Policy Advisor

Defenders of Wildlife Published: July 27, 2020
Sacramento, CA
Skill Level
Senior Level
Job Type
Legal / Natural Resources/ Restoration / Policy
(Number of Job Posting Views: 1)

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~ Defenders of Wildlife is a national, non-profit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities. ~

Basic Summary

This professional-level position is responsible for contributing to the development and implementation of Defenders of Wildlife’s strategic plan, with an emphasis on federal lands management policy and planning and the conservation of at-risk species and their habitats in California.

The Policy Advisor position requires legal and policy knowledge and experience in a broad array of California-specific natural resource conservation issues, including endangered species, federal land management policy and planning, environmental and administrative law and procedures, landscape-level planning and conservation biology. Existing relationships with key stakeholders, agencies and organizations engaged in conserving California public lands, wildlife and habitat is required, as well as established ties to the larger conservation community. Expertise on imperiled species including California condors, fishers, martens, and spotted owls is strongly desired.

This position will coordinate internally within the California Program and with other Defenders staff members on relevant policy and legal matters. The Policy Advisor will pursue conservation objectives through a variety of tools including policy, legislative and regulatory reform, reviewing and commenting on wildlife and habitat restoration and relocation plans, engaging with priority coalitions, supporting public outreach efforts, contributing to the development of legal strategies, writing and reviewing litigation memoranda, and recommending decisions on proposed litigation.

The Policy Advisor will work collaboratively with other California program staff and throughout Defenders in implementing the overall mission and goals of Defenders and may be responsible for additional wildlife-related conservation and other duties as assigned. The position may oversee contractors working for Defenders on public lands and related wildlife conservation issues.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

  • Influence California-specific federal land management and wildlife policy through administrative, legislative and judicial forums, using a range of strategies including but not limited to seeking policy and programmatic changes in federal and state agencies; direct and grassroots lobbying in the California Legislature and with Congress; and recommending litigation where appropriate and providing technical support.
  • Monitor and strategically engage in significant federal and state activities and prepare comments on proposed land-use and imperiled species actions in coordination with other Defenders’ staff.
  • Cultivate, maintain and grow positive working relationships with federal and state agency personnel, members of the California Legislature and Congress and their staff, leading conservation biologists, research scientists, and partner organizations to further Defenders’ conservation objectives for federally managed public lands; identify new partners as appropriate.
  • Facilitate and promote the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies into Defenders’ programmatic work in California.
  • Represent Defenders in coalitions, public meetings, hearings, press events, conferences and national forums, and in general communications with public officials, the media, members, the donor community and the public.
  • Undertake a wide variety of duties as needed to implement program plans, including drafting letters; negotiating sign-ons to Defenders’ policies and group letters; and writing and editing reports and proposals.
  • Inform and mobilize community activists, including Defenders’ members and supporters, to support conservation on federal public lands.
  • Perform all other related duties as assigned by supervisor and be an energetic, enthusiastic and committed advocate for Defenders’ programs.


An equivalent combination of demonstrated education and experience may be accepted as a satisfactory substitute for the specific education and experience listed below.


  • JD Required.
  • Additional expertise in forest ecology, natural resources management, legal studies, environmental planning, conservation biology, wildlife management, environmental or public policy, or a related discipline in the natural resources field greatly preferred.


  • 7+ years of experience with environmental law, conservation advocacy, federal lands management policy and planning, endangered species policy, conservation biology, natural resources management or wildlife conservation policy.
  • Experience with legislative and administrative processes, federal and state agencies, wildlife and conservation programs, media relations, and coalition building.
  • Fundraising and grant writing experience a plus.


  • Demonstrated awareness and understanding of the concerns and needs of individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds and orientations
  • Experience working with federal land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
  • Significant working knowledge of state and federal laws, regulations and policies dealing with the conservation of wildlife and habitat including the California Endangered Species Act, California Environmental Quality Act, federal Endangered Species Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act
  • Existing relationships with state and federal agency staff and other policymakers and stakeholders with an interest in imperiled wildlife and the management of federal public lands
  • Experience furthering the conservation of imperiled species, including California condors, fishers, martens and spotted owls
  • Interdisciplinary skills and practical experience in translating the best available science into policy and programmatic initiatives to conserve species and ecosystems
  • Experience developing, implementing and managing conservation campaigns
  • Ability to conduct research, analyze information and produce high quality work products in a consistent, efficient and timely manner
  • Strong organizational and communications skills
  • Ability to effectively and efficiently handle many projects and tasks at one time
  • High level of computer literacy with advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office and information technology systems
  • Willingness to travel throughout California an average of six days per month
  • Personal interest in and commitment to wildlife and biodiversity conservation issues
  • Ability to engage with senior leaders in the California conservation community, federal and state agencies, tribes, and other organizations
  • Ability to negotiate with senior staff across organizations to reach agreements on complex broad legal and policy issues; demonstrated ability to work productively in coalitions of environmental organizations
  • Ability to lead diverse stakeholders in collaborative activities; to anticipate legal and policy issues impacting wildlife, public lands and waters, and make recommendations within Defenders in California, nationally and to other organizations
  • Ability to elevate public awareness of issues and build a constituency for solutions
  • Excellent verbal communications skills with the ability to conduct presentations for large and diverse audiences
  • Ability to work independently to initiate project ideas and manage them through to completion
  • Demonstrated positive track record and good professional judgment with minimal supervision
  • Ability to work constructively as a member of a team; excellent interpersonal skills and judgment with the ability to work productively with both colleagues and opponents
  • Strong legal and policy research and writing skills with attention to detail; excellent strategic thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • Ability to respond constructively to unexpected change; to exercise appropriate judgment in complex situations

Work Environment

  • General office working conditions, the noise level in the work environment is usually quiet.

Physical Demands:

  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to use a computer and communicate with others while doing so.
  • Ability to travel to and visit natural areas, including in rugged terrain, to perform field work on occasion is desired.
  • All employees are required to satisfactorily perform the essential duties and responsibilities of their positions. The essential duties and responsibilities listed above are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the job.

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