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Meet our senior staff members.

Jennifer Benito-Kowalski (left), Chief Communications Officer, and Suzanne Moss, Campaign Director, tour the League-protected Shady Dell property. Photo by Paolo Vescia
Jennifer Benito-Kowalski, Chief Communications Officer, (left) and Suzanne Moss, Campaign Director, tour the League-protected Shady Dell property. Photo by Paolo Vescia

Guided by our Board of Directors, our executive team leads our staff in carrying out our mission to protect and restore redwood forests and connect people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish.

Senior Staff

Sam Hodder

President and Chief Executive Officer

Sam Hodder joined the League as its President and CEO in September of 2013. Sam brings more than 20 years of conservation experience in California, Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire and Maine to guide the League into its second century of protecting redwood forestland.

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Sam has spent his career managing and overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city, conserving forests, waterways, green spaces, working farms, urban trails, and all manner of wild places for people to enjoy. Inspired by the social and environmental benefits that open spaces provide, his passion for protecting and connecting people with the outdoors has guided his career and ultimately brought him to the League after nearly 20 years with The Trust for Public Land.

Since joining the League in 2013, Sam has guided the development of its Centennial Vision, a bold 100-year plan to accelerate the pace and scale of the League’s mission to Protect and Restore the redwood forest and Connect people to its peace and beauty. As the League’s Centennial year of 2018 approaches, Sam has overseen: the protection of over 8,800 acres of redwood forestland from the Prairie Creek Corridor in Redwood National and State Parks to the Case Mountain Reserve in the southern Sierra; the stewardship and restoration of thousands of acres of young redwood forest; the advancement of pioneering discoveries in the canopy of the old-growth forest through the League’s Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative; and the inspiration of millions of moments of awe and transformation through investments in redwood trails, education programs, and park improvements.

A graduate of Princeton University and an enthusiastic explorer of California’s parks and trails, Sam lives with his wife Kendra and four sons in the East Bay, where they enjoy the great redwoods of the East Bay Regional Park system.

 

Jennifer Benito-Kowalski

Chief Communications Officer

Jennifer joined the League in 2007 to lead the organization’s marketing communications and outreach efforts to connect people to the peace and beauty of the redwood forests.

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A Bay Area native, Jennifer brings several years of journalism, marketing communications and media relations experience in the public and private sectors to her work. She has worked for Entertainment Tonight, KQED Public Broadcasting, MTV Networks and EXTRA. Jennifer holds a BA in communications from the University of California, San Diego and an MS in integrated marketing communications from Golden Gate University. She is also the recipient of many marketing communications awards including IABC’s Gold Quill, PR News’ Nonprofit PR Award, PR News’ PR People Award, the Communicator Award, California Special Districts Award, California Association of Public Information Officers MarComm award and more. When Jennifer is not working she loves to cook, hike and travel with her husband to random destinations throughout the U.S. to explore cities large and small to learn about our nation’s history.

 

Emily Burns

Director of Science

Emily joined the League’s staff in 2010 after studying redwood forest ecology for seven years.

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She has a PhD in the physiological influence of climate on coast redwood forest plants from the University of California (UC). At UC, she discovered that 80 percent of redwood forest species can absorb fog water directly through their leaves to stay hydrated during California’s dry summer months. Emily conducted research as postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz, on the drought tolerance of redwood forest ferns. In 2009, she worked with Chabot Space & Science Center to initiate a citizen science research project for the redwood forest that uses the sword fern as an indicator species of climate change. This project engages volunteers to collect important data needed to understand climate change impacts on local flora. She is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and continues to publish her botanical research in peer-reviewed literature.

“The redwood forest is home to truly amazing plants and animals that we are only just beginning to understand,” Emily said. “I’m thrilled to support new innovative research that will help us unravel the many remaining mysteries about the ancient coast redwood and giant sequoia ecosystems.”

 

Rolando Cohen

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Rolando joined the League in 2004 as the Chief Financial Officer.

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He was born in the Congo, lived in Brazil, South Africa and in New York, before finally making his home in San Francisco in 1990. He was a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and became a Chartered Accountant in South Africa, as well as a CPA in the United States. He has always been passionate about the preservation of the environment, and he finally decided to make the move to marry that passion with his professional vocation in joining the League. He says, “I am so gratified to be able to make my contribution towards the attainment of the League’s mission to save the redwoods. I am humbled when I reflect on these glorious trees and contrast the length of their existence with human history.”

 

Suzanne Moss

Campaign Director

Suzanne has over 25 years of fundraising, marketing, and conservation experience. She began her career at the Save the Redwoods League as Production Manager, where she wrote and produced all fundraising and communication materials.

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Before recently returning to the League, Suzanne had held several leadership positions in development for the Western Region of the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization headquartered in San Francisco. Since 1994, she had worked in the capacity of Regional Director of Development, Major Gifts Officer, and most recently, as Director of Campaigns. Her fundraising experience at TPL included raising significant private capital in support of land acquisition projects, in addition to raising funds to launch several new programs at TPL, including the Urban Parks and Playground Initiative in SF and LA, the California Center for Land Recycling, the Hawaiian Islands Program, the California Coastal Campaign, and the Sierra Checkerboard Initiative.

Before TPL, Suzanne held the position of Director of Development for the California League of Conservation Voters and Friends of the River. Suzanne has been an active member of the Bay Area environmental community, and has served on many boards and advisory councils. Suzanne is a graduate of UC Berkeley where she studied physiological and clinical psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, rafting, skiing, photography, music, gardening, international travel, and fine food and wine. She lives in Walnut Creek, California, with her husband and son.

 

Harry Pollack

General Counsel

Harry joined Save the Redwoods League’s staff in 2011. He brings over 30 years of experience in the fields of law and real estate transactions.

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Prior to joining the League, Harry Pollack was the owner of Conservation Partners, a conservation law firm dedicated to promoting the preservation of land for the public interest. In addition to his professional work, he has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations. Harry is on the Board of Directors of the California Council of Land Trusts (CCLT) and also serves on CCLT’s Government Relations Committee. In his spare time, he also serves on the City of Berkeley’s Planning Commission.

 

Paul Ringgold

Chief Program Officer

Paul joined the League in July 2015. He came to us with nearly 30 years of land management and conservation experience.

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Most recently, Paul was vice president of land stewardship at Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) in Palo Alto, Calif. He was at POST for 16 years, creating strategies for the permanent protection of conservation values and natural resources on all POST-protected lands and easements. Prior to that, he worked as a policy research associate at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation in Washington, D.C., and served as staff forester, lands manager and ecosystem research program director with the University of Washington. He holds a master of forest science degree from Yale University and a bachelor of science degree in forest resources management from the University of Washington. He currently serves as advisory council chair of the Bay Area Open Space Council. A Los Angeles native, he lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.

 

Tim Whalen

Chief Development Officer

Tim Whalen has over 20 years of fundraising leadership experience in the San Francisco Bay Area and a proven track record of creating and implementing comprehensive development programs and campaigns to achieve fundraising goals.

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Recognized as a creative, dedicated team leader and a highly effective manager, Tim was most recently the Associate Director of Development at the San Francisco Symphony where he was responsible for the Symphony’s individual giving programs, raising over $23 million annually. Prior to the Symphony, Tim was the Senior Director of Development and Gift Planning a the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco where he conceived and implemented a $25 million endowment campaign, exceeding the campaign goal by raising a total of $31 million while significantly increasing the annual giving programs during the same period. Additionally, Tim has served in development leadership roles for Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and KQED, San Francisco’s public television and radio station. Prior to his fundraising career, Tim was a Captain in the United States Army. Originally from the Black Hills of South Dakota, Tim received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

“Ever since I arrived in the Golden State over two decades ago, I have been in awe of the redwoods which are emblematic of California’s natural beauty,” Tim said. ” As we gain new understandings of the redwoods and their benefits to mitigating the impacts of climate change, I’m even more inspired to help protect and restore the redwood forests.”