Press Release

Sonoma Land Trust announces new leader

Jul 8, 2019
Elizabeth Pepin Silva


Sean Dowdall
President, Landis PR
(415) 286-7121 (cell)

Eamon O’Byrne appointed executive director as of September 9

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. — After a national search, the Sonoma Land Trust board of directors has chosen award-winning conservation leader Eamon O’Byrne of The Nature Conservancy’s California Chapter as the organization’s new executive director. O’Byrne will succeed Dave Koehler, who is retiring. O’Byrne joined The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2008, initially serving as the California Chapter’s associate director of operations and then, in 2013, becoming director of the California Islands Program. Recognized for his ability to manage large, multi-faceted projects, he led a team of scientists, conservation practitioners and partners in the ecological restoration and recovery of the Conservancy’s 52,000-acre Santa Cruz Island Preserve.

In this role, O’Byrne also spearheaded cross-island collaborations to protect the extraordinary biological diversity of the archipelago, widely known as the Galapagos of North America, and to develop innovative restoration tools to build resiliency into fast-changing ecosystems. In 2015, he and his team received the prestigious Endangered Species Recovery Champion Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their contributions to the recovery of the endangered Island fox — representing the fastest recovery of an endangered mammal in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

“Eamon has made major contributions to protecting California’s natural heritage and brings both Bay Area and worldwide connections and perspectives,” says Sonoma Land Trust board chair Allison Sanford. “We are so happy and proud to have him joining us for the next chapter of our history and look forward to great things ahead.”

Raised in Dublin, Ireland, O’Byrne, 52, developed a passion for working in conservation when he and his wife traveled across the United States on their way to California 25 years ago, visiting several National Parks along the way.

“I couldn’t believe that a country would protect so many remarkable landscapes and natural resources,” he says. “It captured my imagination and made me want to do my part to conserve more. And now, with climate change lifting the tides and scorching the land, it has become even more urgent.”

O’Byrne’s nonprofit career began in 2000 with the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association, first as the education program manager and then as executive director. In his 20s, he was active in adventure sports, serving as a professional guide and instructor in sailing, hiking and outdoor-based team building. He is also a former yacht racer, professional mariner and charter boat skipper.

“Eamon is an exciting choice and I look forward to supporting his leadership of Sonoma Land Trust into the future,” says current executive director Dave Koehler. “His breadth and depth of experience in conservation and nonprofit management, and his personal commitment to protecting biodiversity and engaging culturally diverse communities with the land will continue the Land Trust’s upward trajectory in protecting the land for everyone’s benefit.”

O’Byrne graduated from University College, Dublin, with a double major in English and history. His wife, Stephanie Linder, also a conservationist, is the executive director of the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society and former advancement director at the Sierra Club.

“When we first moved to California, I fell in love with the breathtaking coastlines and forests of Sonoma County,” says O’Byrne. “That bond has only grown stronger over the years and I’m looking forward to being part of Sonoma Land Trust’s work to make Sonoma County a resilient and thriving place for generations to come.”

O’Byrne’s first day at the Land Trust will be September 9.