Steffney Thompson, Executive Director

Laura Hall, Land Steward

​Steffney Thompson, an attorney with expertise in environmental law and policy, has served as executive director since 1999.

As the daughter of an exploration geologist, Steffney and her family moved frequently throughout her childhood, living in remote but beautiful areas that allowed Steffney and her younger sister to explore and experience a range of environments.

Although Steffney claims Missoula, Montana, where she lived for eight years, as home, she also has fond memories of living in places as diverse as the Mongollon Rim in Arizona, a five-hour drive from Phoenix, and White Pine in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Steffney earned her law degree, as well as undergraduate degrees in history and economics, from the University of Arizona. Following graduation, she worked as an environmental practice lawyer with the firm of Molloy, Jones, and Donahue in Tucson, Ariz.

Steffney moved to Athens in 1993 with her husband, Todd Rasmussen, a University of Georgia professor of hydrology and water resources. They are the parents of two adult children who also enjoy hiking and exploring.
​Laura Hall joined ORLT as the land steward in 2014, a position that includes monitoring the protected properties and identifying and documenting the important ecological, cultural and historic resources to be preserved on future projects.

Laura brought more than 15 years as a land conservation professional to ORLT. She has a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia and, as part of her degree work, studied permaculture and sustainable design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.

In addition to her conservation work, Laura has practiced landscape architecture for more than 20 years, including having her own practice and working with the Jaeger Company. Her work has concentrated on sustainable landscapes, native gardens, community gardens, and planning of community pedestrian and bike paths and open spaces.

Laura is a native of Athens and has two sons in middle school. She and her family enjoy spending time hiking and camping on the coast and in the mountains.

Carla Francis, ​Outreach Coordinator

​​Carla grew up on the shores of Lake Lanier in Gainesville. She is a “double dawg” having earned both her master’s degree in Public Administration and undergraduate degree in Environmental Economics at the University of Georgia.

​She spent several years teaching environmental education at Saratoga Spa State Park in upstate New York and Rock Eagle 4H Center in Eatonton, Georgia before returning to Athens to attend graduate school. Her professional passions include connecting people to nature, outdoor education, and event planning.  

​Carla enjoys kayaking, finding wildflowers, picking blackberries, live music and biking on country roads.

Hunter Jones, Conservation Assistant

​Hunter joined the ORLT staff in September 2016. A life-long appreciation of the natural environment encouraged her to pursue a career that enables her to improve it, preserve it for future generations, and interact with it on a daily basis.  A 2015 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, where she concentrated in environmental law and policy, she will use her legal training to write conservation easements during the busy fall season. 

Before joining ORLT, Hunter interned at Georgia River Network, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. In addition to legal work, she is an associate at Herdscapes, a prescribed grazing company in Athens that rents goats to sustainably manage land. Hunter is also on the Board of Directors for the Upper Oconee Watershed Network and involved with the Upper Oconee Water Trail. 

Dan Crescenzo, Stewardship Coordinator

As a second-grader , Dan Crescenzo struggled to learn to read. His parents were encouraged to provide him easy books as a way to build his confidence,but they chose a different option. “They knew my fascination with living things – particularly plants and insects, so they bought Audubon Society field guides,” he recalls. “In no time at all, my reading skills vastly improved and I was teaching my parents about what lived in our backyard.” The outdoors have played a pivotal role in Crescenzo’s life. After showing an aptitude for identifying woody plants during an undergraduate dendrology course, a professor tried to persuade him to switch majors from philosophy to forestry. Instead, Crescenzo stuck with  philosophy – earning his PhD in December 2016 at the University of  Georgia – while focusing his research on questions about what makes species and ecosystems valuable and how ecosystems can be conceived of as subjects of justice. “As I studied the philosophy behind our relationship with our environment, I longed to be doing something more hands-on, more in the trenches, than academic writing and teaching,” he says. “I began to look for ways to get involved in protecting local ecosystems in Georgia.”

Crescenzo joined ORLT part-time as a stewardship coordinator
in fall 2016 while still working on his dissertation. After graduation, he was named to a full-time position working closely with ORLT Land Steward Laura Hall. In his current position, Crescenzo assists Hall in completing the annual monitoring requirements of existing easements, including creating maps and compiling statistics, such as the number of river miles and acres of granite protected, and a variety of other follow-up documentation. During the latter part of each year, when all staff members focus on completing new conservation easements, Crescenzo reviews and proofreads baseline documents. “My work at ORLT has felt like coming home to something I love,” Crescenzo says. “I learned a lot during my time working on my philosophy degree, but my passion has always been for protecting the land and for work that puts me into regular contact with it – that is, for putting philosophy into practice.”