Allison standing in front of a waterfall on a hike in Olmoti Crater in Tanzania. Allison is wearing a blue shirt, blue skirt, black leggings, and hiking boots.

Allison Williams: Conservationist and Community Outreach Specialist

Allison is crouching in a garden. Behind her are rows of small green plants. She is smiling, wearing a blue shirt and black leggings.

Allison volunteering in an Asheville Community Garden, courtesy of Allison Williams

Allison Williams became a board member at SAHC in 2019. She is currently serving as an information assistant with Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina. After her recent recognition by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) for her community outreach and coordination work, we were fortunate enough to have a conversation with Allison.

“It’s hard to be recognized in conservation. No one gives you a gold star”

In April, Allison was on the NPCA’s 10 Under 40 list. This list recognizes young people making a difference in conservation. This honor is especially fitting for Allison as she identifies more closely with the term conservationist than she does with environmentalist. She stated that “conservationists are more connected with the informative side of environmentalism” and that she is “100% an information person”. Information has been a driving force in Allison’s journey to get to where she is today. 

Allison is standing on a bridge over a small creek. She is wearing an orange, pink, and white tie die shirt, a blue skirt, and a teal fanny pack.

Allison hiking on the Palmetto Trail on the Francis Marion National Forest, courtesy of Allison Williams

Allison credits her introduction to the natural resource world to AmeriCorps. When she joined in 2013, Allison had no formal experience working in the environmental sector. This is unsurprising seeing as Allison feels more people should “throw your hat in every basket and go where you need to go”. Through her work with Osceola National Forest, Allison learned about volunteer coordination and outreach. This is where she discovered her passion for community. Since then, Allison has worked with the Mobilizegreen, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the US Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service. In addition to her work in the U.S., Allison has gained global perspectives on the environment through several trips abroad.  Allison brings her expertise in community building and passion for nature connection to SAHC as an active board member. 

“People shouldn’t be afraid of trying somethig new. You move forward or make mistakes but either way you learn”

Allison is standing in front of a sign that says

Allison doing trail work on the Florida Trail in the Osceola National Forest, courtesy of Allison Williams

Most recently, Allison had a hand in the development of the National Forest Explorer app. This is no surprise, seeing as Allison is also passionate about helping organizations “connect the dots”. By this, she means she enjoys filling the gaps in communication between companies and communities. The National Forest Explorer app allows visitors of the Francis Marion National Forest (and several others) to have direct access to real-time information about the land they are on. The Forest Explorer app also allows visitors to have access to information when they lose connectivity. Allison says that “the app is another way to connect with community and to open up forest exploration to diverse visitors”. 

Despite her 7 year career in environmental outreach and education, Allison was surprised by her recognition by the NCPA. Allison states “oftentimes work in my field is overlooked and goes unrecognized. This is even more true for those who are minorities”. 

“Don’t have doubts when you don’t see people who look like you. You can always find community”

Being a Black woman in conservation, it doesn’t take long to become aware of the scarcity of those who look like you in the field. Allison never let this stop her. She feels that representation matters and that the discomfort that comes with often being the only Black person in the room is not enough for her to shy away from what she is passionate about. Instead, Allison uses her platform to speak out on the lack of diverse representation in the conservation world. She feels that lack of diversity should inspire underrepresented populations to be changemakers and pave the way for others like them. 

At Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy we pride ourselves on having a staff and board with diverse perspectives and stories. Congratulations Allison on your recognition!