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Joy Oakes

Joy M. Oakes’s career in conservation and preservation campaigns includes advancing policies and practices at local, state and federal levels, preserving natural and historic sites from inappropriate development, and building advocacy capacity by stewarding diverse coalitions.

She retired in 2021 after a career that includes serving as the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) senior Mid-Atlantic director, the Sierra Club’s senior Appalachian staff director and California grassroots organizer, and the National Audubon Society’s national clean air organizer.

– At NPCA, she helped establish and for a time, led, NPCA’s clean air for parks and people campaign to defend and expand clean air protections under consideration by the U.S. Congress, and to encourage successive administrations to implement multiple policies to protect human and ecological health. Joy was a leader in Maryland’s Healthy Air campaign, which in 2006 secured the nation’s strongest state legislation to reduce air pollution including carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. She was a leader in campaigns to require power plants to reduce smokestack pollution. In addition, NPCA and partners agreed to a settlement to their challenge of the Longview power plant’s permit application that established the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation, which funds projects to reduce harms from pollution.
– At Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania battlefield, Gauley River, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, Manassas, New River Gorge, Valley Forge, Wilderness battlefield, and elsewhere, Joy was a leader in successful campaigns (2001 – 2021) to protect nationally significant lands in and adjacent to national parks from inappropriate development.
– Joy was a leader in campaigns to expand existing and establish new national parks, notably to expand Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in 2004, to establish Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park in 2002, and to establish Fort Monroe National Monument in 2011.
– In the 1990s Joy led a campaign to preserve a richly biodiverse forest in Maryland on the Potomac River downstream of Washington, D.C. The campaign catalyzed enactment of Maryland’s landmark “Smart Growth” program, established the 2,200-acre Chapman State Park and expanded Mattawoman State Natural Environmental Area.
– In addition to building and nurturing diverse campaign coalitions, in 1997 Joy helped found the Coalition for Smarter Growth in the greater Washington, D.C. region. In 2009 she was a founder of the Choose Clean Water coalition, which advocates for clean water policies and practices in the Chesapeake watershed.

A native of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Joy has deep roots in rural culture with a practical interest in regenerative agriculture. She and her husband, Tom Cassidy, have two sons. Joy enjoys being with her family, exploring and learning about history, culture and the natural world, gardening for native plants and animals at her Arlington home, and volunteering at church.

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