Media Contact

Scott Artis

Director of Communications

(415) 868-9244 ext. 114

[email protected]

Audubon Canyon Ranch Selects Acting Executive Director and Veteran COO John Petersen as New Executive Director

Preservation leader with 28-year ACR tenure takes helm

Stinson Beach, CA - November 24, 2014 -
Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR), a leader in conservation science, nature education, and preservation, announced today the appointment of John Petersen, a biologist and well-known leader in the Marin and Sonoma Counties environmental community, as its new Executive Director.

Petersen, an accomplished scientist and non-profit manager with a strong record of leadership, joined ACR in 1987 with a Masters Degree in Biology from Sonoma State University. Petersen will be the third Executive Director of the iconic 52-year-old preservation organization.

“I am honored, excited and humbled by the opportunity to lead ACR in its mission,” said Peterson. “We believe that some natural spaces are so important that they should be preserved forever. This core belief remains unchanged and vital after more than 52 years. We connect people to preservation though our science and education programs. We believe that access to, experience in, and understanding of nature is critical to a full life. I look forward to working with all members of the ACR community — our staff, our volunteers, our philanthropic partners, and the individual communities we serve across Marin and Sonoma — as we focus on strengthening every aspect of this great institution.”

“John has demonstrated that he possesses the mix of vision, curiosity and deep respect for nature that is essential to the dynamic leadership required to take this already stellar preservation team to even greater heights,” said ACR founder Martin Griffin. “Being able to select such a qualified candidate from within demonstrates the fundamental strength of the organization.”

“In his 28 years with ACR, John was able to get to know all of our founding preservationists,” added Griffin. “He befriended Clifford Conly, who trusted ACR with Cypress Grove, his crown jewel on Tomales Bay in 1971. John became close with David Bouverie who decided to give his Glen Ellen preserve to ACR in 1979. John has the ability to connect with preservationists and really understand why they care so much about their land.”

As Associate Director in 2008, Petersen led the organization in building a partnership with the late Jim and Shirley Modini, rancher preservationists in Healdsburg. Petersen was a key part of the Modinis’ decision to give their ranch to ACR to protect it in perpetuity. The Modini Mayacamas Preserves, in the mountains northeast of Healdsburg, is ACR’s fourth and largest nature preserve, with over 3,300 acres that include headwaters for the Russian River, many native plants and grasses, and home for bears, mountain lions and other wildlife that require expansive habitat.

“People trust John immensely because he has the innate integrity needed to protect an environmental treasure without compromise,” said Jesse Grantham, ACR Director, Modini trustee and a nationally respected ornithologist who managed sanctuaries for National Audubon Society and recently retired after running the California Condor Recovery Program at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. “In John, Jim and Shirley Modini found a kindred spirit.”

“The Modinis believed that by learning how nature works, we can be better stewards of the land,“ said Diana Ruiz, ACR Director and Modini family friend. “John, and the ACR he helped build, share this belief. Jim and Shirley bonded with him, and the ACR partnership gave them great satisfaction in their final years,” added Ruiz, a Ph.D. candidate in Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz who credits the Modinis as her primary inspiration.

In addition to being a leading preservation organization, ACR has earned the reputation of being a respected employer in Marin and Sonoma Counties. While Petersen was Associate Director, ACR was twice named to the list of Best Places to Work in Sonoma County. As Petersen explains, “ACR recruits people who understand why it is so important to preserve the environmental gems that remain in the Bay Area. The work is meaningful and also fun.” Added Petersen, “We are a small but strong team. The staff’s average tenure with ACR is 10 years, and we believe in learning from those on whose work we are building.”

The average tenure of the ACR‘s 17 emeritus directors is 31 years, and many of them were in attendance at the meeting in which the current directors selected Petersen for the top job.  Petersen succeeded Scott Feierabend, and has served as interim Executive Director since August 2014.

“I’ve built a life and a career at ACR,” said Petersen, who lives in Sonoma and whose wife Carol Cagle is a fourth grade teacher at the Kenwood Elementary School and whose son Ross is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force. He added, “It is a privilege to serve this organization, and its broad community, in this new capacity.”


For more than 50 years, Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) has been dedicated to protecting nature through land preservation, nature education and conservation science.

ACR’s preserves include the Cypress Grove Research Center on Tomales Bay, the 535-acre Bouverie Preserve in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon near Glen Ellen, the 1,000-acre Martin Griffin Preserve on Bolinas Lagoon near Stinson Beach, and the 3,320-acre Modini Mayacamas Preserves above Healdsburg.

ACR is an independent non-profit organization with 501(c)3 status and is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society. ACR’s programs are made possible thanks to the contribution of thousands of hours of volunteer service, and donations from caring individuals, foundations and businesses. Look for ACR on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. For more information, call 415-868-9244, email [email protected] or visit