Megan Wargo named Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Crest Trail Association

We’re excited to announce that Megan Wargo has been named CEO of the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). The PCTA’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to appoint her to the position at their July meeting. She had been serving as the acting CEO since May 2022.

Megan with her husband Dan and son Jacob.

Megan’s career includes more than 20 years in conservation, landscape protection, project management and team leadership roles. She has been with the PCTA since 2015, when she was hired as the organization’s first Director of Land Protection. Since then, she managed the expansion of the program dedicated to protecting the roughly 10% of trail miles and surrounding lands that are still held by private landowners along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

In her first five years at the PCTA, Megan managed the acquisition and permanent protection of 11,125 acres and more than 30 miles of the PCT, overseeing their eventual transfer to public agencies. She created financing strategies for these projects and secured more than $17 million in conservation funding from public and private sources.

As a collaborative leader, the success of these land protection efforts is rooted in her strong commitment to partnerships.  In 2019, she and a team of agency and nonprofit partners were recognized for their collaborative work, receiving the U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Partnership of the Year award.

As the acting CEO over the past 15 months, Megan has directed the PCTA’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Under her leadership, the PCTA overhauled its hiring processes, board recruitment process, and made our communications more inclusive. She is deeply committed to the PCTA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and creating a PCT where everyone is welcome.

Board Chair Kevin Bacon said the effort has gone beyond simply talking about process by showing real results such as hiring a more diverse staff and recruiting five new members to the board. The new board members are the most diverse class of directors in PCTA history—and represent backgrounds including veterans, nonprofit management, public relations and government management, finance, and strategic planning.

“The board put the position before the person,” Bacon said. “For months, we listened to the community and our partners about PCTA’s leadership needs. After assembling the role description based on this input, we evaluated and determined that Megan is the right leader—and she has proven it over the past 15 months.”

During that time, she oversaw the preparation of a new strategic plan built on the most extensive outreach effort in PCTA history. The board made a conscious decision to hold off on appointing a permanent CEO until the PCTA got through this strategic planning process, which started in August 2022 and is expected to wrap up in September. The plan includes new goals addressing climate change, advocacy, and an equitable and inclusive trail experience, and continued commitment to the organization’s core mission of protecting and maintaining the trail.

Megan and Cedar hiking at Smith Rocks State Park in Oregon.

Bacon said the board members are impressed by Megan’s ability to address tough issues in a respectful but direct way; her openness to hearing advice and opinions from many sources; a demonstrated ability to earn the trust of PCTA staff and board members; her strong conservation and land protection background; her understanding of how climate change will affect the PCT and how the association needs to address those consequences; and her willingness to “go the extra mile” to keep the PCTA moving forward.

Bacon said those qualities stood out as the board weighed whether to appoint the new CEO from existing staff or conduct a national search.

“We considered the advantages of a national search such as a diverse pool of applicants, access to new ideas, and raising the visibility of the PCTA,” he said. “We also considered the cost and time required for a national search, the impact that would have on the organization and the difficulty of bringing a person who has not been with the organization up to speed on the PCTA and the complex web of relationships we have with our many partners in managing the trail. In the end, the board felt that appointing Megan was the right answer at this point in our history.”

We all wish the very best for Megan in her new role!

Megan Wargo holds a Master of Environmental Management degree in Resource Economics and Policy from Duke University and a B.A. in Environmental Studies, Economics and Politics from Claremont McKenna College. She also holds a certificate in Leading Diversity Equity and Inclusion from Northwestern University. She has worked for the Pacific Forest Trust, the Trust for Public Land, and the Piedmont Land Conservancy.


Author: PCTA Staff

The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as a world-class experience for hikers and equestrians, and for all the values provided by wild and scenic lands.