Staff and Fellows


Matthew McKinney with a fishMatthew  McKinney

Matthew McKinney is Director of the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy at The University of Montana where his work focuses on collaborative approaches to natural resource and environmental policy.

Prior to his current position, Matthew served as the founding director of the Montana Consensus Council for 10 years. During the past 20-plus years, he has designed, facilitated, and mediated over 50 public processes on issues related to federal land, water, fish and wildlife, land use, regional planning and resource management, and other public issues. He received a Ph.D. in Natural Resource Policy and Conflict Resolution from The University of Michigan; has published numerous articles in journals and books; co-authored The Western Confluence: A Guide to Governing Natural Resources (Island Press, 2004); and teaches workshops, seminars, and courses on natural resource policy and public dispute resolution.

Matthew is an Adjunct Professor at The University of Montana’s School of Law; Chair of the Natural Resources Conflict Resolution Program (the only graduate-level certificate program of its kind in North America); Senior Associate at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; and Senior Partner with the Consensus Building Institute. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, and was a research fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2000 and 2002. 

When he is not working on natural resource and environmental issues, he can be found hiking, fishing, floating, and otherwise enjoying the outdoors.

See a profiled of selected cases.

Click here to send Matt an email or here to see a list of Matt's publications.

Shawn JohnsonShawn Johnson

Shawn Johnson is Managing Director of the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy at the University of Montana and co-director of the Center’s graduate certificate program in Natural Resources Conflict Resolution.  Shawn organizes and leads strategic planning and capacity building workshops for a wide variety of organizations focused on natural resource policy and management and has served as a facilitator and mediator on issues ranging from land use planning and forest management to conservation priority setting and regional collaboration.

For the past ten years, he has helped advance a joint effort between the Center and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy on regional collaboration and large landscape conservation. The joint effort explores questions of policy, leadership, and governance at regional or landscape scales, where there is often a mismatch between the scale of an existing challenge or opportunity and that of existing organizations and jurisdictions. In May 2011, Shawn helped organize and convene a group of large landscape conservation practitioners that led to a new network of practitioners throughout North America who are working to improve community and conservation outcomes at the large landscape scale -- the Practitioners’ Network for Large Landscape Conservation. Shawn is co-author, with Matthew McKinney, of Working Across Boundaries: People, Nature, and Regions (Lincoln Institute, 2009). He also contributed to Large Landscape Conservation, A Strategic Framework for Policy and Action (Lincoln Institute, 2010) and Remarkable Beyond Borders: People and Landscapes in the Crown of the Continent (Sonoran Institute, 2010). Prior to his work at the Center, Shawn earned a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and spent three years as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Max Baucus.

Peter GurchePeter Gurche

Peter Gurche is an Associate at the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy and the Coordinator of the Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent (, a multi-stakeholder landscape collaborative based in the transboundary northern Rockies. He works to convene, connect, and facilitate collaboration among the many interests at work in the Crown. His past work in the region includes an assessment of wildlife connectivity with the Crown Managers Partnership, and facilitation of US Highway 2 connectivity planning. Peter recently completed an MS in Environmental Studies along with a certificate in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution at the University of Montana. Before graduate school, Peter worked seasonally as a commercial fisherman, carpenter, and mechanic in Alaska. He gets out on the rivers and trails of the West as often as he can from his home in Missoula, MT.

Tess.jpgTess Scanlon

Tess Scanlon has been a project manager with CNREP since 2017. She is certified in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution (NRCR) with a M.S. in Environmental Studies, specializing in collaborative water resource conservation and watershed planning. Her expertise is integrating landowner and other stakeholder interests with aquatic connectivity and water quality needs to support resilient watershed functioning.

Ms. Scanlon is currently facilitating a long-term process to develop community-based drought plans in the Clark Fork River Basin. Her role is to engage local communities and find ways to reduce conflicts over land and water resource use and management. She negotiates multi-party interests by coordinating information sharing and assessment. For that reason, she spends a lot of time communicating with the locals and performing field data collection.

Outside of work, Ms. Scanlon fancies herself an unexceptional athlete and trailblazer and explores rivers, forests, and mountaintops.

Visiting Fellows

Charles BesanconCharles Besancon

Charles Besancon is an environmental planning and policy specialist with 25 years of professional experience working for UN agencies, international organizations, NGOs and the USA government. His latest position was with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal as the LifeWeb Initiative Coordinator, where he provided technical assistance to developing countries in generating projects, fundraising, and capacity building focusing on national parks and protected areas, biodiversity corridors, ecosystem-based adaptation, transboundary cooperation, and invasive alien species management. He also facilitated negotiations between governments to achieve decisions in the Convention on Biological Diversity and implement the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.

Prior to this position for 6 years he was the Head of the Protected Areas Programme at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, England, where he led global efforts to synthesize knowledge on the many values of protected areas and biodiversity. He has held a number of different positions through IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, including as the Co-chair of the Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group, as an ex-officio member of the of the of the World Commission on Protected Areas Steering Committee, and as a member of the World Heritage Panel. Early in his career he was a wilderness ranger for the US Forest Service and developed the Wilderness Information Network on behalf of the National Park Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service at the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute.

He has lived in South Africa, England, Canada, and the USA and through his work he has travelled extensively, visiting capital cities and national parks in nearly 70 countries. An avid photographer and wilderness enthusiast, in his spare time he can be found in wild places – sometimes carrying far too much camera gear.

Peter Williams

Dr. Peter Williams is an independent management consultant, educator, and speaker who provides expertise in designing and growing collaborative capacity within organizations, managing landscapes collaboratively, administering and evaluating programs, and training and coaching individuals and teams at all organizational levels who want to work together to make a difference on issues that matter.  He shares his experience working across communities and cultures, engaging the right people at the right time on the right matters, often on contentious land management issues where policies and interests can conflict and a path forward requires understanding a problem from different perspectives.  His understanding comes from more than three decades in this challenging field.  His work and talks are highly praised and well received by undergraduate and graduate students, adult learners, community members, and professionals inside and outside of government.

Peter served as Director of the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution from 2014 until 2017.  Prior to accepting the Directorship at the U.S. Institute, Peter served as Collaborative Planning and Multiparty Monitoring Specialist for the US Forest Service’s Ecosystem Management Staff.  He worked throughout the country to help design collaborative planning efforts, develop agency policy, and to bridge theory and practice.  Among other projects, he co‐led efforts to grow collaborative capacity and to establish a National Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Strategy. He also was involved in Large Landscape Collaboration efforts, applying ideas associated with communities of practice, organizational learning, and broader use of electronic tools to support collaborative environmental stewardship and environmental management. 

Previously, Peter has served as Forest Supervisor for the Wayne National Forest in Ohio, as Natural Resource Staff Officer for the Colville National Forest in Washington State, and as a Research Social Scientist, among other positions. He holds a BA from Kenyon College, an MS from Virginia Tech, and a PhD from Utah State University. 

Leadership Fellows

CNREP's Leadership Fellows are dynamic young professionals who have completed the graduate program in Natural Resources Conflict Resolution. Through ongoing dialogue with staff at CNREP, Leadership Fellows are working across sectors and issues to integrate the skills and competencies acquired in the program into their professional careers. Leadership Fellows are also helping build the next generation of leaders by connecting with and nurturing other emerging leaders, both through CNREP and through their own institutions and professional networks.

Wylie CarrWylie Carr

Wylie Carr is a Research Social Scientist in the Social and Economic Analysis Branch at the Fort Collins Science Center. Wylie received a Ph.D. in 2015 from the Department of Society and Conservation at the University of Montana. His doctoral research focused on social, political, and ethical aspects of climate change and climate engineering. Since joining the USGS in August, 2016, Wylie has focused on coordinating the Human Dimensions of Climate Change Collaborative, an interagency group committed to assessing and responding to the human effects of climate change relevant to resource management. In his free time, Wylie is an enthusiastic, albeit not terribly skilled, fly-fisherman, mountain biker, and snowboarder.

Emily OlsenEmily Olsen

Emily Olsen is the Colorado Program Manager at the National Forest Foundation where she is currently helping launch the NFF’s new Find Your Fourteener campaign. The campaign, which focuses on Colorado’s mountain peaks above 14,000 feet, aims to increase the pace and scale of trail improvements and ecological restoration through developing new partnerships, building local capacity, and increasing the pace and scale of on-the-ground trail improvement projects.Emily will also support implementation of the Camp Hale Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences wetland restoration and historic interpretation project and other Colorado initiatives. Emily joined the NFF in 2014 to advance Conservation Connect, the NFF’s technical assistance delivery program. In that role, she managed collaborative processes, workshops, interactive webinars, and other conservation projects. She has an M.S. from the University of Montana College Of Forestry and Conservation and a certificate in Natural Resources Conflict Resolution from the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy.

Leadership Fellow Molly Smith StenovecMolly Smith Stenovec 

Molly Smith Stenovec is a Project Coordinator at the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a joint effort of Washington State University and the University of Washington. Molly conducts research and coordinates collaborative processes in various public policy areas, including coastal resilience, recreation on public lands, and watershed planning. 

Prior to joining the Center, Molly was an Associate at the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Montana. Molly earned an MS in Geography and a certificate in Natural Resource Conservation at the University of Montana in 2012.

Senior Fellows

Senior Fellow Sarah BatesSarah Bates

Sarah Bates is the Deputy Director for the Northern Rockies, Prairies and Pacific Region of the National Wildlife Federation, in Missoula, MT. She holds a J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law (1988) and a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and Political Science from Colorado State University (1984). She is a member (inactive status) of the State Bars of California and Montana.

Ms. Bates has written and spoken extensively on natural resources policy and law, with an emphasis on western water resources and public resource governance institutions. She is a co-author of Water Resource Management: A Casebook on Law and Public Policy (7th ed.), with Dan Tarlock, David Getches, Jim Corbridge, and Reed Benson, and she co-edited The Evolution of Natural Resources Law and Policy (American Bar Association, 2010) with Larry MacDonnell.

Working with the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and the Land Trust Alliance, in 2014 Ms. Bates published Land Trusts and Water: Strategies and Resources for Addressing Water in Western Land Conservation, and she continues to facilitate and participate in conversations about how to integrate land and water management and planning.

Ms. Bates has been a member of the governing board the Clark Fork Coalition since 2005, which she chaired from 2012-16. She served on the advisory board of the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming from 2001-09, and has participated in the Carpe Diem West network on climate change and western water since its founding in 2007.

Jim Burchfield headshotJim Burchfield

Jim Burchfield served as the Dean of the College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana from 2008-2015.  He joined the College faculty in 1996 as Director of the Bolle Center for People and Forests and served as Associate Dean from 2003-2008.  Originally from Michigan, he began his conservation career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala from 1973-1977, and then joined the Forest Service as a field forester, working in Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington.  He completed his doctoral degree at the University of Michigan in 1991, examining the role of small landowner organizations in promoting forest management.  He spent three years in Washington D.C. with the Forest Service as a policy analyst in its International Programs Office, before returning to the west to conduct research in Walla Walla, Washington on sustaining natural resource-based rural communities.  As Dean of the College of Forestry and Conservation, Jim focuses on creating applied, field-based learning experiences for students in Montana and throughout the world.  Jim has two grown children and lives in Missoula with his wife Melissa.

Senior Fellow Charles CurtinCharles Curtin

Charles Curtin works at the nexus of science and policy, with a long-term interest in environmental change, large-scale socio-ecological experiments, and conservation design. Though working in a diversity of arenas, the bulk of his work has focused on community-based conservation and restoration of rangeland ecosystems where he helped designed a number of the largest place-based collaborative research programs on the continent, including the million-acre Malpai Borderlands conservation area and cross-site studies spanning the Intermountain West. He has also worked with fisheries policy and co-management through development of the 750,000 square mile Downeast Initiative in the Western Atlantic and anadromous fish restorations on the coast of Maine. He has helped established academic programs in governance and policy design at MIT and Antioch University with a focus on collaborative approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Curtin has worked internationally coordinating large landscape collaborative conservation projects in the Mexico, East Africa, and the Middle East.

Senior Fellow Patrick FieldPatrick Field

Patrick Field is Managing Director of North American Programs at CBI and Associate Director of the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program. Patrick has helped thousands of stakeholders reach agreement on natural resource, land use, water, and air issues across the United States and Canada. He is experienced at working with diverse large groups, including those in high conflict and those seeking collaborative action.  He has worked with Native American, First Nation, and other diverse organizations and groups. Patrick works often with and between local, regional, state, and federal governments. He has worked on such issues as the Clean Water Act, river, estuary, and lake restoration, extractives and federal lands, endangered species, Superfund cleanup and others. Patrick is listed on the roster of conflict resolution professionals of the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution and for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Interior. He holds an M.C.P. in Urban Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co-author of the award-winning book, Dealing with an Angry Public, as well as numerous journal articles and research papers. He was born and raised on a ranch in rural western Colorado and currently resides in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Senior Fellow Jerome PriscoliJerome Priscoli

Dr. Delli Priscoli is senior advisor USACE at the Institute for Water Resources. For 30 years he has designed and run social assessment, public participation and conflict resolution research and training programs. Dr Delli Priscoli is a skilled mediator and facilitator and works throughout the world. He serves on the Board of Governors and the Bureau of the World Water Council, the Inter-American Water Resources Network and works with, and has helped found several other world associations such as the International Association for Pubic Participation, the World Water Council and the Global Water Partnership. Dr. Delli Priscoli has been advisor to the World Bank on water policy and to all of the UN water related agencies on water policy issues. Dr. Delli Priscoli works closely with many of the Water Ministers throughout the world. He was an original member of the U.S. delegation to the middle east Peace talks on water. He has advised all the US major commands, US Department of State and most of the US intelligence agencies on water and security. Dr. Delli Priscoli co-chaired the DG of UNESCO’s world commission on Water and Freshwater Ethics. He is author of many articles and books including Water and Civilization and a new volume from Cambridge U Press, Transforming Water Conflicts. He is on science advisory committee of Oxford University water and security as well as the Tufts/Fletcher School water program. Dr Delli Priscoli is a commentator on media shows and is the Editor in Chief of the peer reviewed journal Water Policy. He has played pivotal roles and facilitated many of the dialogs among senior diplomats and NGOs in each of the 5 World water forums and in most of the critical key water resources policy meetings over the last 15 years. He was on the international steering committee and the political committee for theWWF5 in Istanbul. Dr. Delli Priscoli has facilitated many US national water policy dialogs. The American Water Resources Association awarded him the Icko Iben award for achievement in cross disciplinary communications in water. He holds degrees in economics and political science and post doctoral studies in theological studies from Tufts and Georgetown Universities.

Senior Fellow Lynn ScarlettLynn Scarlett

Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Lynn Scarlett is global Managing Director of Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy and Global Climate Strategy Lead. From 2005 to January 2009, she served as the Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior, a post she took on after 4 years as the Department's Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget. She served as Acting Secretary of the Department in 2006. While at Interior, she chaired the Department's first-ever Climate Change Task Force.  Ms. Scarlett now co-chairs the National Academy of Sciences Sustainability Roundtable and the Interior Department’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Council. She also chairs the Science Advisory Board of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She received her B.A. and M.A. in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she also completed her Ph.D. coursework and exams in political science. She is author or co-author of recent publications on climate change adaptation; urban greening; large landscape conservation; science and decision making; and ecosystem services. She serves on the board of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and COMPASS. She is a trustee emeritus of the Udall Foundation.

Senior Fellow Gary TaborGary Tabor

Dr. Gary M. Tabor is an ecologist and wildlife veterinarian based in Bozeman, Montana. In 2007, Gary founded the Center for Large Landscape Conservation to help people and institutions make better land use decisions at the scale nature functions.  Gary has worked on behalf of large landscape conservation internationally for over 35 years with ten years of experience in Africa, South America and Australia and 12 years as a leader within the U.S. philanthropic community beginning with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and finally the Yellowstone to Yukon Program Director for the Wilburforce Foundation. His work in philanthropy also includes the design of international conservation trusts for USAID, and the World Bank. Gary is a Henry Luce Scholar and recipient of the Australian-American Fulbright Scholar award in Climate Change. Gary is Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas' new Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group. 

Senior Fellow John ThorsonJohn Thorson

John E. Thorson is an attorney residing in western Montana after serving as Assistant Chief Administrative Law Judge for the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco. He has 30 years of experience in water law and policy, as well as in the use of alternative dispute resolution methods in a variety of natural resource and environmental conflicts. From 2007-08, he was co-chair of a large multi-party facilitation (involving states, tribes, federal agencies, and other stakeholders) that resulted in the first major agreement in the Missouri River Basin after 15 years of contentious litigation. Over his career, he has completed policy or legal work in almost every western river basin.

Thorson is the former Special Master for the Arizona General Stream Adjudication and the former Director of the Conference of Western Attorneys General. He is the co-founder and a continuing co-convenor of Dividing the Waters, an educational program for state and federal judges involved in complex water litigation. He served as chair of the American Bar Association’s Water Resources Committee. He is the author or co-author of four books and over 50 articles. Thorson has served as adjunct faculty at the University of Southern California, University of San Francisco School of Law, University of Arizona College of Law, and the University of Montana School of Law. He is a member of the state bars of Montana, Arizona (inactive), California (inactive), and New Mexico (inactive). He holds a DPA from USC, a JD from the University of California (Berkeley), and a BA from the University of New Mexico.