Dr. Jennifer Norris Named First Female Executive Director Of Wildlife Conservation Board

California Natural Resources Agency Deputy Secretary Becomes First Female Executive Director in 76-Year History of WCB

The Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) announced Dr. Jennifer Norris as its new Executive Director.

“I’m thrilled for the Wildlife Conservation Board and Dr. Norris,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “The Board’s work has never been more important as we aim to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands by 2030, protect our world-renowned biodiversity, expand equitable access to the great outdoors, and better manage our lands to combat climate change. Dr. Norris’ remarkable career as a federal scientist delivering innovative conservation projects at scale, combined with her recent leadership enabling such projects to happen more quickly and effectively through state agencies, makes her the perfect leader to guide the Board into the future. I’m excited about what the Board will accomplish under Dr. Norris’ leadership.”

Norris arrives from the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) where she served as Deputy Secretary for Biodiversity and Habitat since 2020. At CNRA, Norris led California’s 30×30 initiative(opens in new tab) to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 and oversaw the Cutting Green Tape initiative(opens in new tab) to accelerate the pace and scale of ecological restoration.

Portrait of Jennifer Norris
Dr. Jennifer Norris

“Over its 76-year history, the Wildlife Conservation Board has made an indelible mark on biodiversity protection in California,” said Norris. “I am incredibly honored to be chosen to lead WCB in a time when conservation is needed more than ever. I look forward to working with the outstanding Board and staff to expand partnerships with tribes and redefine outdoor equity, while protecting even more of California’s incredible nature.”

When Norris assumes her new role on November 1, she will manage day-to-day operations and support WCB’s seven-member Board, which consists of the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the President of the Fish and Game Commission, the Director of the Department of Finance, and four public members.

“As the first public member Chair in WCB’s history, the 75th Anniversary marks an unprecedented opportunity to build and expand on WCB’s conservation legacy,” said Alina Bokde, Chair of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “Jen is the right leader at the right time to envision and advance California’s conservation movement to be inclusive, diverse and lead with a bold focus on equity and access.”

The primary responsibilities of WCB are to select, authorize and allocate funds for the protection, conservation, and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat and related public recreation. These investments have created recreational opportunities for millions of Californians, protected and created essential habitat for threatened and endangered species and preserved iconic landscapes for future generations to enjoy.

In its 76-year history, WCB has had six executive directors, and Norris becomes the first female to fill the role. She replaces John Donnelly, who retired in March 2023. Norris has extensive experience in conservation policy, endangered species protection and ecosystem management. Prior to joining CNRA, she served as Supervisor of the Sacramento Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She has held numerous roles in state and federal government over the years.

Norris holds a bachelor’s degree in resources policy and planning from Cornell University, a master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of New Mexico. A native of New York State, Norris lives in Sacramento with her husband Scott and occasionally sees their grown children Jessica and Daniel. For more information about the WCB, please visit wcb.ca.gov(opens in new tab).