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 Georgia’s 867,000 acres of 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)


Jess Riddle

Jess Riddle, Executive Director jriddle@gafw.org Jess Riddle has been instrumental in leading our ongoing work with the U.S. Forest Service and conservation groups. His science based understanding of invasive species, prescribed fire, and the environmental impacts of logging has directly impacted and guided our mission. Jess grew up hiking in the Chattahoochee National Forest where he developed an interest in old-growth forests, champion trees, and native flora.  A trained forest ecologist, he earned his MS from the SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where he studied climate influences on tree growth and how that influence varies depending on whether a tree is growing at the southern or northern edge of its range. He has also investigated riparian forests along the Missouri and Sacramento Rivers. Jess is the author of the 2018 edition of Georgia’s Mountain Treasures, an illustrated report showcasing 40 exquisite wild areas within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.

Lyn Hopper Office Manager
Lyn Hopper

Lyn Hopper, Office Manager info@gafw.org Lyn is retired from a 30-year public library career, including service as an independent consultant for libraries and nonprofits, Georgia’s Assistant State Librarian for Library Development, and Director of the Chestatee Regional Library System. She holds post-graduate degrees from Emory University and Florida State University. Lyn lives north of Dahlonega and enjoys a view of the national forest from her front deck.

Angela Butler-Hackett

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

Andrew Linker, Outreach Coordinator  alinker@gafw.org Deciding to be the change he wishes to see, Andrew has become involved in many community efforts in the region surrounding sustainable agriculture. His passions are readily adapted to helping folks connect with our National Forests and understand wise management practices. If he is not on the computer creating visuals of all sorts, you can find him cultivating/foraging edible plants, commuting on two wheels, or exploring the streams and high places of Northeast Georgia. Andrew attended the University of North Georgia and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Studies with a Certificate in Geographical Information Systems (G.I.S.) from the Institute of Environmental and Spatial Analysis.

Board of Directors:
Anne Heikkila, President
Trushar Mody, Treasurer
Melanie Vickers, Secretary
Marie Dunkle
Sue Harmon
Tom MacMillan
Nick Nichols
Janet Westervelt
Stephen Weber
Donald Davis
Ted Doll
Sarah Francisco
David Govus
Robin Hitner
Patrick Hunter
Bob Kibler, M.D.
Gina Rogers
Charles Seabrook
Dennis Stansell
James Sullivan
Mary Topa
District Leaders:

Conasauga Ranger District
David Govus
Robin Hitner

Blue Ridge Ranger District
Dave Blackley
Nick Nichols
Larry Winslett

Chattooga River Ranger District
Melanie Vickers
Marie Dunkle

Oconee Ranger District
J.P. Schmidt

June 2021
Welcome to Our New Board Members:

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.

Stephen Weber went from casual hiker to environmentalist after becoming a homeowner and learning more about the impact of human activity on forests and wildlife. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in Advertising in 2011, Stephen has led marketing teams at everything from small startups to large Fintech businesses. Stephen is a member of several conservation organizations, including Georgia Audubon, Georgia Native Plant Society, Chattooga Conservancy, and the Georgia Conservancy. Currently residing on Black Rock Mountain in Rabun Gap with his wife and two young children, Stephen enjoys paddleboarding, gardening, hiking and reading, while traveling around the southeast with his family. Stephen is passionate about native plants and restoring Georgia’s innate beauty.

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