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October 31, 2013

Occa brings on new program director

Staff Report
Cooperstown Crier

---- — The Otsego County Conservation Association has hired a new program director, Jeff O’Handley. O’Handley has served as OCCA’s interim program director since August.

“I’m very excited to join OCCA,” O’Handley said in a release. “OCCA does such great work in the county; I’m thrilled be part of this organization.”

O’Handley has an extensive background in environmental education.

After graduating from Cook College, Rutgers University, with a degree in natural resources management (wildlife), O’Handley worked for several years at Queens College Center, an environmental education center on Long Island. He then became an educator in New York City with the Central Park Conservancy.

After more than eight years with the conservancy, Jeff, his wife Susan and their two children moved to Hartwick. There, Jeff and Susan started their environmental education business, Wildlife Learning Company. They, and their collection of permanently injured animals, were a regular part of area events, such as the Otsego County Fair, and they visited numerous classrooms, over the next eight years.

WLC and OCCA partnered together in 2005 to creat Burn Barrel Biology, a program that highlighted the negative impacts of burn barrels. WLC was also part of the effort to bring recycling to the Otsego County Fair.

“I’m proud of both programs,” said O’Handley in a release to the media. “We diverted about three tons of material from the landfill over three years at the County Fair. And I thought the burn barrel program was fun and informative, and handled what was a touchy topic for many in a sensitive way.”

As interim program director for OCCA, O’Handley organized OCCA’s Oktoberfest and worked on the organization’s water chestnut eradication efforts and the highway cleanup along State Highway 80 in the town of Springfield, among other work.

Some of the efforts O’Handley will be working on now include organizing OCCA’s fall nature walk series, reaching out to farmers for the Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project, and the EccoTeam school program.

“Jeff is a welcome addition to our team,” said OCCA Executive Director Darla M. Youngs in a release. “His environmental education background and practical experience make him a great asset to the organization and an integral partner in our work to protect, preserve and enhance the environment. He has hit the ground running.”