Meryl Harrell, Executive Director


Meryl has two decades of experience working on issues related to conservation, recreation, workforce development, and natural resource management. She fell in love with public lands and connecting to the communities that surround them after a summer spent at the Teton Science Schools as a teenager. Her outdoor experiences inspired her degree in geosciences and environmental studies from Princeton University, and she later received her J.D. from the Yale Law School.

Meryl recently spent eight years in the office of the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving as Chief of Staff and as a senior policy advisor working closely with the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. While at USDA, Meryl was a lead author of the Forest Service’s 2012 Land Management Planning Rule, helped to create the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, worked to implement the 2014 Farm Bill, and led work to connect outdoor recreation and rural economic development. Meryl also worked with the Forest Service to address unconscious bias in workforce development and program delivery.

Since 2017, Meryl has run her own consulting practice advising non-profit organizations, foundations, outdoor recreation groups, and state and federal government agencies working to conserve America’s public and private lands. She previously worked on public lands issues at The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C.

Meryl is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and spends time hiking and camping in national forests and wilderness areas with her husband and two young children.


David Cohen, Program Manager

Office: Asheville, NC

Programs: Wilderness Rangers, Education, Volunteers


David discovered his passion for public lands stewardship while in college at the University of Georgia. He attended UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and earned his B.S.F.R. in Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism. Since graduating in 2011, David has worked four seasons as a SAWS Wilderness Ranger and now brings that field experience to the SAWS staff.

David is certified as a C Crosscut Sawyer, Leave No Trace Trainer and in Wilderness First Aid.

A long-time paddler, David enjoys exploring the Southern Appalachians and beyond by kayak. He is based out of Asheville, NC where there are enough rivers, creeks and lakes nearby to keep a paddler busy for a lifetime.



Katie Currier, Program Manager

Office: Asheville, NC

Programs: Field Crews, Volunteers, Education


Katie’s desire to work on public lands was solidified as a Wilderness Ranger in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho. After graduating from Ithaca College in 2013 with a degree in Outdoor Adventure Leadership she spent two years in Utah overseeing field crews for the Utah Conservation Corps. Wanting to explore a new part of the country, Katie brought her experience and passion to  SAWS in February 2016 as a Field Operations Coordinator and transitioned into a Program Manager position in November 2016.

Katie is certified as a Class C Crosscut Sawyer, Leave No Trace Master Educator and is a Wilderness First Responder. She also sits on the Board of Directors for the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance.

Based out of our Asheville, North Carolina office, Katie is busy exploring the treasures of Southern Appalachia through backpacking, biking and eating.


Eric Giebelstein, Program Manager

Office: Roanoke, VA

Programs: Field Crews, Wilderness Rangers, Volunteer Programming and Education in Virginia


Eric’s interest in the natural world was first piqued in his native Iowa landscape while fishing for bullheads in farm ponds and big rivers. He continued to study fish and wildlife at Iowa State University, graduating with degrees in Animal Ecology and Spanish in 2006. He spent the early years after graduating as a fisheries technician for the Illinois Natural History Survey.  His desire for topography, biodiversity and wild places drew him to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, where he’s spent the last four years working as a Wilderness Ranger, Assistant Crew Leader and Education Specialist for SAWS.

Eric is a Class B Crosscut Sawyer, Leave No Trace Master Educator, and has a Wilderness First Aid certification.

In his leisure time, Eric enjoys hiking, backpacking, playing disc golf and brewing great beers. He is extremely excited to explore and protect his new landscape in Virginia.


Preston Jacobsen, Finance & Operations Manager

Office: Asheville, NC


Preston comes to SAWS after working in the sustainability field for 10 years, with a focus on operations and finances in the university and college setting. Born in the Gulf South and spending most of his time outdoors, it was a natural fit for Preston to find himself at Western Carolina University where he attended college, obtaining a bachelor degree in Environmental Sciences. There he met his wife and both of them moved to Knoxville, TN before returning to the mountains in the winter of 2020.

Preston has a distinct interest in the marriage of economics and the environment and looks forward to ensuring the financial and environmental sustainability of SAWS for years to come.

In his free time, Preston owns and operates a local weather company (Local Yokel Weather), makes snow for small number of clients during the winter months and thoroughly enjoys spending time with his small family.


 Scotty Bowman, Wilderness Ranger/Specialist


Scotty grew up in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee where he spent many days during the summer months exploring the mountains of his home. In 2010 after spending 18 years working in the restaurant industry he enrolled in and completed the Parks and Recreation Management program at East Tennessee State University receiving a Bachelors degree. Scotty worked 3 seasons as a Wilderness Trail Crew Leader and in 2017 has transitioned to Wilderness Ranger and Wilderness Specialist. Scotty is currently working in the Linville Gorge Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest.

Scotty is certified as a Class C Crosscut Sawyer, Leave No Trace Master Educator and Wilderness First-Aid.

In his free time, Scotty enjoys exploring the areas he gets to visit, reading nonfiction, listening to music podcasts, and spending time with his wife Laura and their 3 adult children.


Mason Boring, Wilderness and Outreach Specialist


Mason started with SAWS in 2016 as a Wilderness Ranger on the Cherokee National Forest. Mason has done a variety of work for SAWS since then, and is now writing wilderness Character Narratives on the south zone of the Cherokee National Forest.






Kaitlin de Varona, Wilderness Specialist


Kaitlin has been with SAWS since 2017, and is currently working as a Wilderness Specialist located on the Pisgah National Forest. This year her work includes writing wilderness character monitoring baseline assessments for Shining Rock Wilderness and Middle Prong Wilderness. Baseline assessments are one tool managers use to help preserve the wilderness character of an area. Monitoring impacts to wilderness character allows us to see trends in impact over time. Wilderness character monitoring data help inform manager decision making, comply with the Wilderness Act of 1964, and uphold Forest Service policy.



 Casey Quarterman, Wilderness Ranger


Casey began working with SAWS in 2016, and is based on the Pisgah National Forest in Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness Areas






Warren Carver, Wilderness Specialist


Warren began working for SAWS in 2018, and is currently serving as a Wilderness Specialist on the Chattahoochee – Oconee National Forest in Georgia.







Carter Collins, Wilderness Specialist


Carter began working for SAWS in 2019, and is currently serving as a Wilderness Specialist on the Francis Marion – Sumter National Forests in South Carolina









Emma Bouchard, Wilderness Specialist


Emma was born and raised in coastal New England. Now a self-identified nomad, she moves with the seasons in search of work and good coffee. Currently working as a Wilderness Specialist in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests in Virginia, Emma has been stewarding with SAWS since 2016.

She first cultivated her love for nature when her mother banished her live bug collection to the backyard and she’s been outside ever since. While still drawn to critters, she now finds empowerment and clarity in our public lands.

Emma has a B.S in Environmental Recreation and Tourism Management from the University of Maine and is currently working towards a masters in Geographic Information Systems from Unity College. She hopes one day to work for NASA studying the effects of climate change.

Emma is a Wilderness First Responder, Leave No Trace Trainer, B Crosscut Sawyer, and is certified in Search and Rescue.


J. Tao (preferred name Tao), Wilderness Specialist 


Tao, California born and Florida raised, is an outdoor enthusiastic who found his passion for environmental stewardship after recreating throughout our public land system and wanted a field of work to help preserve the land he recreates on. Tao, currently a Wilderness Specialist, has been with SAWS since 2018, previously serving as a Wilderness Ranger and Field Crew Leader.

Tao has worked as an assistant Team Leader with Americorps and as a forest service seasonal crew member with fire and timber crews before finding himself exploring and protecting the diverse southeast with SAWS.

Tao is a B-class crosscut Sawyer, Wilderness First Responder and Wildland Firefighter Red Card certified. 




Rachel Crump, Wilderness Specialist


Rachel began working for SAWS in the fall of 2019, and is currently serving as a Wilderness Specialist on the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests in Virginia and the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Environmental Studies, she worked on trail crews in the Adirondack Mountains and the Southeast. She then worked as a Wilderness Steward on the Cache NF in northern Utah. It is there that she learned the importance of Wilderness protection and realized her goal of working on forests in a different state every year.

Rachel is a Class B Crosscut Sawyer and holds a Wilderness First Aid certification.