Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Robert Bonnie

Robert Bonnie

Executive in Residence


Robert Bonnie is an executive in residence specializing in issues related to climate change and natural resource conservation, with a focus on rural America. He joined the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions in 2019 following a two-year Rubenstein Fellowship at Duke University.

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—to address environmental challenges. During his Rubenstein Fellowship, Bonnie led one Bass Connections project team that developed policy proposals to meet the goals of the Mid-Century Decarbonization plan and another to develop policy to improve the Endangered Species Act’s implementation on private, working lands. He also teaches courses at the Nicholas School of the Environment.

From August 2013 to January 2017, Bonnie served as Undersecretary 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, 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. Bonnie has master’s degrees in forestry and environmental management from Duke University.