About Us

Georgia ForestWatch 81 Crown Mountain Place Building C, Suite 200 Dahlonega, GA 30533 | info@gafw.org | 706.867.0051

Georgia ForestWatch sees a future where people can enjoy forests that have reached their full majesty, where intact natural processes support healthy ecosystems and thriving biodiversity, and clean streams supply water to millions of Georgians. We believe this future requires the protection and appreciation of Georgia’s national forests, and the watersheds, native plants and wildlife they encompass.

Our mission is to enhance the health of over 867,000 acres of Georgia’s national forest by protecting our forests and streams, advocating for natural processes, and identifying opportunities to improve forest management.

Georgia ForestWatch Strategic Plan (2020-2025)
Georgia ForestWatch Bylaws (updated 2019)


J.D. McCrary, Executive Director director@gafw.org

J.D. McCrary joined Georgia ForestWatch in September 2021 as Executive Director.

J.D.’s love of the forest dates back to his summers at the YMCA on Lake Burton and as a whitewater raft guide. J.D. holds a Masters in International Development from Tulane University, has a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgia State University and a B.A. in Education from Georgia Southern University. He is also a graduate of Harvard University Business School’s executive course Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management.

With a domestic and international career of over 25 years, he has had the unique opportunity to work on all seven continents. Much of his career has focused on alleviating forced human migration, and he began working with refugees in the process of building a nonprofit program providing employment and reconstruction services in Iraq and Palestine. His overseas experience also includes serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Morocco. Since 2008 J.D. has served refugees, survivors of human trafficking, and other immigrants domestically seeking a safe place to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. He is the founding chair of the Welcome Co-Op, an organization supporting newly arriving refugees in Georgia with housing and other essential services, and is a founder of the public outreach and advocacy group the Coalition of Refugee Serving Agencies.

Maria Klouda, Communications Coordinator mklouda@gafw.org

Maria joined Georgia ForestWatch in February 2022. She has experience in publishing, fundraising, marketing, advertising, brand management, and event planning. Her writing has been published in various outlets and has earned a Pushcart prize nomination. Typically regional in focus, her pieces rely heavily on a sense of place. Environmental issues often drive the topics of her work. A life-long resident of Georgia, Maria enjoys traveling and hiking. Maria earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University, an MBA from Brenau University, and a BBA in Marketing from the University of West Georgia.

Rachel Ness, Development Coordinator rness@gafw.org

Rachel joined the Georgia ForestWatch team in October 2022 as our Development Coordinator. She has been involved in the nonprofit field since 2014 and has three years of experience in development and fundraising, with a special interest in grant writing. She holds a postgraduate degree from Georgia State University. 

Rachel is excited to combine her interest in nonprofit development with her love of Georgia’s forests, in support of Georgia ForestWatch’s work in protecting the state’s forests and natural resources. 


Angela Butler-Hackett, Office Assistant info@gafw.org

Angela holds a degree in Recreation Therapy from the University of Georgia, and has focused on wellness for more than 35 years. She has taught fitness and wellness for older adults for over 25 years in settings including independent living, assisted living, long-term care, and physical rehabilitation. Her career path has provided opportunities for management at varying levels. Angela’s ongoing quest for mindfulness and wellness always leads her back to nature and appreciating its resources. Her goal is to support the mission of Georgia ForestWatch in preserving and protecting our natural resources.

Andrew Linker, Outreach Coordinator alinker@gafw.org

Deciding to be the change he wishes to see, Andrew has been involved with many nonprofits surrounding sustainable land management in Georgia since 2014 and has been on staff with Georgia ForestWatch since April 2019. With a strong communications and outreach background, he is instrumental in the Outings and educational programs. Andrew attended the University of North Georgia and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Studies with a mapping Certificate in Geographical Information Systems (G.I.S.) from the Institute of Environmental and Spatial Analysis. In his spare time, he Chairs the Board of Directors of Certified Naturally Grown, Co-manages Northeast Georgia Locally Grown Farmers Market, and is the Land Steward at Humble Vine Farm.

Board of Directors:
Anne Heikkila, President
Trushar Mody, Treasurer
Melanie Vickers, Secretary
Nick Nichols
Janet Westervelt
Ken Cissna
Ted Doll
Marie Dunkle
Brian Gist
David Govus
Sue Harmon
Neill Herring
Robin Hitner
Brent Martin
Gina Rogers
Cliff Shaw
Dennis Stansell
Kathy Stege
James Sullivan
District Leaders:
email: district_leaders@gafw.org

Conasauga Ranger District
David Govus
Robin Hitner

Blue Ridge Ranger District
Dave Blackley
Nick Nichols
Larry Winslett

Chattooga River Ranger District
Melanie Vickers

Oconee Ranger District
J.P. Schmidt

Welcome to Our New Board Members:

June 2021. Janet Westervelt is a Georgia native currently living in Habersham County. She began her environmental advocacy work in the 1980’s, volunteering for the Sierra Club Adopt-A-Stream program and leading outings. She is currently a Board Member of the Soque River Watershed Association and an organizer for HemlockFest, sponsored by the Lumpkin Coalition. She was the Headwaters Outreach Manager for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper for two years. Janet has been an active GAFW member for 18 years, participating in numerous outings, events and Annual Retreats where she has often led “Owl Prowls.” She participated in a majority of the Forest Service Foothills Landscape Collaborative activities. Janet spent her 30-year career teaching and administering in Montessori schools. She supplemented her BA in Education with environmental education training from Oxford Institute for Environmental Education, Elachee Nature Center and the Environmental Educators Alliance of Georgia. She enjoys kayaking, hiking, gardening, nature photography and remodeling her short “skoolie” bus, which she takes on adventures in National Forests.

Georgia ForestWatch 81 Crown Mountain Place Building C, Suite 200 Dahlonega, GA 30533 | info@gafw.org | 706.867.0051