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Name: Branham, Jim
Current Position: Executive Director

A 30-year veteran of natural resource and rural community issues in California, James F.  Branham became the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s first executive officer in October 2005.

Branham graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University, Chico in 1978 and immediately went to work as an aide for Republican state Senator Jim Nielsen. It was Nielsen’s first year in government and he was one of the “Prop. 13 babies” swept into office as the state embraced the landmark property tax-cut initiative. Branham held several positions with Nielsen, including administrative assistant, district coordinator and staff director. He stayed with Nielsen until the senator left office in 1990.

After a brief stint as chief consultant for the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organizations, Branham moved to the state’s executive branch during the Pete Wilson administration. In 1991, he was appointed chief deputy director at the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which provided fire protection for about one-third of California, mostly on private lands. In 1996, he moved to the California Resources Agency as deputy secretary and a year later was promoted to undersecretary. While at the agency, Branham served as its representative on the California Coastal Commission, participated in the historic Headwaters Forest agreement and was a negotiator with the federal government regarding the possible Endangered Species Act listing of coho salmon and steelhead trout on California’s North Coast.

The 1999 Headwaters Forest deal was brokered by California Senator Dianne Feinstein after a decade of controversy over logging in Humboldt County. The fabled Pacific Lumber company had been bought in a  1986 hostile takeover by Texas financier Charles Hurwitz, with the help of junk bond king Michael Milken, and more than doubled its cutting of old-growth redwood trees there. The deal obliged Hurwitz’s Maxxam Corp. to sell about 10,000 acres of old-growth forest to the government for $480 million while agreeing to a conservation plan that set strict logging rules governing the remaining 200,000 acres.

Branham left the Resources Agency in 1999 to work for Pacific Lumber where he assisted in developing its conservation plan, the Pacific Lumber Conservation and Sustained Yield Plan, and was a company spokesman.

Pacific Lumber filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2007, claiming environmental regulations prevented it from cutting enough trees to pay its debts. But by then, Branham had moved back to government work, accepting the position of undersecretary at the California Environmental Protection Agency in 2003.

Two years later, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped him for the executive officer position at the newly-established Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

Branham is married and lives in Placer County with his wife, Patricia.


Biography (Conservancy website)

Sierra Nevada Conservancy Names Executive Officer (pdf)

Forest Service Will Be Trimming Operations (McClatchy News Service)

Branham Named Undersecretary; Succeeds Mantell at Resources (California Biodiversity News)

Pacific Lumber Leans (by Tom Abate, San Francisco Chronicle)

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