Robert Bonnie

  • Robert Bonnie

Robert Bonnie

Former Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture

As a Rubenstein Fellow, Bonnie is working with students and faculty to address issues related to climate change and natural resource conservation, with a focus on rural America.

Through the Nicholas Institute’s Catalyst Program, Bonnie leads a project that is assessing rural attitudes on the environment in order to identify ways of engaging rural Americans – who manage large portions of America’s lands and watersheds – in collaborative solutions to addressing environmental challenges. Bonnie also led a 2017-18 Bass Connections project team that developed policy proposals to meet the goals of the Mid-Century Decarbonization plan and is leading a second Bass Connections project team in 2018-19 titled Rethinking the Endangered Species Act’s Implementation on Private, Working Lands. Bonnie also teaches courses in the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Biography

From August 2013 to January 2017, Robert Bonnie was the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this role, Bonnie oversaw the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service on a variety of natural resource issues, including management of the 193 million acre National Forest and Grassland System, implementation of Farm Bill conservation programs on America's farms, ranches and forests, and climate change. From April 2009 to July 2013, Bonnie served as Senior Advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change. Prior to joining the USDA, Mr. Bonnie was Vice President for Land Conservation for the Environmental Defense Fund where he focused on developing incentives to reward farmers, ranchers and forest owners for stewardship activities on private lands. Mr. Bonnie has master degrees in forestry and environmental management from Duke University. He grew up on a farm in Kentucky and now lives in Virginia.

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Robert Bonnie News & Events

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27Mar, 2017

Republican Farm Bill Could Threaten 58.5 Million Acres of Forest Land, Conservationists Say

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Newsweek | May 14, 2018 By Nicole Goodkind A new Republican piece of legislation will threaten about 58.5 million acres, or 91,000 square miles, of protected forest land, environmental activists say. The Farm Bill, an all-encompassing multi-year piece of legislation that directs what happens at the Department of Agriculture, has gained attention for its proposed overhaul…

27Mar, 2017

Farms and Forests: The Future of Federal Climate Policy?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alex Rudee is a second-year Master of Environmental Management student on the Bass Connections Turning the Mid-Century Decarbonization Strategy into Concrete Policy for U.S. Forests and Agriculture project team. His team, which is being led by the former Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and current Rubenstein Fellow,…

27Mar, 2017

There Will Be Fire: Congress fights over how to fund, respond to wildfires

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Washington Examiner | September 27, 2017 By Josh Siegel Western lawmakers are pushing for Congress to address funding and management challenges at the U.S. Forest Service as the government struggles to respond to an extreme year for wildfires. Democrats and Republicans representing states affected by wildfires say the problem demands the same attention as recent hurricanes, as…

"The Rubenstein Fellowship has provided me with a tremendous opportunity to work with faculty and students at the Nicholas School, the Nicholas Institute and the Sanford School to explore challenges in environmental conservation in rural America and to develop new policy approaches that can work for both rural constituencies and the environment. This has been fun for me and, I hope, provided a good learning experience for students. I know it has been incredibly beneficial to the work."
- Robert Bonnie, 2017/20 Rubenstein Fellow

"Working with Robert on issues at the intersection of agriculture and climate change has been one of the highlights of my time as a graduate student at Duke. Having access to his incredible wealth of knowledge and insight into the policy-making process has been invaluable both to our Bass Connection project and to my broader educational experience here at Duke."

Danielle Arostegui

Master of Environmental Management, Class of 2018

"One of the best parts of my Duke experience is that I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with people like Robert Bonnie, who are incredible leaders and experts in their fields … Robert has brought his substantial insider knowledge of environmental issues and politics in the US to our project, and has helped guide our team towards recommendations for carbon sequestration policies that might actually make a difference on a national scale."

Kendall DeLyser

Master of Environmental Management / Master of Forestry, Class of 2018