Press Release

Award-winning conservation leader Dave Koehler selected as executive director

Mar 3, 2015


Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. ­— The Sonoma Land Trust board of directors has chosen award-winning conservation leader Dave Koehler as the organization’s new executive director, succeeding Ralph Benson who retired at the end of February after 12 years. Koehler (pronounced Kay-ler) has served as the executive director of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust since 1990, where he enjoys a reputation for innovation and collaborative conservation, having guided the organization through the planning and establishment of the San Joaquin River Parkway, a 23-mile greenway of conservation lands, parks, trails and river access. 

“We are delighted to have someone of Dave’s caliber and experience taking the lead of Sonoma Land Trust,” says board chair Denny Van Ness. “Dave has a proven track record of developing partnerships and getting people out on the land, both of which are essential for the work we do here as well. The board is eager to introduce Dave to the community.” 

Koehler, 59, developed a passion for conservation as a child growing up in Fresno fishing along the San Joaquin River as often as he could. As an adult, he left a 10-year career in banking when the opportunity arose to work on saving his imperiled river. Since then, he’s been key to collaboratively protecting more than 4,000 acres along a “National Waterway,” a fact that was recognized by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who presented Koehler with the prestigious Partners in Conservation Award in 2011. Now, after 25 years, Koehler is ready for new challenges. 

“It’s a privilege to be joining Sonoma Land Trust and I’m excited to have this opportunity to build upon the organization’s terrific accomplishments,” says Koehler. “Conserving vital natural resources and connecting people to land and waterways is right in my wheelhouse of expertise. I look forward to working with everyone in Sonoma County.” 

At the Parkway and Conservation Trust, Koehler developed a strong coalition of regional, state and national conservation organizations committed to restoring the San Joaquin River, and raised the necessary public policy support and funding for the initiatives to succeed. Working with his staff of 16, he also implemented creative programs that have introduced tens of thousands of people to the river and the land. 

“I am thrilled that our board of directors has selected Dave Koehler to be our next executive director,” says Benson. “Dave has built a great organization with a reputation for solid conservation and innovation. He is just the person to lead Sonoma Land Trust at this point in our evolution.” 

Koehler is a graduate of California State University at Fresno with a degree in environmental biology. He and his wife, Sharon, have two adult sons living in the Bay Area. Koehler will join the Land Trust on April 16; until then, conservation director Wendy Eliot is serving as interim executive director.

About Sonoma Land Trust

Sonoma Land Trust believes land is the foundation of our economy and our community’s health and well-being. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected over 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations, and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.