Politics & Government

Who’s running SC’s oldest conservation group? A former student who worked her way up

Sara Green began working at the S.C. Wildlife Federation in 1997 when she was a student at the University of South Carolina.

Now, she’s in charge of the federation, the oldest conservation group in the state.

The federation announced Tuesday her appointment to become its next director, replacing Ben Gregg, who retired this past winter. As director, Green said she’ll work with different interest groups, ranging from hunters to birdwatchers, to promote wildlife conservation.

“I’m honored to be in the position to bring these different perspectives together to look at ways to improve and increase habitat for wildlife,’’ Green said in a news release.

Green’s rise to executive director follows 22 years at the conservation group, where she worked as the federation’s director of education after graduating from USC. Since Gregg’s retirement, she has acted as interim director.

An Ohio native, the 42-year-old Green said she always had a curiosity about nature, but a family trip one year heightened her interest. She visited the Maine coast as a teenager, which hooked the Midwest resident on marine science, she said. That led her to enroll in Carolina’s well-regarded marine science program and eventually landed her at the Wildlife Federation.

As director, Green will oversee a staff of four and a budget of $450,000. The wildlife federation has about 1,000 dues paying members. Green said she hopes to continue the work Gregg did at the federation, while also “trying to reach out to all corners of the state, and being more present in those areas.’’

Gregg, who was recognized by the Legislature for his work at the federation, said Green is a good replacement.

“She’s a very good organizer, she’s very meticulous,’’ Gregg said. “My desk had a bunch of stuff on there that I wouldn’t touch for six months. There’s not a piece of paper on her desk. She gets everything done in a very organized way.’’

The S.C. Wildlife Federation, founded in 1931 as the S.C. Fish and Game Association, is South Carolina’s oldest environmental group. Groups such as the S.C. Coastal Conservation League and the Conservation Voters of South Carolina have a range of issues they deal with, but the Wildlife Federation is more narrowly focused on protecting the state’s wild animals.

Among other things, the federation lobbies for legislation to preserve wildlife and it runs programs to educate people on wildlife habitat. The group also has filed lawsuits seeking to protect animals, such as endangered sea turtles. In addition, the group works to restore native Longleaf pine forests that provide habitat for an array of animals, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.