Meet our new leadership team!

Aug 27, 2021

Alison E. Mitchell currently serves as Assistant Director and Acting Director of Development at New Jersey Conservation Foundation, where she has worked for nearly 29 years. Before becoming Assistant Director, she spearheaded the development and management of the Conservation Foundation’s public policy program for over a decade. Alison also worked on land acquisition initiatives and led NJ Conservation’s Conservation Assistance Program, and played a leadership role in the organization’s farmland preservation efforts and farmland policy work. She is the author of two of the Conservation Foundation’s major publications – The New Jersey Highlands: Treasures at Risk and Gaining Ground: a farmland policy report.

In addition to her work at the Conservation Foundation, Alison’s past accomplishments include serving as a founding trustee and former president of the Hunterdon Land Trust, member of the Board of Trustees of Isles, member of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, graduate of Lead New Jersey, and member of the advisory committee of the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station Board of Managers at Rutgers University.

In the 1990’s, she joined the U.S-German Environmental Policy Exchange Program sponsored by the Heinrich Boll Foundation. The program fostered transatlantic meetings and site visits to share of information and ideas among nonprofit and high level government agency staff.

During her graduate studies she worked with Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) – a Boston based nonprofit focused on air quality policy. Prior to joining NJ Conservation Foundation, Alison interned with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and The Wilderness Society. She recently joined the Board of Trustees of Buckingham Friends School.

She holds an MA in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University and a BA in International Relations from Connecticut College.

Tom Gilbert has served since 2015 as Campaign Director for Energy, Climate and Natural Resources. In this role he has led the statewide “Rethink Energy NJ” campaign to stop unneeded fossil fuel infrastructure, including the PennEast pipeline, and to advance landmark new clean energy and climate policies. Previously, he served as Senior Conservation Finance Director with the Trust for Public Land where he chaired the NJ Keep It Green Coalition and led successful campaigns to secure approval of a $400 million bond measure in 2009 and constitutional amendment in 2014 that created a stable source of funding for New Jersey’s land and historic preservation programs. Previously, Tom also served as Director of Eastern Forest Conservation for the Wilderness Society, and Executive Director of the NY/NJ/PA/CT Highlands Coalition, where he led successful campaigns to pass both federal and New Jersey state legislation to protect critical lands and waters in the Highlands region. Tom earned his B.A. in History and M.S. in Natural Resources Planning from the University of Vermont. He was a founding board member of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and currently serves on its board.

John S. Watson, Jr (“Jay”) is the Senior Director for Statewide Land Protection and Community Relations for New Jersey Conservation Foundation. He has been working to protect New Jersey’s landscape and environment for nearly 40 years.

Prior to joining the nonprofit land conservancy sector, Jay spent nearly 30 years in various roles in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Beginning his career as a Project Manager for the Green Acres Program, he worked his way up to ultimately become the Program’s Administrator.

Jay was appointed Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources where he oversaw the work of multiple Divisions and offices including – Parks and Forestry; Historic Preservation; Fish and Wildlife; the Green Acres Program; Shore Protection; Dam Safety and others. In 2006 Jay was appointed Deputy Commissioner of NJDEP, the title from which he retired from State government in 2010.

During his long tenure with the Department he managed conservation and environmental projects across New Jersey’s diverse landscape and has played a part in the protection and enhancement of many of its special places.

He has represented former Governors and DEP Commissioners on the Delaware River Basin Commission; Co-chaired the New Jersey Invasive Species Council; and served on the NYNJ Harbor Estuary Program Policy Committee; New Jersey Natural Lands Trust; The Environmental Justice Advisory Council; the State Agricultural Development Committee; The Garden State Preservation Trust; and others.

He is currently on various governance / advisory boards including – The Garden State Agrihood Project; The Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp.; Trenton Cycling Revolution; Truehart Productions and The Bunbury Fund.

Throughout his career he has advocated for protection of our special natural lands and habitats in New Jersey, while also consistently advocating for enhancing the environment and quality of life in our State’s urban areas.

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The State We're In


By Michele S. Byers,
Executive Director