Press Release Jul 26, 2022

Parks Group Celebrates Staffer Named North Carolina Wildlife Conservationist Of The Year

Jeff Hunter has led NPCA’s efforts to protect iconic national parks like Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Today, the National Parks Conservation Association proudly recognizes Jeff Hunter, Senior Program Manager in NPCA’s Southeast Region, who has been named Wildlife Conservationist of the year by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

Hunter has served as NPCA’s eyes and ears in Western North Carolina for nearly seven years. Working from NPCA’s Asheville office and from his home in Burnsville, Hunter has led the organization’s efforts to protect iconic national parks like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, among others.

Jeff Hunter Portrait

Jeff Hunter

camera icon NPCA

Hunter also serves as facilitator for Smokies Safe Passage, a public-private collaboration between local, state, tribal and federal agencies, land managers, conservation organizations and community members. The initiative helps increase wildlife corridors, reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve driving conditions, and build climate resiliency through restored wildlife connections in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

He spent 20 years in the telecommunications industry when a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail inspired him to switch career paths, following his passion to become a conservationist. Since 2003, he has worked to protect thousands of acres of land across the country, and many sensitive wildlife species, from sage grouse to black bear.

Statement of Emily Jones, Southeast Regional Director of the National Parks Conservation Association:

“Anyone who knows Jeff Hunter is not one bit surprised to see him nominated for this prestigious award. Jeff leaves it all out on the line for our national parks and the wildlife that roam our region.

“Whether he is setting up camera traps and leading hikes in the heart of the Carolina wilderness or engaging members of Congress on complex issues, he always puts our people, parks, and planet above all else. The National Parks Conservation Association is proud to call him one of ours.”

Statement of Jeff Hunter, Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“I am honored and humbled that my peers nominated me for 2022 Wildlife Conservationist of the Year here in North Carolina. There is no greater honor than being recognized by the people you work beside on a regular basis.

“As a collaborative, Smokies Safe Passage is doing our part, driving progress and building a better world for people, parks, and wildlife. We are building a movement to keep drivers and animals along I-40 safe, but we also aim to create a ripple effect that will resonate throughout our country. Together, we can all do our part to protect our national parks and iconic wildlife for generations to come.“


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

Read more from NPCA