The Oconee River Land Trust employs a dedicated staff with expertise and experience in natural resource conservation, environmental law, and other critical areas of knowledge necessary to effectively lead and manage a major nonprofit conservation organization.
Steffney Thompson, an attorney with expertise in environmental law and policy, was ORLT’s first staff person and has served as executive director since 1999. She claims Missoula, Montana, as home but also has fond memories of living in places as diverse as the Mogollon Rim in central Arizona and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Living in remote and beautiful areas planted the seed for her commitment to protecting land. Thompson earned her law degree, as well as undergraduate degrees in history and economics, from the University of Arizona. Following graduation, she worked as an environmental practice lawyer with a law firm in Tucson, Ariz. She moved to Athens in 1993 with her husband, a University of Georgia professor. They are the parents of two adult children, and all four enjoy hiking and exploring.
Laura Hall joined ORLT in 2014 as Land Steward, responsible for monitoring environmental conditions at over 200 protected properties and identifying and documenting ecological, cultural and historic resources on new properties nominated for protection. Hall had more than 15 years of experience as a land conservation professional when she joined ORLT. She has a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia and, as part of her degree work, studied permaculture and sustainable design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. In addition to her conservation work, Hall has more than 20 years of experience as a landscape architect in her own practice and with the Jaeger Co. designing and developing sustainable landscapes, native gardens, community gardens, bike and pedestrian paths and open spaces. She and her family enjoy hiking and camping on the Atlantic Coast and in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Dan Crescenzo, who joined ORLT in fall 2016, says the outdoors have played a pivotal role in his life —and almost caused him to change his major at the University of Georgia from philosophy to forestry. Instead, he signed on part-time with ORLT while completing his Ph.D. and publishing articles on the value of species and ecosystems. After graduating, he accepted a full-time position helping to monitor environmental conditions on conservation easements donated to ORLT, creating maps of CEs and compiling statistics about critical resources that ORLT is protecting. “As I studied the philosophy behind our relationship with our environment, I longed to be doing something more hands-on than academic writing and teaching,” he says. “ORLT has felt like coming home to something I love. My passion has always been for protecting the land and for work that puts me into regular contact with it — that is, for putting philosophy into practice.”
Hadrien graduated from the American University of Paris in 2008 with degrees in global communications and film studies. Since then he has worked many jobs in the music industry as well as emerging tech. However, his interest in and passion for the outdoors led him to ORLT where he began working in February 2019 as stewardship assistant. He now spends hours walking properties that have conservation easements, completing the annual requirements of existing easements. In his free time he enjoys skateboarding, fishing and hanging out with his partner Melissa and their dog, JB.
With a great love for the outdoors and experience working and volunteering for various nonprofit organizations, Theresa joined ORLT to help with development and outreach. Theresa's experience ranges from working on organic farms and as an archaeologist, to becoming a planner and helping communities work to protect valuable resources. One aspect of Theresa's meandering professional path that remains constant is its connection to the land, and her devotion to both protect it and learn from it. Theresa holds an undergraduate degree in anthropology from the College of William and Mary and a master's degree in environmental planning and design from the University of Georgia. She enjoys exploring new places, near and far, with her family.
Sammy graduated from the horticulture department at the University of Georgia with the intention of becoming an organic farmer. While studying at UGA, he realized his love for plants not only included a passion to grow them but also a passion to protect them. He prefers to grow native plants and tries to reintroduce them to areas that have been disturbed and taken over by invasive species. He loves being outdoors learning about plants, animals, and Native American history. Working for ORLT has been a great experience that has allowed him to see and explore the diversity and beauty of Georgia, while helping to protect it.