Rhea Suh most recently served as the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Under her leadership, the organization grew by more than $50 million, increased its membership by more than 40 percent, and expanded its social following by 230 percent (the highest subscriber rate of all environmental groups).
Over her four and a half year tenure, Suh led the creation of a new ten-year strategic plan; established a new internal organizational structure; helped steer high-level discussions that led to the historic global climate agreement in Paris; championed a precedent-setting settlement for the residents of Flint, Michigan, to ensure an end to the city’s toxic drinking water crisis; and was a featured speaker at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C.
Before joining NRDC, Suh served as the assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior. She was nominated for the position by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009. Suh led several cross-cutting initiatives at the department including creating a new interagency program to develop national conservation priorities for Land and Water Conservation Funds disseminated by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service. With her diverse portfolio, she led the Administration’s successful effort to create a federal recognition effort for the Native Hawaiian community. In 2011, she co-led the complex reorganization of the agency responsible for offshore oil and gas oversight in the midst of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Prior to her appointment to the Interior Department, Suh worked at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where she created and managed a $200 million program dedicated to environmental conservation and clean energy in the West. She helped to establish the first-ever collaboration among nonprofits to coordinate conservation efforts across the Colorado River Basin—from the headwaters in Colorado to the delta in Mexico. In addition, she helped to develop the foundation’s strategy for reducing climate change emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Suh developed similarly far-reaching programs at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. While there, she designed the foundation’s first clean energy and climate change initiative and led the effort to create the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the most successful land-protection campaigns in North America. She also launched a portfolio designed to focus on environmental issues for underserved populations in the United States.
Suh earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Barnard College and received a Fulbright Fellowship to Seoul, South Korea. She has served as a senior legislative assistant for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and earned a master's degree in education, administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University.
With her expertise in environmental and public health solutions, Suh is a media commentator making frequent appearances in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, NPR, and other outlets.
Rhea was born in Boulder, Colorado and spent much of her childhood camping, fishing, and hiking. She is an avid fly-fisher and marginal duck-hunter.