Meet Our Staff

SGI’s success depends on our field staff who are funded by a variety of partners. Download contact info for SGI field staff (updated December 2020) who work with landowners in 11 western states.


SGI’s new coordinator brings extensive experience and a history of success sage grouse and sagebrush conservation.Thad Heater, Conservation Outcomes Team, USDA-NRCS, Reno, Nevada

Thad understands ranching first hand from his upbringing on a working on a cattle ranch in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon. His diverse resume also includes a decade of service at the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and another seven years’ in the private sector and Nevada Department of Wildlife. Thad joined NRCS in 2009 as a shared biologist in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Intermountain West Joint Venture eventually transferring to the state biologist position. He has been the SGI state lead in Nevada since the initial roll out of SGI in 2010 and has been very active in sage grouse conservation at the state and local level where he served on a variety technical teams. His work had been instrumental in making SGI and NRCS easement programs a success in Nevada by protecting key sage grouse habitat in the Bi-State and Greater Sage grouse populations.

Contact: Thad Heater| office: 775-857-8500 ext. 144   cell: 775-722-0109 |



Staff_TimeGriffiths_289x212Tim Griffiths, West Regional Coordinator, Working Lands for Wildlife, USDA-NRCS, Bozeman, Montana.

Tim provides leadership and resources to conserve sage grouse populations and to sustain healthy rangelands and rural ways of life that support them. As the national coordinator of SGI since 2010, Tim recently accepted a new position* within NRCS as the Western Lead for Working Lands for Wildlife. In this new role, Tim will continue to provide vision and leadership for SGI, and will also help bolster the capacity of conservation efforts for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. He grew up in Klamath Basin in southern Oregon, obtained his degree in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University, and has spent his entire career working to achieve fish and wildlife conservation through sustainable agriculture and to reduce regulatory burdens associated with the Endangered Species Act. In 2011, Tim received the Secretary of Agriculture Honor Award for his work on the agency’s major sage grouse conservation initiative.

Contact: Tim Griffiths | 406.600.3908 |


david naugle SGIDave Naugle, Sage Grouse Initiative Science Advisor & Professor, Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana, Missoula.

Dave is a professor in the Wildlife Biology Program at the University of Montana in Missoula. His applied science includes all aspects of sage grouse ecology and management. Examples include his evaluations of energy development impacts on sage grouse populations, the topic of his book with Island Press, and his work with sage grouse and West Nile virus.  Dave serves as USDA Science Advisor to SGI, where he directs science-based evaluations that quantify the biological response of sage grouse to conservation to assess program effectiveness and adaptively improve field delivery.

Contact: Dr. Dave Naugle |406.243.5364| .




MaestasJeremy Maestas, Sagebrush Ecosystem Specialist, in partnership with USDA-NRCS, West National Technology Support Center, Portland, Oregon

Jeremy works with NRCS staff and partners to put science into practice through strategic habitat conservation delivery in sagebrush ecosystems across the West. He grew up in Nevada and went on to earn B.S. and M.S. degrees in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University. Much of his career has focused on sustaining working landscapes in the Great Basin, where contributions have included implementation of large-scale strategic approaches to reducing conifer encroachment, wildfire and invasive species threats to sagebrush ecosystems.

Contact: Jeremy Maestas | | 541-923-4358 ext. 109



Michael Brown, Range & Wildlife Conservationist with Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever, holding a sage grouse.

Michael Brown, Field Capacity Coordinator in partnership with Pheasants Forever, Wenatchee, Washington

Brown graduated from the University of California at Davis with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology prior to earning his Master’s in Avian Science from the University of California at Davis in 2013. Since that time, Brown has been employed by Pheasants Forever and SGI as a range and wildlife conservationist in the state of Washington. Developing key partnerships in this role, Brown has been able to secure funding for an infrared survey covering 405,000 acres of Washington’s core sage grouse habitat, obtain grants to remove over 11 miles of fence, and finance a pilot project on precision agriculture business planning. He is currently working in Washington State to expand the cooperative opportunities for sage grouse habitat enhancement, restoration, and permanent protection.

Contact: Michael Brown | 831-239-8307 |



Jason TackJason Tack, US Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (in partnership with SGI and IWJV), Missoula, Montana

Jason joined the University of Montana in August 2015 and will be working primarily on SGI related projects. Jason completed his Master’s at the University of Montana where he studied sage-grouse at the northeastern edge of their range in Valley County, Montana and Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. He received a PhD from Colorado State University, where he developed spatial planning tools for golden eagles with an eye towards future wind energy development. Jason will be providing the science-based tools fundamental to SGI’s mission, while measuring the biological outcomes of collaborative work on the ground. His work focuses on learning about the role that mesic resources play in wildlife populations across the West. Photo by John Carlson.

Contact: Jason Tack |406-544-8023 | 




Julia Debes, Working Lands for Wildlife Director of Agricultural Communications in partnership with Pheasants Forever, Hoisington, Kansas

Julia Debes serves as the Director of Agricultural Communications for the Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative. WLFW initiatives include strategic, landscape-scale conservation practices on private lands in the prairie grasslands, the sagebrush-steppe and the desert Southwest. In this role, Debes develops and oversees targeted communications for regional initiatives as well as consistent messages for the broader western WLFW effort, geared specifically to engaging agricultural audiences.

Contact: Julia Debes | (620) 786-0369 |




Greg M. Peters, Working Lands for Wildlife Communications Coordinator in partnership with Pheasants Forever, Missoula, Montana

Greg helps to coordinate communications and outreach for SGI and LPCI.  He works closely with the SGI team on writing and producing a range of resources designed to further the important, collaborative work centered around sage grouse. Greg holds a B.A. in English from Washington University and an M.S. in Environmental Writing from the University of Montana.  Read more about his freelance writing and conservation work at

Contact: Greg Peters| 406-471-3363 |

Click HERE to download contacts for NRCS public affairs specialists in each state.



 SGI State Leads for NRCS

Thomas Moore, State Biologist, Davis
Email: Phone: 530.792.5652

Krystal Phillips, Colorado State Biologist, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service
Phone: 719.229.6447

Trisha Cracroft, State Biologist, Boise
Email: Phone: 208.378.5725

Kyle Tackett, Resource Conservationist for Initiatives, Dillon
Phone: 406.638.3803

Jim Gifford, State Resource Conservationist, USDA-NRCS
Phone: 775.834.0874

North Dakota
Cindy Zachmeier, Area Biologist, Dickinson
Phone: 701.225.5113. ext 114

Jennifer Moffitt, Resource Soil Scientist, Redmond
Phone:  541-699-3181

South Dakota
Brandon J. Walter, State Biologist, Huron
Email: Phone: 605-352-1238

Matthew Phillippi, State Biologist, Salt Lake City
Phone: 801.524.4566

Richard Fleenor, Acting State Range Management Specialist, Spokane
Phone: 509.323.2965

Brian Jensen, State Biologist, Casper
Email: Phone: 307.233.6740