Staff and Leadership

Officers

Scott Fulton, President

Scott Fulton, President and Acting Executive Director.

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.

Jim Rogala, Secretary

Jim Rogala, Vice President and represents the Coulee Region Chapter.

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." 

 

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 represents 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

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.
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."

Caroljean Coventree represents the Chippewa Savannas Chapter.

Caroljean is a retired private investigator, lawyer, and writer who now keeps bees and enjoys wild companions, especially birds, odonata,  snakes, and frogs.  "There's nothing like walking, working, or resting in prairie.  It's a total delight no matter the season, there's always something new and interesting to enjoy." 

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. 

Jim Rachuy

Jim Rachuy represents the Northwest Illinois Chapter. 

He is a grassland ecologist and computer scientist. He is a long-time member of The Prairie Enthusiasts and a founder of four conservation organizations in Jo Daviess County, Illinois. He and his wife Rickie live in rural Stockton, Illinois.

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.

 

Staff

Debra Behrens, Executive Director

Debra joined TPE in October 2020 and 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.

Diane Hills, Outreach and Development Coordinator

Diane develops and manages the implementation of programs, campaigns, and events that support
TPE’s strategic goals. She is passionate about connecting people with nature and others who delight in
the mysteries and wonders of our native ecosystems. Landscape architect, sustainability campaign
manager, volunteer coordinator, fundraiser, and Master Naturalist instructor are part of Diane’s
repertoire. If you are looking for resources or support in ways to advocate, educate, or engage people in
your chapter’s activities and the preservation of our precious prairie community, Diane is happy to help.

Dan CarterLandowner Services Coordinator
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.
Grace Vosen

Grace Vosen, Communications and Outreach Specialist

Grace manages TPE's communication channels (the E-News, the Prairie Promoter newsletter, Facebook, and Instagram). A botanist by training, Grace is also a lifelong writer.  She enjoys bringing stories to light and tailoring them to different audiences, and she is a firm believer in the power of storytelling to spur action. Grace grew up on the eastern edge of Wisconsin's Driftless Area and is a graduate of Northland College.

 

Jerry PedrettiBookkeeper and Administrative Coordinator

Jerry lives along the Mississippi and Bad Axe rivers in Genoa, WI. A former small business owner and a Municipal Clerk, Jerry has worked with TPE for the past six years.  When he's not shuffling papers at one of his municipal clerk jobs or one of the non-profits (he works for three), you'll find him working in his yard, gardening, hiking in the woods - or you won't find him at all because he's off somewhere on a motorcycle searching for the other side of the mountain.

Jerry says: "I believe that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the things that take our breath away, and that every day you do not learn something new is a day wasted."

Jerry knows his way around financials. He stays very busy handling all donations and other income, paying the bills, and producing financial reports for the Chapters. He is also responsible for managing TPE's mem­ber and contact information in our NationBuilder database, the administrative aspects of land protection projects, and anything else needed to keep the TPE office running smoothly. This is clearly a man who is not afraid of hard work!