David H. Festa

Vice President, West Coast and Land, Water, Wildlife

Areas of expertise: Natural resources management and policy, recreational and commercial fishing, clean economic growth, California business and sustainability


David Festa is Vice President of West Coast operations, as well as the national Land, Water and Wildlife Program at Environmental Defense Fund.

In those dual capacities, David leads about 100 EDF employees—including scientists, economists and lawyers—to create transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems.

The Economist calls EDF "…America's most economically literate green campaigners” and EDF ranked first among environmental groups in the 2007 Financial Times global study of 850 business-nonprofit partnerships.

David joined EDF in 2003 to lead the Oceans Program. He took over as West Coast Vice President in 2007 and EDF added responsibility for the Land, Water and Wildlife work in 2010. David has led his teams to sustained growth—including a nearly 10-fold growth for the Oceans Program alone—by achieving significant, measurable improvements in the conservation and economic performance of businesses, and federal and state policies.

A key element of his success is working in partnership with natural resource users, businesses and other environmental groups. This partnership approach includes fostering cross-program synergies internally at EDF. Notable milestones David has helped achieve through the work of his teams and partnerships include:

  • Ending chronic overfishing and increasing fishermen incomeby working with fishermen and communities to win approval for sustainable fishing regulations. More than 60% of all fish caught in federal U.S. waters comes from catch share programs. Under these new systems, fishermen stop exceeding catch limits, accidental killing of marine life goes down by 40% and per-boat revenues increase by 90%. David serves as the President of EDF’s sustainable fishing loan program, the California Fisheries Fund, a recipient of a 2013 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership award, the highest environmental honor in California, for its performance in creating environmental and economic partnerships.

  • Engineering the resounding defeat of California’s November 2010 dirty energy ballot initiative, Proposition 23, which would have suspended the implementation of the state’s landmark clean energy and climate law that EDF cosponsored, The Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Since AB 32 was enacted into law in 2006, clean tech jobs have grown 10 times faster than any other sector in California.

  • Restructuring farm support programs to more effectively target the restoration of important natural systems, and to create incentives for on-farm conservation practices without fear of incurring additional regulatory restrictions.

  • Incubating programs such as Climate Corps that in 2010 collectively saved 47 companies $350 million in potential net operational cost savings over the project lifetimes and is changing attitudes about the economics of efficiency at the CEO level.

  • Launching an innovative $4 million revolving loan fund that invests in sustainable fishing. David serves as President of The California Fisheries Fund which was seeded by public/private capital. In 2013, the California Fisheries Fund received the  California Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership award, “the highest environmental honor” in the state, in the category of environmental and economic partnerships. The program recognizes individuals, organizations, and businesses that have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made notable, voluntary contributions in conserving California's precious resources, protecting and enhancing the environment, building public-private partnerships and strengthening the economy.

  • Building consensus for funding and policies for real-world ecosystem restoration initiatives. Examples include the nation’s first blue ocean National Monuments, recovering of endangered species on private lands and an eco-engineering project that protect habitats while still ensuring the Port of New Orleans can retain its place as the America’s biggest shipper of food and energy commodities.

In late 2008 and early 2009, David served on the Obama transition team for the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he worked during the Clinton administration as Director of Policy and Strategic Planning. He was an active member of the Secretary’s team on trade and the environment, ocean resource management, and electronic commerce. He won honors for leading agency efforts to help Central America rebuild after Hurricane Mitch, one of the most powerful hurricanes on record.


David’s passion is natural resource management and building teams that can forge winning coalitions around innovative policies and practices. His and EDF’s driving belief is that providing a better quality of life for everyone on the planet requires a transformation in how we get our food, water, and energy, so that we preserve the very resources we depend on for those essentials of life. As we move to more sustainable practices, the natural world benefits too, allowing for more conservation of working lands and wildlife.

David's 25+-year career includes working as a journalist for The Economist, where he covered business, technology and science, and was nominated for the Glaxo Award for Science Journalism. He has been a management consultant, analyst for the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and Deputy Director of the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, DC. He has assisted local governments in developing energy policies and formulating growth management plans.

David has worked with national governments, the United Nations and multilateral development banks, including working with the World Bank on climate change strategies and modernizing environmental management in the former Soviet Union. He has helped businesses understand emerging energy and environmental issues and develop responses to them.

David has a master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia, where he earned a Jefferson Academic Achievement Scholarship, was an Echols Scholar (the University’s top honors program) and graduated with distinction. David serves on the boards of the California League of Conservation Voters, Black Rock Solar, and SkyTruth. David is a member of the San Francisco America’s Cup Organizing Committee and he is on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth at Resources for the Future

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Chandler Clay
(202) 572-3312 (office)
(302) 598-7559 (cell)
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