Policy Advisor

Defenders of Wildlife Published: June 7, 2021
Sacramento, CA
Skill Level
Senior Level
Job Type
Natural Resources/ Restoration / Policy
(Number of Job Posting Views: 5)

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

At Defenders of Wildlife, we focus our programs on what scientists consider two of the most serious environmental threats to the planet: the accelerating rate of extinction of species and the associated loss of biological diversity, and habitat alteration and destruction.

We work to protect and restore America’s native wildlife, safeguard habitat, resolve conflicts, work across international borders and educate and mobilize the public. We stand out in our commitment to saving imperiled wildlife and championing the Endangered Species Act, the landmark law that protects them.

Position 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. This 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.

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 translocation 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 position may oversee contractors working for Defenders on public lands and related wildlife conservation issues. 

Assignments are results- or goal-oriented, requiring substantial discretion on the part of the position in determining how to design and implement program elements to meet the assigned goals (e.g., conservation of at-risk species through ecosystem and habitat protection while identifying and supporting environmentally suitable and sustainable activities in land management planning processes). This position requires interdepartmental collaboration between Field Conservation, Conservation Law and Landscape Conservation, including the Federal Lands program and the Center for Conservation Innovation. 

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 and be an energetic, enthusiastic and committed advocate for Defenders’ programs.


  • Education: Bachelor’s (B.A./B.S.) degree or equivalent. J.D.preferred.
  • Experience: 8 years of relevant experience
  • An equivalent combination of education and experience may be accepted as a satisfactory substitute for the specific education and experience listed above. 

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities for Grade Professional 5


  • Ability to accurately maintain electronic and physical records.
  • Anticipate and meet the needs of internal and/or external stakeholders delivering excellent service.


  • Ability to clearly and accurately communicate with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Ability to articulate complex ideas clearly, accurately and concisely.
  • Ability to convey effective messages to broad and diverse constituencies.
  • Ability and willingness to effectively represent Defenders’ interests in external environments.
  • Ability to exert influence and build consensus with internal and external stakeholders.

Critical Thinking

  • Ability to handle sensitive and confidential matters with discretion.
  • Strong research and data analysis skills, including ability to gather and synthesize information from multiple sources to produce high quality work products in a consistent, efficient, accurate, and timely manner.
  • Creative problem-solving and troubleshooting skills with willingness to experiment and innovate new methods.
  • Facilitate and promote the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies into Defenders’ work.
  • Ability to independently exercise appropriate judgment in response to complex and/or fluid environments.
  • Strategic thinker with the ability to take high-level strategy and translate into relatable points and action steps.

Project Management

  • Ability to work well under pressure and tight deadlines while balancing competing assignments.
  • Ability to remain flexible and adaptable to shifting priorities while remaining responsive to urgent requests.
  • Ability to take ownership of a project or process and to use problem solving skills to resolve issues.
  • Ability to manage deadlines on multiple cross-functional projects in a dynamic environment.
  • Demonstrated ability in managing competing interests on complex issues.
  • Ability to independently initiate project and initiative ideas; managing projects and initiatives through to completion.

Coalition and Community Engagement

  • Strong interpersonal skills and ability to form effective working relationships with diverse constituencies including federal/state agencies; elected officials and their staff; Defenders’ members and donors; private landowners; hunters and anglers; community leaders; religious, scientific, and academic communities; and /or the general public.
  • Ability to lead diverse stakeholders in collaborative activities, to anticipate policy issues impacting wildlife and make recommendations within Defenders, other organizations, and coalitions.
  • Networking skills to engage with leaders in the conservation community, federal and state agencies, NGOs, and other organizations.

Conservation Knowledge

  • Expert-level knowledge of Defenders’ legal, scientific, and/or political issues.
  • Expert-level knowledge of national and regional social, political, and ecological landscapes.

Leadership and Management

  • Ability to foster a team culture which models the tenets of the Commitment Statement.
  • Ability to connect employees and their work to Defenders’ mission.
  • Ability to set and maintain clear expectations, ensuring clarity of roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities.
  • Ability to ensure that staff have the skills and support required to perform at the highest level.
  • Working knowledge of Defenders’ business and people systems and processes.

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities for California Policy Advisor:

  • Significant working knowledge of state and federal laws, regulations and policies dealing with the conservation of wildlife and habitat and federal lands management policy and planning, including but not limited to 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.
  • Expertise in forest ecology, natural resources management, conservation biology, environmental planning, conservation advocacy, wildlife management, environmental or public policy, or a related discipline in the natural resources field greatly preferred.
  • Experience with legislative and administrative processes, federal and state agencies, wildlife and conservation programs, media relations and coalition building.
  • Expertise on imperiled species including California condors, fishers, martens, and spotted owls is strongly desired.
  • 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.
  • Interdisciplinary skills and practical experience in translating the best available science into policy and programmatic initiatives to conserve species and ecosystems.
  • Willingness to travel throughout California an average of six days per month.
  • Personal interest in and commitment to wildlife and biodiversity conservation issues.
  • Fundraising and grant writing experience a plus.

Compensation: Salary is $78,000- $83,000.

Defenders seeks talented individuals dedicated to the conservation of our nation's wildlife and natural resources, and we offer our staff competitive salary and exceptional benefits. Defenders of Wildlife is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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