Protecting the waters, woodlands and wildlife of the New River Watershed


New River Conservancy envisions a completely healthy New River watershed which is where people want to live, work and play.

NRC believes that clean water, healthy land, and empowered people benefit our communities and the watershed. The watershed includes all the streams and brooks that feed the river and all of the forest, fields and communities that surround it.

How We Work


Share and Foster Research

Establish a highly credible and respected entity to influence public policy development, promote sound environmental decision making and guide direct action that protects or improves the health of the New River watershed.


Educate and Inspire

Instill a collective vigilance in citizens and communities to advocate for policies that recognize the river as a vital resource, educate planners on ways to develop land use policies that minimize or eliminate negative impacts on the River’s watershed, and encourage agencies to enforce regulations that protect the river’s health.


Protect and Restore

Land conservation, permanent sustainable management plans and river and stream restoration, New River Conservancy’s direct citizen action is critical to ensure the River’s health and beauty.

Our Board

Laura Walters - Chair and Executive Committee Chair

Laura has lived in Southwest Virginia all her life, spending summers growing up on Claytor Lake, where she now lives with her husband Jeff and rescue pets. She received her degrees in Psychology and Business from Radford University. Laura has three children. Laura founded Career Directions, Consulting and Outplacement firm in 1989, serving as President until retiring in 2011. Laura believes in giving back, serving on various boards and organizations. Current volunteer work includes Chair of New River Conservancy, Past President of FOCL (Friends of Claytor Lake), Financial Officer U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 83, Vice Chair, Clean Community Council, Friends of Peak Creek Board, Boating Safety Instructor for VDGIF, and Chair, Claytor Lake Technical Advisory Committee and Virginia Safe Boating Council.

Larry McGee - Treasurer and Finacial Oversite Committee Chair

Larry is a North Carolina Board member and Treasurer of New River Conservancy. He is Chair of the NRC Financial Oversight Committee. Larry is retired General Counsel at Novant Health. He attended Wake Forest School of Law.

Ellen Darden - Leadership Development Committee Chair

Ellen is a Blacksburg, Virginia resident and chairs the Leadership Development Committee for the New River Conservancy. Ellen received her PhD from Virginia Tech University and is currently a Professor at Concord University and active business consultant. Ellen has been very active in the Stop the Pipeline fight.

Anna Ziegler - Land Protection Committee Chair

Anna is an experienced attorney practicing in areas of real estate, property law, conservation easements and local government law. Ms. Ziegler received Juris Doctor with the certification in environmental law from the University of Montana School of Law in Missoula, Montana. During law school, she focused most of her studies on land use planning. In 2005, Ms. Ziegler returned to her hometown in Southern WV to join her father in his law practice. In January 2006, they became the law firm of Ziegler and Ziegler LC. Ms. Ziegler’s primary areas of interest include conservation easement and local government law. She represents several government, quasi-government and non-profit land trusts. Ms. Ziegler is an active member of her community. She serves on the board of directors for the New River Conservancy and is chair of the group’s land protection committee. She is a member of the Rotary Club and treasurer for her roller derby team.

Peter Huber

Pete is from Pulaski, Virginia where he lives with his wife Pat. Pete is recently retired as Pulaski County Administrator, bringing much government and community expertise to the New River Conservancy. Pete is also an Adjunct Professor at Virginia Tech. Pete received his Masters in Geography and Education from Appalachian State University and BS in Land Use Planning from Emory and Henry University.

Debby Sizemore

Debby is from Oak Hill, West Virginia and is currently Southern West Virginia Division President for Premier Bank Inc. She is a graduate of Mountain State University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership Management Development. Debby is active in several community and non-profit organizations, including board member of Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Southern West Virginia, Tamarack Foundation for the Arts, Fayette County Planning Commission, New River Conservancy and Rotary Club of Beckley.

Jerimiah Johnson

Jerimiah is a West Virginia board member and Manager of the Beckly Sanitary Board. He is a graduate of Duke University with a Masters Environmental Management and Emory and Henry University with a BS in Biology and brings expertise to New River Conservancy in the areas of wastewater utility management, stormwater management, water permitting, green infrastructure, watershed management, water quality monitoring and data analysis, stormwater financing, sediment and erosion control, water policy, and GIS.

Scott Jones

Scott is a principal and Chief Financial Officer at Arbor Investment Advisors in Winston-Salem, NC. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Flagler College in 1996, a Masters of Business Administration from Wake Forest University in 2000 and has held the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation since 2007. Throughout his career, Scott has been an active volunteer and not-for-profit board member. He and his wife, Mary, have three sons and one daughter and his interests include running, cycling, fishing, hiking and travel.

Mike O'Connor

Mike and his wife Elizabeth call Blowing Rock, North Carolina home. He had a 24 year career in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps retiring as a Captain with assignments around the world including Commanding Officer of the Presidential Retreat Camp David. He then spent 12 years at Appalachian State University as the head of campus facilities where he helped the University garner national recognition as a leader in sustainability. He earned his BS in Mining Engineering from Penn State, an MS in Environmental Engineering from the University of Maryland, and attended the Duke Fuqua School of Business Advanced Management Program. He is a registered Professional Engineer in North Carolina and California. He is currently semi-retired providing facilities related consulting services to a number of clients. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast and loves skiing, cycling, and hiking.

Melanie Seiler

Melanie is the founding executive director of Active Southern West Virginia providing free physical activity programs throughout the New River Gorge region led by volunteer community members to improve the health of the workforce. Melanie grew up in a family owned rafting outfitter becoming a river guide on the New River at age 18. Now she enjoys introducing the sport of stand up paddle boarding to the area and has directed the New River Gorge SUP Race for the last 7 years.

Danny Wilson

Danny is a resident of Radford, VA where he lives with his wife and son. Danny has over 12 years of experience in planning, zoning, design, and land development. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and an ISA Certified Arborist. He has worked in South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Danny is the owner of New Riverside Consulting, LLC, a firm that specializes in land development, planning, site selection, and executive management consulting for both the private industry and local government. His educational background includes a BS in Ornamental Horticulture, a MS in Landscape Architecture, and a Masters Certificate in Local Government Management, all through Virginia Tech. He also holds a Certificate in Building a Community Oriented Technology Incubation Program from Clemson University.

Zach Armentrout

Zach lives in Fayetteville, WV and is a Commercial Real Estate Development Manager for Paramount Development Corporation. He is a graduate of West Virginia University, earning a Master's in Business Administration as well as a Bachelor of Science in Finance. With deep family roots in the outdoor industry, Zach has immersed himself in outdoor recreation, this year being his 15th season as a whitewater rafting guide on the New and Gauley Rivers. Zach recently served as the Chief Operations Officer at Adventures on the Gorge where he oversaw all outdoor activities and he retains an ownership stake in the company. He has participated in and organized numerous river and highway cleanups and spends his free time with family and friends enjoying Appalachia's vast recreational opportunities.

Our Staff & Team

George Santucci, President

George Santucci has been president of New River Conservancy since mid-November 2005. From April 1998 to November 2005 he worked for North Carolina Cooperative Extensions Ashe Center as a 4H Program Associate, Outdoor Education. While with Extension, George started 4H Blue Ridge Conservation Corps a workforce preparation, academic and behavior improvement program for Ashe County high school students. BRCC did trail construction, park and river clean-ups, campsite construction and river restoration projects. He was introduced to the New River while running 4H's summer Wilderness Experience camping program. Prior to his work with Extension, George was a high school Math teacher in the Bronx, an Instructor with the North Carolina Outward Bound School and an Adjunct Instructor in Appalachian State University's Recreation Management Department. He has paddled, biked and climbed along the New River. His passion for environmental conservation was intensified during four months spent leading Outward Bound Courses in the Florida Everglades. Seeing the wholesale alteration of an entire ecosystem as rare and unique as the Everglades led him to dedicating his professional life to the preservation and protection of natural wild places.

Chelsea Blount, Restoration Director

A Northern Arkansas native, Chelsea gained an appreciation as a child for the mountains and streams that surrounded her family home, frequently packing a bag of Little Debbie snacks and exploring the woods against her mother’s orders. Her family moved to Granville County, North Carolina in 2003. At NC State, Chelsea majored in animal sciences and planned on going on to veterinary school for large domestic animals, but heard the mountains calling. After two years in Raleigh, she transferred to Appalachian State where she graduated with a B.S. in Biology and received a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). After interning with New River Conservancy in the summer of 2014, she became familiar with the River Builder Program and now works as River Builder Coordinator.

Summer Rich, Communications Director

Summer, the New River Conservancy's new Communications and Outreach Coordinator, comes to the High Country from Morehead City, North Carolina. Growing up on the coast, the mountains always felt like some distant land, full of mystery and magic, which Summer always found appealing. While she had never lived more than walking distance from the ocean, her college career brought her first to Winston Salem where she received her B.A in Sociology and Psychology from Salem College, and eventually Appalachian State University where she received her Master’s in Public Administration. Upon arriving the High Country she immediately found peace on the New River. While her journey so far has been full of changes and surprises, her passion for conservation, protecting the environment, and serving the nonprofit sector have remained.

Suzanne Joyner, Upper New River Water Quality Coordinator

Suzanne grew up in the outskirts of Rochester, New York and spent as much time as possible exploring the woods behind her home. She matriculated at NC State University, graduating with a BS degree in Biological Sciences. She later completed a five course program in Computer Science. She was employed for twenty years by the pharmaceutical firm, Burroughs Wellcome, as a Research Scientist, working in antibiotic research, as well as analyzing chemotherapeutic cancer agents. During college and beyond, Suzanne and her husband Ron, spent many weekends white water paddling in the mountains of NC, VA and WV. Falling in love with the mountains, they moved to Ashe County in 1995 establishing an apple orchard and apple tree nursery. For many years they volunteered with the National Committee for the New River (now the New River Conservancy) performing water monitoring tests on Big Horse Creek, which flows near their farm, as well as Buffalo Creek and the North Fork of the New River.

Outfitters 4, Finance Manager

Outfitters4 was founded in 2012 and we exist to assume the burdens of routine management so our nonprofit clients can focus on their missions. Outfitters4 is a full-service resource equipping nonprofits for success. We provide integrated support through outsourced staff and routine operations, partnership in core management services, and consultation or referral for all facets of organizational development and operations. As New River Conservancy's Finance Manager, Outfitters4 manages NRC's bookkeeping, financial reporting, payroll, as well as the annual audit and tax return process.