News and Notes

Half-Earth Project Introduces New Discussion Series with Places and Voices of America the Beautiful: Southeastern Coasts and Forests

The Half-Earth Project® presents the first in a new discussion series, “Places and Voices of America the Beautiful: Southeastern Coasts and Forests,” that will run through 2022. The online discussions are focused on areas of great biodiversity in the United States and the pathways and people essential to protecting them. The discussions are free and open to the public with registration. Southeastern Coasts and Forests will be held on November 16th, at 12 pm on Zoom and live-streamed from the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation on Facebook.

The Southeastern US is a biological hotspot rich in diversity—think longleaf pine and gopher tortoises, sweetgrass, and oysters. Local wisdom and knowledge held by long-established stewards of these places are as much a part of the habitat as the species and heritage they look after. And they are vital to carrying out the goal of Half-Earth, protecting half the land and seas for nature.

E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Vice President Dennis Liu will convene ambassadors of the extreme natural and cultural beauty of the Southeastern region for a conversation on what success in preservation looks like for these places, and how they uniquely contribute to conserving biological diversity and cultural heritage. We will explore how the Biden Administration’s “America the Beautiful” initiative, and relevant legislation, public engagement, and scientific research are critical not just to these local efforts, but protecting global biodiversity as well.

Join us for the hour-long conversation moderated by the Half-Earth Project with:

  • Steven Friedman, Chief of Real Estate, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
  • Victoria A. Smalls, Executive Director, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor National Heritage Area
  • Joshua F. Walden, Esq., Chief Operating Officer, Center for Heirs Property Preservation
  • Joel R. Johnson, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
  • Dennis Liu, Vice President of Education, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation


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Joshua F. Walden, Esq., Chief Operating Officer, Center for Heirs Property Preservation

Joshua F. Walden was born in Mt. Airey, North Carolina but has lived in South Carolina since 1979. He grew up in Chapin, South Carolina approximately 20 miles outside of Columbia. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from The University of South Carolina in 1996. Mr. Walden earned his Juris Doctorate from The University of South Carolina School of Law and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 2000.

Mr. Walden, is a member of the South Carolina and Charleston Bar Associations and has practiced primarily in the fields of real property and estate planning/probate law. He has served as a Guardian Ad Litem in the family court for SC Department of Social Services and SC Department of Juvenile Justice cases and is a South Carolina Board Certified Civil Court Mediator. Mr. Walden joined the Center in September of 2009 as the Supervising Attorney. He currently practices law and serves as the Chief Operating Officer with the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation in Charleston, South Carolina.


Victoria A. Smalls, Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor National Heritage Area (NHA)

Victoria A. Smalls, a Gullah Geechee native of St. Helena Island, South Carolina, specializes in Gullah Geechee Culture, as a preservationist, historian, educator, and arts advocate. She proudly served the National Park Service as a National Park Ranger with Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, worked for Penn Center located at Penn School National Historic Landmark District as Director of the History, Art and Culture Program, Director of the York W. Bailey Museum, and Assistant to the Executive Director was Program Manager for the International African American Museum, and served as a federal commissioner on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission.

 Victoria is a Leo Twiggs Arts Diversity Leadership Scholar, Riley Fellow in Diversity Leadership with The Riley Institute at Furman University, and currently serves as a state commissioner for the SC African American Heritage Commission.

Victoria Smalls is the newly appointed Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor National Heritage Area (NHA). In this role, she helps to recognize, sustain, and celebrate the important contributions made to American culture and history by the Gullah Geechee; to assist federal, state, and local governments and public and private entities in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida in interpreting the story of the Gullah Geechee and preserving the culture for the benefit and education of the public. The mission is to collaborate with Gullah Geechee communities and partners to preserve, interpret and share the history, traditional cultural practices, heritage sites, and natural resources associated with Gullah Geechee people in the four-state NHA.


Steven Friedman, Chief of Real Estate, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Steve Friedman is the Chief of Real Estate for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Since 2005, Mr. Friedman has directed all real estate projects for DNR’s State Parks and Wildlife Resources Division. Mr. Friedman has closed numerous acquisitions throughout the State, for example within the Paulding and Sheffield Forest WMA’s, along the Altamaha River, multiple gopher tortoise conservation projects, and projects in partnership with Georgia’s military bases such as Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Townsend Bombing Range, Fort Stewart Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Benning and Robbins Air Force Base.

Mr. Friedman actively works with multiple partners in his role as Chief of Real Estate. He is presently a member of SERPPAS (Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability), which is a multi-state partnership with the Department of Defense.

A native of Miami, Florida, Mr. Friedman earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia. Mr. Friedman and his wife Judi live in Atlanta, Georgia, and have two children, Emily and Dimitry.

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