Julia Somers, Chair
Julia Somers is Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, which represents a diverse network of organizations—small and large, local, regional, and statewide—and individuals. Its mission is to represent their common goal to protect, enhance and restore the resources of the New Jersey Highlands and to preserve the quality and quantity of drinking water both for the 850,000 people who live in the Highlands as well as the more than four million people living elsewhere in the state who depend on Highlands water. Prior to 2006, Julia was Executive Director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, a membership-based organization working to protect the land and water of the ten towns of the Great Swamp watershed in Morris and Somerset Counties. Julia serves on the Boards of the Coalition for Affordable Housing and the Environment and the New Jersey Environmental Lobby. She also serves on her community's Open Space Committee. Julia, her husband and family live in Green Village.
Joseph Basralian, Vice Chair
Joe spent his early childhood exploring nature in the brook and wetland bordering his back yard in Franklin Lakes, and along the coast at his grandparents’ home in Lavalette. These imprints stayed deep within him during his young adult years, when he received a BA from Cornell University, earned an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business, and worked in Equity Research at DLJ/Credit Suisse and Banc of America Securities.
On the eve of the “Great Recession,” he resigned from the financial world to become engaged in conservation, a period that began with a 2008 stint as a volunteer for NY LCV in Manhattan. In 2009 and now with young children, he moved back to New Jersey and worked for the NJ Audubon Society, reporting to Kelly Mooij during the successful statewide campaign for $400 million in open space funding. He then worked for three years as a fundraiser for The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey, another formative and inspiring experience.
He recently returned to the financial world full-time in New Jersey while remaining active in conservation causes. He has chaired the Chatham Township Open Space Advisory Committee since 2010, volunteers in the school district and his parish church, and is a 2016 member of the Conservation Council of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey.
Carleton Montgomery, Treasurer
Carleton became the second executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance in 1998. An attorney by training, he practiced law at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in its Washington, D.C. office for nearly 12 years, the last four years as a partner in the firm’s litigation practice. Since joining the Alliance, Carleton has worked with his colleagues to strengthen both its advocacy and its education initiatives, with the goal of ensuring the New Jersey Pine Barrens ecosystem will survive, and its regional conservation and sustainable development will succeed, in the nation’s most crowded state. Carleton has a BA from Harvard University and an MPhil from University College London, both in philosophy, and a JD from Harvard Law School. In addition to serving on the board of New Jersey LCV, he serves on the boards of the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, the Coalition for Affordable Housing and the Environment, and New Jersey Future.
Bill Leavens, Secretary
Bill Leavens grew up as a free range kid in a section of New Jersey blessed with open space and a stream. His environmental awareness was nurtured by a stint at farming in Western New Jersey. Dumping fertilizer and pesticide on fertile ground made farming seem like an extractive industry. The farm is now an organic CSA, operated by a professional farmer.
He was tapped as President of Musconetcong Watershed in 2000 and remained in that position throughout a decade that saw the Musconetcong given Federal designation as New Jersey’s third ‘Wild and Scenic’ river. Also on Mr. Leavens watch, the MWA demolished two dams in Hackettstown and constructed a LEED Platinum headquarters from a donated, abandoned building. He attributes those achievements to the excellent board and staff he works with. Mr. Leavens serves as Chairman of the Washington Township (Morris) Planning Board and is a member of the Township's Environmental Commission. Bill kayaks in and flies an antique Luscombe over the Musconetcong Valley, photographing the Association's dam removal and riparian restoration projects.
Michele S. Byers
Michele became Executive Director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation in 1999. Prior to becoming Executive Director, she served as Assistant Director and spearheaded NJCF’s work in the Pine Barrens, helping found the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and Whitesbog Preservation Trust. In 1995 Michele was appointed to the State Planning Commission and was named as Vice Chair in 1998. She served as Chair of New Jersey State Committee of the Highlands Coalition, and former Chair of New Jersey’s Freshwater Wetlands Mitigation Council.
In 2003, Michele was appointed by Governor McGreevey to serve on the Highlands Task Force, and is a board member of the Center for Non-Profit Corporations. Michele also serves as Advisor to the Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance, is a member of the NJ Trails Council, and a member of The Hopewell Township Mercer County Open Space Committee. She was a former President of the Whitesbog Preservation Trust, and served on the Burlington County Agriculture Development Board for over ten years. Michele has a BA in Biology from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. She resides in Hopewell, Mercer County.
James G. Gilbert
Jim currently serves on the Boards of Directors of The New Jersey Planning Officials, New Jersey Future, and the New Jersey Highlands Coalition where he works to promote responsible and sustainable land use and quality of life. In the past, he has served on the Board of Directors of many noteworthy civic groups in New Jersey, including New Jersey Common Cause, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Advisory Board of the Bloustein School of Public Policy and Planning at Rutgers University. He has also served as the first Chairman of the New Jersey State Planning Commission and as the Chairman of the Englewood Planning Board. As a committed comprehensive land use planner and environmentalist, Jim brings decades of leadership at municipal, regional, and state levels to NJLCV’s Board. He retired as Managing Director at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc.
Born and raised in NJ and an avid outdoorswoman, Kelly became interested in environmental issues at a young age. She received a BA in Political Science from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, and then attended Vermont Law School, the preeminent environmental law school in the country, completing a Juris Doctorate and Master of Studies in Environmental Law focusing on marine biodiversity and land and water use issues. She was admitted to practice law in the State of New Jersey and the Federal District Court of New Jersey in December, 2003.
Kelly is the Director of Government Relations at NJ Audubon, where she is actively involved in conservation initiatives at the State and federal level that conserve habitat, preserve open space and protect species, particularly threatened and endangered species, and increase conservation funding. Under her direction, the Government Relations unit has had a number of conservation successes including many working successfully in coalition. For example, as Coordinator of the NJ Keep It Green Campaign, a coalition of over 150 organizations working to renew and strengthen the Garden State Preservation Trust, Kelly worked to ensure significant funding to continue open space preservation efforts in New Jersey.
Kelly lives in Trenton and is currently a member of the Mercer County Agricultural Development Board.
A longtime active member of the environmental community, Scott Rotman’s career started in general law practice, and quickly focused on environmental law when he enrolled in the PhD program in Natural Resources Management at SUNY-ESF.
He has managed or contributed to projects in the transportation, energy, and research sectors in widely divergent ecosystems, from Alaskan tundra to Death Valley. His focus for the past decade has been transportation, and particularly transit. He also spent one legislative session with the Vermont State Legislature, drafting legislation in the Natural Resources and Transportation sectors, particularly for the House Transportation Committee. Over the course of his career, he has saved hundreds of homes, unique natural features, important wildlife habitat and culturally significant places from destruction by working with agencies and engineers to develop more appropriate solutions to transportation problems.
He has also served on the boards of Save Our Shores (Santa Cruz, CA) and the Glens Falls Area Youth Center (Glens Falls, NY). His passions include skiing, running, climbing, and pretty much anything that gets him on top of a mountain.
Arnie has a BS in Environmental Science and is a NJ Licensed Registered Environmental Health Specialist. In 2018 he retired from his Union County position of 30 years in which he coordinated and supervised the County’s Environmental Health Compliance and Enforcement programs enforcing NJDEP regulations. Arnie’s responsibilities included preparing and signing off on violation, settlement and discovery documents as well as conducting settlement hearings with responsible parties upon their compliance. Earlier in his career he performed facility inspections and complaint investigations. Prior to working for the County Arnie worked for 12 years as an Associate Toxicologist and Regulatory Affairs Coordinator for Revlon Research in New York and then New Jersey. He was appointed to the NJ Noise Control Council by Governor Corzine in 2006 and has been the Chair since 2016. He lives in Franklin Township (Somerset County) with his wife and is an appointed member of several township committees including the Environmental Commission, which he Chaired for 3 years, the Open Space Advisory Committee, and the Shade Tree Commission. An active member of the Democratic Party, Arnie also serves as a Franklin Township Committee Ward Chair and as a member of the Screening Committee. In 2018 he was inducted into his High School Sports Hall of Fame.