Thomas Minney serves as the Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. In this position, he is responsible for working with the West Virginia Business Unit to set and deliver on conservation that benefits nature and the people of West Virginia. Thomas and his team work with various Nature Conservancy business units and partners across the region to set landscape-scale programming and build cross-boundary approaches to ensure effective conservation in the face of large-scale threats like climate change and opportunities such as forest carbon and renewable energy. He is also responsible for linking West Virginia Business Unit work to the Central Appalachians Whole System Program and to the TNC global community.
Minney has served in various roles for The Nature Conservancy prior to his current position, including serving as the Central Appalachians Whole System Program Director and the Conservation Programs Director for The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. In his role as Conservation Programs Director, he was responsible for leading staff to set conservation priorities, building effective programming and implementing innovative and effective strategies to achieve on-the-ground results to protect West Virginia’s natural resources.
Minney has worked closely with private landowners, industry, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, WV Division of Natural Resources, researchers and scientists, energy industry partners and others to identify, prioritize, protect and restore the Central Appalachians and West Virginia’s most significant natural assets.
A native of Gilmer County, West Virginia, Minney received his undergraduate degrees in political science and history from Shepherd College. Upon graduation, he spent several years abroad working in Japan. After leaving Japan, he completed a master’s degree in development studies at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. Before returning to West Virginia to work for the Nature Conservancy, he served as Director of the New Forests Project in Washington, DC.
Minney resides in Elkins, West Virginia, and enjoys life with his two sons. He enjoys growing a large vegetable garden with his children, keeping up with his Japanese and taking his boys on hunts and hikes in the woods to hand down to them what his father taught him about the natural world.
Recent Poll Shows West Virginians Open to Energy Transformation
September 29, 2021
Recently, The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia joined with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce to release polling data from a statewide voter survey regarding issues around energy and the economy. The survey was conducted by Research America, a well-known national pollster that has worked with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce for many years, led by a native West Virginian.
For some time, policymakers have been having conversations in the hallways of government about truly diversifying West Virginia’s economy and ensuring that the inevitable energy transformation coming to the nation would not leave our great state behind. However, that dialogue was often tempered by a lack of knowing as to whether the people of the state were prepared to openly have the conversation.
Without question, the survey’s data found that while West Virginians are very proud of their energy heritage, West Virginians recognize change, and they fully see the need to lead in the new economy. There are jobs to be had with cleaner and renewable energy production from which West Virginia can tremendously benefit, and they want them.
The polling also explored beyond the energy question to see what West Virginian voters felt the future should hold. In looking at potential elements of a broad infrastructure improvement plan, people saw the most benefit in high-speed broadband and securing electricity grids across the state.
More than half (53%) of voters in coal-producing counties said things in West Virginia are currently headed in the wrong direction, and only 27% feel that it will get better in the future. While optimism about the current state-of-affairs and the future of West Virginia was lacking, there is a willingness and desire for change. Encouraging was that half (49%) of the voters surveyed in that area are willing to move to another part of West Virginia if there are well paying jobs and better opportunities in new industries.
The future of West Virginia will be in finding how to get things accomplished to meet the needs and expectations to participate in and lead on the new economy. West Virginians are not looking to hold onto the past as much as they wish to ensure a strong economic future for themselves and their families. They understand the economic and energy landscape has already changed dramatically in the last several years and continues to do so. Therefore, we all need to come together and look to the future facing solutions to make the state a better place for ourselves and for generations to come.
The most recent census data shows not only has West Virginia lost a higher population percentage than any other state in the nation, but that some counties have had massive decline in their population in just a decade. McDowell (-17.6%), Wyoming (-12.7%), Mingo (-11.4%), Logan (-11.3%) and Boone (-10.9%) Counties lead the state in percentage of population loss.
We must find ways to stave off this decline and offer our residents and their children new and better opportunities. West Virginia cannot afford to not have these conversations out in the public. We can no longer afford to operate in silos and not talk openly to each other about solutions.
Solutions start with conversations. The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia and our collaborator on this poll—the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce—understood that these types of conversations start by asking questions about what people feel and want. And now with data showing all of us that West Virginians are ready and willing to look to the future and have the conversation openly, we can all begin to work together.
West Virginia Executive Director
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