Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is pleased to announce the promotion of Ryan Sparks to stewardship director.
Sparks joined the land trust as a conservation associate in 2016. In this position, he was responsible for the annual monitoring of more than 5,000 acres of conservation easement lands and assisting with the natural resource management of more than 4,100 acres of conservancy-owned preserves.
In his new role as stewardship director, Sparks will manage and lead the conservancy’s land management program. This includes overseeing the stewardship and legal defense of land trust properties including perpetual conservation easement lands, land trust-owned preserves, and other protected properties on which Foothills Conservancy provides stewardship support and maintenance.
“When I came on board, I helped with projects that were passed down to me by the former stewardship director, now executive director, Andrew Kota,” said Sparks. “I’m looking forward to being more involved in setting future management priorities for Foothills Conservancy’s protected properties.”
One of Sparks’ goals is to get more of the community involved in stewardship projects with the conservancy — a goal he plans to address with the help of Brittany Watkins, an AmeriCorps Project Conserve Volunteer Coordinator working with Foothills Conservancy for the 2018-2019 term.
“We’re pleased to have Ryan advance into the role of stewardship director,” said Andrew Kota. “His excellent work as conservation associate has positioned Foothills Conservancy well to grow our land management and stewardship program and I am confident Ryan is the right person to lead that effort.”
Sparks has an extensive background studying and working in the Southern Appalachian region. He holds both a Master of Forest Resources and a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Organizations from the University of Georgia, as well as degrees in forest management from Haywood Community College and natural resource conservation and management from Western Carolina University. Prior to joining the conservancy, he worked for Forest Stewards, a forestry nonprofit in North Carolina, and was an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member. Growing up in rural Wilkes County, Sparks has a lifelong appreciation for the Western North Carolina region.
“Being stewardship director has been a dream of mine since I started forestry school in 2005,” Sparks said. “It has always been my goal to work for a land trust in this role. It really is the best job in the world.”
Sparks resides in Morganton with his wife, Jessica, nine-year-old daughter Gracie, 20-month-old daughter Maggie, and their beloved pets.