James M. Sulentich, Executive Director

For nearly 30 years Jim Sulentich has worked in the field of conservation as a biologist, educator, planner and manager in California, Texas, Michigan and Costa Rica.  He holds both a B.A. and M.S. in biology from California State Universities, Fullerton and Long Beach respectively.  Additionally, Jim conducted post graduate work in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and the University of Houston.

Jim joined the Natural Communities Coalition as its Executive Director in January 2013.  Prior to his tenure with the Coalition he served as general manager of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District in Monterey, and executive director of the Santa Lucia Conservancy in Carmel, California.  Jim’s experience also includes 14 years with The Nature Conservancy, where he held a variety of positions in both California and Texas, culminating as Texas state director.

In addition to the above, Jim served as program director of Catalina Island Marine Institute, executive director of the Houston Arboretum, biological sciences lecturer at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles, and executive director of the Center for Environmental Study in Grand Rapids, MI.

Danny L. Fry, Science Coordinator/Wildland Fire Lead

In mid-2015 Danny joined the Natural Communities Coalition to implement the wildland fire management plan. Working with the Board and staff, representatives from multiple agencies, businesses, organizations, stakeholders, and partners, Danny’s focus includes prefire fuel management, wildfire resource advising, and post-fire resource management.

Danny’s background is in wildland fire science, primarily from the University of California, Berkeley. For over 15 years Danny has worked as project manager, advisor, and research collaborator, focusing on interactions between fire and ecosystems across western North America. Studies encompassed a wide range of spatial and temporal scales, with interdisciplinary research efforts resulting in dissemination of findings in over 40 reports and peer reviewed academic journals.

Danny holds a B.S. and M.S. in Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles (ecology concentration), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, respectively.

Darin Loughrey, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator

Darin joined Natural Communities Coalition in March 2020.  His primary role is to build relationships and work in collaboration with landowners, stakeholders, partners and members of the community, to support the 37,000-acre Central and Coastal Subregional NCCP/HCP for Orange County.

Prior to joining Natural Communities Coalition, Darin served as a park and recreation administrator for several Orange and San Diego County cities, including Irvine, where he managed the City’s Northern and Southern Open Space Preserves.    Darin also served as President of the California Park and Recreation Society in 2012-13 and was a member of the Natural Communities Coalition Board of Directors from 2017-2019.

Darin grew up in Santa Cruz County and developed a love for nature while residing next to Seacliff State Beach and The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.  He received his B.S. in Recreation Administration from California State University, Fresno.

Mendel Stewart, Natural Resource Management Coordinator

Mendel holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Western Kentucky University and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Memphis. Mendel worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for over 30 years beginning his career as a Biological Technician working on National Wildlife Refuge System land acquisition planning in the Atlanta Regional office. He was an assistant refuge manager at Merritt Island and Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuges in Florida and later moved to Memphis, TN as a Wildlife Management Biologist working on implementation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

From 1995-2000, Mendel worked in the Service’s headquarters office in Arlington, VA as a staff biologist in the Partners for Wildlife Program providing technical support on U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs and later developed policy for the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 2000, Mendel was selected to lead the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex and later moved to Northern California as the Manager of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

In 2012, he moved back to the national office as the Chief of the Division of Budget, Performance and Workforce for the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 2014, Mendel returned to California as the Supervisor of the Carlsbad Ecological Services Office overseeing implementation of the Endangered Species Act for Southern California. Mendel and his wife Kristin have 2 children, Kylie age 19 and Tori age 15.