A Major Transition for The Prairie Enthusiasts

It is with mixed emotions that we report on March 1 the TPE Board of Directors decided to begin a nationwide search for a new Executive Director to replace Chris Kirkpatrick. Chris has graciously agreed to work with us on the transition process until March 31. The Executive Committee of the Board (Jerry Newman, Alice Mirk, Jim Rogala, and me) is selecting a search consultant and will oversee the process (with the help of a few other members) as a Transition Task Force until a new Executive Director begins work. The Executive Committee has asked me to assume the additional role of Acting Executive Director to manage the staff and operations of TPE during the transition, and I have accepted that task.

This was not an easy decision, nor was it taken lightly. Chris has served TPE as Executive Director for nearly 8 years, and during that time has overseen a major transformation of the organization. Our professional staff, while still quite small, has grown significantly. We have put in place a very strong financial management infrastructure. Our outreach and communications efforts have also grown significantly, resulting in a significant increase in both contacts and new members, as well as a much stronger public profile. Chris also directly led the process of achieving accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance, which has greatly improved our land protection processes. The land we protect by ownership or easement has grown from 2,500 to 4,000 acres. We give Chris thanks for all his many efforts during his tenure and wish him well in his future endeavors.

The primary driver for making this leadership change is a set of exciting new opportunities and challenges that are emerging for TPE. As many of you are aware, we have received a major three-year grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to develop a new program of direct outreach and services to private working and recreational landowners for pollinator habitat restoration and improvement. We are hiring a new, full-time Landowner Services Coordinator to provide ecological assessments to landowners, to help develop management plans, and to assist landowners obtaining the funding, professional resources and appropriate seeds needed for selected projects.

The NFWF grant also funds half a staff position to develop and execute a program of outreach targeted at building interest among landowners in pollinator habitat projects. The Board decided to supplement that funding and hire a new full-time staff member to work with the rest of the staff and chapter leadership on integrated outreach, development, and services program for both landowner outreach and building the general membership and volunteer engagement in the chapters. We will have more about these new staff positions and strategic directions in future blog postings.

On a personal note, I am both excited and more than a bit daunted by the challenge of assuming a new, expanded role in the leadership of TPE during this important transition. Having just finished visiting all eleven of our chapters since the first of the year and discussed these opportunities and changes with many of you in considerable depth, I am deeply impressed by the engagement and thoughtfulness of the leaders and members across the organization. There is a strong sense of hope and even optimism about our future, but there is also a very realistic and well-considered understanding of the significant challenges we will face. I do feel very well supported by the Board, staff, chapter leadership and our members, and ask for all your help in working together through this transition process.

As always, please let me know what you think at president@ThePrairieEnthusiasts.org.

Scott Fulton, President and Acting Executive Director


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  • David Hamel
    commented 2020-04-07 10:05:33 -0500
    It was my honor to see Hall of Famer Paul J. Olson conduct monthly meetings of the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in the 60’s. Scott is cut from the same cloth. Democratic, inclusive, goal oriented, dedicated.
    David Hamel
  • Gary Birch
    commented 2020-03-13 16:12:44 -0500
    Sad to see Chris go. He has a lot of institutional and personal knowledge.
    Scott, I can’t think of a better person to fill Chris’ shoes. Hang-on tight!