Rebecca Todd named Connecticut River Conservancy’s new executive director

Rebecca Todd has started as the CRC’s executive director.

Rebecca Todd has started as the CRC’s executive director. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Rebecca Todd has started as the Connecticut River Conservancy’s new executive director.

Rebecca Todd has started as the Connecticut River Conservancy’s new executive director. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

The Connecticut River looking south over the Norwottuck Rail Trail Bridge and the Calvin Coolidge Bridge between Northampton and Hadley on Wednesday afternoon.

The Connecticut River looking south over the Norwottuck Rail Trail Bridge and the Calvin Coolidge Bridge between Northampton and Hadley on Wednesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

The Connecticut River overlooking the Hadley dike on Wednesday afternoon.

The Connecticut River overlooking the Hadley dike on Wednesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 10-19-2023 7:59 AM

GREENFIELD — Years ago, Rebecca Todd and her roommate decided to cap off their first year at Dartmouth College by paddling home on the Connecticut River — from Hanover, New Hampshire to Walpole, New Hampshire.

“I wouldn’t say that was the start of my love affair with the Connecticut River, but it certainly cemented it,” she said. “I’ve paddled from the First Connecticut Lake to … Vernon, Vermont. So I still have some distance to complete the entire river, but I’m in good company and have the professional excuse to be out on the river.”

That “professional excuse” is her new job as the Connecticut River Conservancy’s new executive director, a position she started on Oct. 10. The Greenfield-based nonprofit is dedicated to the Connecticut River watershed in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“This is my dream job,” said Todd, who lives in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. “When I graduated from college, I was a biology major and … I was an aquatic ecologist, so I spent a lot of time in water quality laboratories and I ran a lot of experiments and did a lot of fieldwork. When I walked in and saw there’s a water quality laboratory in the office, I was just over the moon.”

Todd replaces Ron Rhodes, who served in an interim role following Andrew Fisk’s departure a year ago. Fisk now serves as Northeast regional director of American Rivers, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing river threats across the country. Diana Chaplin, the Connecticut River Conservancy’s communications director, said the organization used a consultancy firm to help with the hiring process.

“We wanted to make sure that it was done really equitably and professionally,” Chaplin said. “We had a committee formed that included members of the board as well as staff. We also included stakeholders, like regional partners, in terms of what is important to them. So we had a lot of participation in the process of who our next executive director would be. That takes some time, but [it’s] well worth the wait.”

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Todd was most recently the executive director of Stonewall Farm, a nonprofit educational center and working farm in Keene, New Hampshire. Prior to that she was general counsel at Antioch University. Todd explained she studied at Cornell Law School and later practiced environmental law in New York City for many years, litigating under the Clean Water Act, but she wanted to combine her loves for policy and habitat preservation and restoration.

“My early goals are to hear what my staff and my board and our affiliates and partners and friends in the watershed are concerned about, and follow their lead,” Todd said. “I’m smart, but I have a smarter staff and board, so I want to hear from them before I go riding off on a horse into battle.”

She said the Connecticut River Conservancy will continue its usual work, which includes replacing dams in poor condition, removing invasive species and planting native vegetation. The organization also will examine accessibility issues and ways of increasing access to the recreational opportunities that are available on the river.

“The big issue is, really, what the heck are we going to do about global climate change?” Todd added. “I mean, we happen to live in this tremendous watershed and we saw this summer the impacts of global climate change. We had flooding that destroyed habitat, destroyed livelihoods, destroyed farms, destroyed property. There were some lives lost.

“In my first few months I hope to meet a lot of our partners and affiliates in the watershed, and that’s going to be fun. I’ve dubbed it my ‘circuit riding,’” she continued. “I get to go to northern Vermont, New Hampshire, all the way down to Long Island Sound and meet people who care about the river and the ecosystems here. You know, those are my kind of people. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.