In December 2020 Carlton Owen retired from a distinguished career in forest and wildlife conservation. In the last leg of his 45-years of service he was founding President & CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (2006-2020) the largest not-for-profit in North America dedicated to protecting and providing economic value from working forests. During his 15-years at the Endowment’s helm the organization raised $100 million from partners and invested $100 million of its own funds in projects across the nation that resulted in $1 billion in programmatic impact, all while growing the organization’s corpus from $200 million to more than $240 million.
Prior to his role with the Endowment, he ran his consulting practice, The Environmental Edge, LLC that “brought business and the environment together to benefit both.” He is both one of the creators of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative – North America’s largest forest certification program -- and was the program’s first Executive Director. Owen is a former Vice President, Forest Policy with Champion International Corporation; Vice-President, American Forest Council; Executive Director, American Forest Foundation; Supervisor, Forestry Environmental Affairs with Potlatch Corporation; and Executive Director, Mississippi Wildlife Federation.
Owen has served as an Adjunct Professor at Clemson University and the University of Arkansas-Monticello. He also served on Advisory Boards for forestry programs at UA-Monticello; Clemson U; U. of Georgia; MS State U.; SUNY-School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences; and the U. of Tennessee.
He was appointed by two Presidential Administrations to the Board of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation where he served as Vice Chair and was the creator of a partnership between the foundation and Walmart -- “Acres for America” a 20-year partnership supported by Walmart’s $70 million investment that has helped protect nearly two million acres across the nation.
In his adopted hometown of Greenville, he led a seven-year effort to convert an abandoned railroad into the popular Swamp Rabbit Trail.
He was a founding Board member and former Chairman of Upstate Forever (Greenville, SC); and a founding Board member of the North American Forest Partnership (a.k.a. “forestproud”). Owen served on the boards of privately held SynTerra Corporation (Greenville, SC) for 12.5 years; and CEI Capital Management (Brunswick, ME) for 8 years. He currently serves on the board of Abundance Capital (Greenville, SC); and is an inaugural Board member and current Chair of the Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust (Greenville County, SC [gchnrt.org]); and, Chair, Soapstone Preservation Endowment [soapstonepe.org]. He is Co-Chair with Clemson University Provost Bob Jones in a review of the future of Clemson’s 17,500-acre Experimental Forest.
Among his recognitions: The Carlton Owen Prize, Innovation in Diversity in Forestry, created by the U.S. Endowment Board, 2020; Gifford Pinchot Medal, Society of American Foresters, 2019 (the profession’s highest honor); Order of the Palmetto (South Carolina’s highest civilian honor), 2010; and both Alumnus of Year and Alumni Fellow, Mississippi State University, College of Forest Resources, 1990.
He holds an MS in wildlife ecology and BS in forest management both from Mississippi State University.
He and his wife of 50 years, Brenda, reside in their mountain home near Marietta, SC. They have two children and five grandchildren.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment
University of Idaho
Professor & Head of Fish & Wildlife Sciences
University of Idaho
Associate Prof. of Fire Ecology & Mgmt and Director of Wildland Fire Lab
Humboldt State University
US Forest Service Chief
Chief Executive Officer
Thomasson Lumber Company
Texas A & M (WFA)
The Wildlife Society
The Wildlife Society
Molpus Woodlands Group
Conservation Biology, Department of Wildlife Ecology, University of Maine
Univ. of Minnesota (Wood Supply, Impact of Bioenergy)
Co-Founder, Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer
The Forestland Group, LLC
Professor of Biology
Florida Gulf Coast University (Also, Professor Emeritus of MSU)
The Nature Conservancy's Southern U.S. Region
H.J. Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment
Weyerhaeuser Company, VP of Southern Timberlands
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Unit Leader & Prof. of Fishery & Wildlife Biology, CO St.
Deputy Chief of R&D, USDA Forest Service
Invited, but canceled
Forest Investments Associates
US Fish and Wildlife Service