New executive team appointed at the Mojave Desert Land Trust

Cody Hanford and Kelly Herbinson stand in front of the Mojave Desert Land Trust sign
Cody Hanford and Kelly Herbinson are appointed joint Executive Directors of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. Photo: Jessica Castro

For immediate release

Contact: Jessica Dacey, Director of Communications

Phone: 760-820-2275. Email: jessica@mdlt.org

Joshua Tree, CA – The Board of Directors of the Mojave Desert Land Trust has selected a new executive team to lead the organization as it enters a new era in its land conservation work. Cody Hanford and Kelly Herbinson will serve as joint Executive Directors, when outgoing Executive Director Geary Hund steps down on October 31.

Mr. Hanford and Ms. Herbinson will share overall responsibility for organizational leadership. They bring a wealth of conservation experience, and their appointments signal the Trust’s desire to work creatively to fulfil its ambitious desert preservation agenda. As joint Executive Directors, they will use their complementary skillsets to build on MDLT’s achievements and create an increasingly innovative and enduring organization. The Trust recently surpassed the milestone of 100,000 acres conserved since its founding 15 years ago. It has conveyed more tracts of land to the National Park Service than any nonprofit since 2006.

Ms. Herbinson has 20 years of experience working in conservation, biological research, and community outreach and education, mostly focused on protecting the Mojave Desert region of California. She is an expert in Mojave Desert tortoise biology and ecology, and the impacts of renewable energy development on desert ecosystems. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, and a Master of Science degree in Ecology and Systematics. She received a distinguished thesis award for her graduate work studying the impacts of climate on desert harvester ant behavior. Recognizing a need for more creative science communication and education, she went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Nonfiction Writing, where she developed her ability to use storytelling and narrative to better connect people with nature.

Ms. Herbinson’s most recent position was with the Turtle Conservancy, where she developed an innovative education program teaching high school science through active participation in local turtle conservation programs, empowering youth to be community conservation leaders. She served on the Mojave Desert Land Trust’s Board of Directors from 2013 to 2021.

Mr. Hanford has nearly 20 years of experience working in California desert conservation through a variety of roles. He began as a desert restoration intern and eventual crew leader with the Student Conservation Association’s Desert Restoration Corps working extensively in the field throughout the Mojave and Colorado-Sonoran Deserts. Following a one-year hiatus as a Traveling Trainer and Master Educator for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, he returned to the Mojave Desert as an Environmental Consultant for federal, state, and nonprofit entities pertaining to conservation land acquisition, habitat restoration, hazardous materials assessments, land management, and volunteer stewardship.

Mr. Hanford was previously the Executive Director of Transition Habitat Conservancy, where he oversaw their efforts in the West Mojave and associated mountain transition zones. He is especially proud of the comprehensive hydrologic survey of springs and seeps that he coordinated throughout the Bureau of Land Management’s California Desert District, and for helping further creative solutions and recovery insights for Mojave Desert tortoise during his tenure there.

Prior to his appointment as joint Executive Director, Mr. Hanford served as Deputy Executive Director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust. This role included the formation of the organization’s new Natural Resources Management Division for the programs of land acquisition, restoration, science and research, and native plant propagation.

“As a long-time board member, I have seen the Mojave Desert Land Trust grow into one of the leading conservation organizations in the California desert. I’m honored and excited for the opportunity to work with Cody in serving as joint Executive Directors. We’re looking forward to channeling our energy into protecting the desert landscape for the people and species that call it home”, said Kelly Herbinson, joint Executive Director.

“I have been involved with the Mojave Desert Land Trust for over a decade as a contractor, supporter, and partner, and this co-director partnership ensures long-term stability in the executive team role. This is a dream come true for me! I feel so fortunate to work closely with Kelly, a person whom I respect and admire, as we navigate the Land Trust into this next chapter,” said Cody Hanford, joint Executive Director.

The new joint Executive Directors have been working with outgoing Executive Director to ensure a smooth transition. Mr. Hund will be stepping down at the end of October to have more time to pursue personal endeavors. He has led the organization with distinction since February 2019. During his tenure, the organization acquired over 22,000 acres and reached a conservation milestone of 100,000 acres protected across the California desert.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as Executive Director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust alongside a talented and dedicated team of conservation professionals. Cody and Kelly come to us with a wealth of experience, and they are admired and respected by our Board of Directors and staff alike. I’m certain that they, together with the rest of the team, will build on the Trust’s strong foundation,” said Geary Hund, outgoing Executive Director.

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic, and cultural values within the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. To date, the Land Trust has conserved 102,209 acres and conveyed more tracts of land to the National Park Service than any other nonprofit since 2006. The Land Trust has established a seed bank to ensure the preservation of native species and operates an onsite nursery at its Joshua Tree headquarters which propagates native species for ecosystem restoration. MDLT educates and advocates for the conservation of the desert, involving hundreds of volunteers in our work. For more information, visit mdlt.org.

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