the issues we face at home and around the world. Therefore, TNC’s ambitions are increasingly focused on scaling our impact across borders. Our salmon program is just one example of this. Building on decades of successful habitat restoration in the Upper Salmon River watershed, our Idaho team is now joining forces with TNC colleagues in Washington, Oregon and Montana to implement a shared vision and plan for the recovery of salmon in the Columbia and Snake River Basin and its tributaries, including the Salmon River.
There are other areas where regional coordination is essential to our success, such as TNC’s efforts to preserve the sagebrush sea, one of the largest natural systems in North America that supports 350 rare, threatened and endangered species. Another example is our multi-state initiative that is focused on unifying our forest restoration and prescribed fire practices to further reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and increase forest resilience across the West.
In all these programs, TNC is addressing landscape-sized problems with landscape-sized solutions. I believe that working together across borders can solve our greatest environmental threats and holds potential for a deeper connection—to each other and the places we love. Your support of The Nature Conservancy’s work in Idaho acknowledges this connection and interdependence and provides us with the resources to do local, on-the-ground work that adds up to global impact.
Thank you for joining us at this critical moment to create a vibrant future, for all of us.
Yours in conservation,