Board Member Bios

William H. McWethy, Jr.


Vice President

Bill McWethy received his undergraduate and post graduate degrees in business from the University of Southern California.  In addition to a long and very successful career in business, he has been passionate about conservation and preservation in California, Baja California and off our coast.

As a past President of the Pacific Region of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, Mr. McWethy helped legislators enact laws to protect marine life in the Pacific Ocean and has been a continuing patron for saltwater conservation.  He is a lifetime member of the California Conservation Association.

McWethy has also been a longtime proponent for sensible regulations protecting migratory birds and their habitat, and he continues to have frequent discussions with Wildlife Agencies and private groups to further the cause through innovative strategies and fund raising.

From an historical perspective, Bill McWethy has long supported the Save Our Heritage Organization and is a lifetime member.  A notable project which involved close consultation with SOHO was the $4 million renovation and rehabilitation of the seven 100 year old Victorian structures in County Heritage Park in Old Town San Diego.  

Through his efforts, the Warner Springs Ranch Habitat & Cultural Conservancy constantly is engaged in programs and resource management to preserve important biological and cultural resources in the greater Warner Springs region of San Diego County.

James E. Whalen



Jim is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a degree in wildlife biology. He has over thirty years of working in San Diego with diverse stakeholders on complicated land use and environmental issues.

He was instrumental in the conception and approval of the Multiple Species Conservation Program (a unique collaboration of local, county, state and federal governmental agencies that preserves hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat for 85 identified threatened species) and was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to advise them on the recent San Diego County General Plan update.  Jim is a Planning Commissioner for the City of San Diego. He is known for facilitating creative solutions to disputes between the business community and environmentalists.

Working/personal relationships with Endangered Habitats League, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, Sierra Club, Audubon, Trust for Public Land, Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, Center for Biological Diversity.

In association with the California Wildlife Foundation, the Endangered Habitats League, the San Diego Foundation, and the Urban Corps, Jim Whalen has assisted in preserving, managing and monitoring the following conservation banks or project mitigation sites:

Crestridge Conservation Bank
Desert Green Biological Open Space Mitigation
La Costa Collection Preserve Mitigation
Santee Senior Retirement Community, LLC Mitigation
Shea Homes Inc, San Diego Division Mitigation
Westminster Preserve Mitigation

Brian H. Harkins


Chief Financial Officer

A graduate of the University of San Diego, Mr. Harkins has successfully served for many years at the highest level of various companies in San Diego County as a financial executive.

Brian Harkins’ depth of experience and professionally diverse responsibilities span the entire spectrum of types of businesses and associations. From real estate development, to hospitality management, risk management and personal finance to name a few.

 Among his many other responsibilities, Brian Harkins has maintained all of the origination documentation for the Conservancy and all of the financial records and is responsible for the reporting duties. He maintains accounts of the properties and business transactions of the Corporation, including accounts of its assets, liabilities, receipts, disbursements, gains and losses.

 Brian loves the great outdoors and in his spare time is a frequent visitor to San Diego’s back country. He enjoys taking his children and grandchildren hiking and experiencing everything San Diego County has to offer.

Passionate about conservation, he feels privileged to serve the Conservancy as its Chief Financial Officer.

Promote current deals



Keith Merkel is a principal ecologist in the firm Merkel & Associates.  He has over 34 years of experience as a professional environmental biologist and has coordinated, conducted, or assisted in ecological on over 4,500 projects involving biological or water quality investigations, environmental regulatory permitting, or habitat restoration and management.  He has provided services to a broad range of private industries, non-governmental organizations, and public agency clients. 

Mr. Merkel is widely recognized as an expert on the federal Clean Water Act.  He has served as a technical advisor and consultant to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles Districts, National Marine Fisheries Service, West Coast Region, Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Regional Water Quality Control Board (San Diego and Santa Ana Regions), California State Lands Commission, and the Oregon Division of State Lands.  Mr. Merkel served as a policy advisor to the National Marine Fisheries Service and separately to the National Research Council’s Marine Board in deliberations on the Role of Technology in Habitat Protection and Enhancement.  He was congressionally nominated to serve on the environmental sub-committee for Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) in California. 

Mr. Merkel has been a leader in habitat conservation and establishment of preserves, and development of management programs for conserved lands.  He was the lead consulting biologist for the acquisition of the Crestridge property for conservation, establishment of the Otay Water District Habitat Management Area, conservation of San Miguel Ranch, and completion of management plans for Daley Ranch, Boden Canyon, Lower San Diego River Valley, and the Lower Otay River Valley in the US.