Staff and Leadership


Jim Rogala, Secretary

Jim Rogala, President.

Jim is a recently retired aquatic ecologist from the U.S. Geological Survey. He spends much of his free time restoring hill prairies on his property.  "I find TPE to be perfect outlet for sharing knowledge among those of us dedicated to prairie and savanna restoration." 


Scott Fulton, President

Scott Fulton, Past-president.

Scott, a "retired" biotech entrepreneur, lives in Middleton, WI, and has been a member of the Empire-Sauk Chapter since 2002. He enjoys all aspects of TPE, but is especially interested in outreach, communications and organizational development. Scott also loves being part of a burn crew and training others to do the same.

Jerry Newman

Jerry Newman, Vice President and represents the Prairie Bluff Chapter.

Jerry is retired from a varied work life of management, farming and sales. "Retirement freed me to pursue my interests in history and photography and it wasn't long until I realized how well prairies completed that package. Photographing prairies, their flora and fauna and also the people who care for them has proven to be a satisfying creative outlet. It is equally satisfying to put the camera down and engage in the necessary work of caring for prairies. I hope my work and my photos can awaken and inspire others."

Harvey Halvorsen, Secretary and a member of the St. Croix Valley Chapter.

Harvey helped organize the original Western Wisconsin Chapter of TPE in 1995.  He’s recently retired from the Wis DNR as a wildlife biologist and supervisor who specialized in land acquisition and also grassland, prairie, and wetland restoration projects on private lands.  Building landscape diversity from the ground up, with the strong support of like-minded individuals, was a passion throughout his career.  Imprinted on open landscapes from an early age, he especially enjoys the concept of building large swaths of “working” prairie in strategic geographies to replace corn and soybean production.   He enjoys dark skies over the prairie,  sun and moon rises and sets.  Birding, baking, kayaking, trout fishing and telescopes are his favorites.  He and his wife Ruth planted their backyard to diverse prairie this year.  Burning looms ahead.  His many years as burn boss for DNR will keep the neighborhood safe and the prairie full of blooms throughout the year. 


Alice Mirk, Treasurer

Alice Mirk, Treasurer and member of the Glacial Prairie Chapter. 

Alice was one of the original founders of The Prairie Enthusiasts over 30 years ago. She has a background in public policy, legislative action and grant writing in a career with the State of Wisconsin that spanned 25 years. In her career she managed budgets, planned and managed projects, planned and performed quality assurance and quality improvement activities, and managed staff state wide. In the early years of development of the Prairie Enthusiasts, she was treasurer, board member and membership coordinator.




Board of Directors

Jessica Bizub represents the Glacial Prairie Chapter. 

Jessica is a researcher at the UW-Milwaukee Center for Urban Population Health. She has provided research, evaluation, and technical assistance to nonprofits and government agencies for 15 years, specializing in program theories of change. She has experience evaluating environmental education programs, including programs by the Urban Ecology Center, Riveredge Nature Center, and Wehr Nature Center. She has years of nonprofit board experience and brief, but intense, experience as a nonprofit executive. She looks forward to getting to know chapter members better, learning more about land trust management, and contributing especially to the educational mission of The Prairie Enthusiasts.

Gary Eldred Gary Eldred represents the Southwest Chapter and is a past president of TPE (and Emeritus Director).  Gary is one of the founding members of TPE. For his accomplishments, he was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in April 2021.

Katie Hahn represents the Chippewa Savannas Chapter. 

David Hamel

David Hamel represents the Prairie Sands Chapter. 

A long-time activist, David has served on the board of directors of The Wisconsin Nature Conservancy, (Madison) Capitol Community Citizens, Madison Rivers and Lakes Commission, Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin, and is a founding director of The Madison Trust for Historic Preservation and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. 

David and wife, Shelley, live with some Karner Blue butterflies on 120 diverse acres in Marquette County where they retired after careers in engineering, manufacturing, yacht skippering, and truck driving.

Rich Henderson

Richard Henderson represents the Empire Sauk Chapter.  

Rich is an ecologist with the Wisconsin of Natural Resources Bureau of Integrated Science Services (formerly Research). Rich has 33 years of experience in natural area inventory, assessment and management of prairie, sedge meadow, oak savannah and oak woodland ecosystems.  Rich is a past president of TPE and an originator of the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area, which includes more than 50,000 acres of grasslands in Dane and Iowa counties in southwest Wisconsin. Henderson also has served as the leader and motivator of several projects for The Nature Conservancy, namely the prairie preserves known as Spring Green, Schluckebier, and Black Earth Rettenmund.

Evanne Hunt Evanne Hunt represents the St. Croix Valley Chapter.  Evanne is a technical communication professional concentrating in technical writing for computer software applications. "Prairies and oak savannas are our rainforests, our redwoods, our coral reefs. But, because they are in our backyards, we don't "see" them. They are just as worthy of our concern and protection."
Deanna Pomije

Deanna Pomije represents the Many Rivers Chapter as a remote liaison, as she lives one hour north of the Twin Cities. 

She has worked in Soil Conservation in MN & WI for 18 years.  She feels a spiritual connection to prairies and promotes their preservation and enhancement.  She is glad TPE is there; where she can meet other prairie-minded people. 


Jon Rigden represents the Coulee Region Chapter. 

Jon moved to La Crosse, WI in 1991, worked as a family physician until retirement in 2019, raised 4 children, was a member of the board of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy from 2009 to 2015, is currently on the board of Friends of the Blufflands in La Crosse where he is active in promoting the conservation value of the bluffs of the area, including restoring remnant prairies. He treasures land he owns bordering the state natural area Eureka Maple Woods, rich in spring ephemerals, and where he produces small batches of maple syrup each year “the old fashion way”. He has been a member of TPE for many years. 


Jay Rutherford represents the Northwest Illinois Chapter. 

Jay lives outside of Apple River, IL and stays busy in his retirement restoring prairie habitat around their home and volunteering in faith-based and environmental organizations.  Jay served as an Army officer and then had a career as a corporate finance executive. Jay has lived abroad and traveled extensively but feels most at home in the Midwest.  He volunteers for Bread of Life Food Pantry, Apple River United Methodist Church, NIPE, Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, and TPE. Prairies give Jay great joy because of their natural beauty and how they support life in so many ways.

Stephen Winter

Stephen Winter represents the Minnesota Driftless Chapter. 

He’s a relatively new transplant to Minnesota, having moved there in 2011 to work as a Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  For many years Steve’s professional and personal activities and interests have focused on the ecology, management, and restoration of grasslands.  However, his current job has him immersed, so to speak, in the ecology of big rivers and he enjoys the work he does with waterfowl, aquatic vegetation, and bottomland forests. 

Steve’s previous involvement with non-profit conservation organizations includes service on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Chapter of The Wildlife Society, Prairie Plains Resource Institute, the California Native Grasslands Association, and the Rio Grande Valley Audubon Society.




Debra Behrens, Executive Director - [email protected]

Debra brings more than 20 years of nonprofit leadership and development experience to her role. She is a passionate advocate for our cause and for the important role of donors and volunteers in advancing our mission. To learn more about Debra’s background and connection to our work, check out her introductory blog post and video.


Dan CarterLandowner Services Coordinator - [email protected]
Dan is a plant ecologist that has been involved with prairie restoration, reconstruction, management, and protection as an educator, researcher, planner, and volunteer. He has extensive experience in natural area assessment and field botany. Dan is available to private landowners to help assess the potential to restore, reconstruct, or improve prairie and associated ecosystems on their properties. Feel free to contact him with any such requests or other technical questions.


Caleb DeWitt, Mission Advancement Coordinator - [email protected]

Caleb’s admiration for our native landscapes was born in service. “I served with AmeriCorps as a Garden Team Leader – I learned just as much as the high schoolers I mentored!” One thing led to another and a small vegetable garden grew to a deep love for our native landscapes and natural communities. Growing up, the outdoors were a world of possibility for Caleb “nature is where the adventures happen!” Through his career in the worlds of education, service, and non-profit work, Caleb continued to kindle that flame of curiosity and appreciation. “Working alongside such knowledgeable people passionate about our prairies is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. I keep learning, listening, and am so grateful to be able to serve The Prairie Enthusiasts community.”


Khris Miller, Administrative Assistant - [email protected]
Khris joined The Prairie Enthusiasts to make a difference for "our beautiful planet Earth" after spending much of her career in the for-profit sector. Trained as an educator, her love of learning and teaching has allowed her to grow and help others succeed as well. She is a creative problem solver and resourceful support for our chapters, members and friends. Khris and her husband re-located to the Driftless region in 2018, where they are learning to be stewards of the land. She enjoys hiking, snowshoeing and horseback riding.

Freddy Ragan, Mission Advancement Assistant - [email protected]

Freddy was born and raised in the Driftless region of Wisconsin and is in the final year of his bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse where he studies ecology and genetics. He has previously worked on, and led conservation crews restoring oak savannas and bluff prairies throughout the Driftless region and spends most of his free time foraging for mushrooms and fishing for trout. Freddy has been involved in non-profit work since he graduated high school in 2016 and is excited to bring his experience and motivation to The Prairie Enthusiasts!