Our Board

We are honored and privileged to have the following community leaders on our Mississippi Valley Conservancy Board of Directors.

Gretchen Pfeiffer

President
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Gretchen grew up in Winona, Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River. She loved spending time on the river as a kid especially when she could go out on her neighbor’s houseboat to the “islands”. Her love and passion for the outdoors drove her to pursue a career that allowed her to protect what was important to her. She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in natural resource management in 1982. Her first professional jobs were in Yellowstone and Voyageur National Parks as a seasonal park naturalist, but the desire to work year around and have a permanent job led her to a career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She spent almost 25 years working for the WDNR on the Mississippi River before leaving to work for The Nature Conservancy, also on the Mississippi River. Her love for the Mississippi River was amplified as she spent more and more time on the river through what is now 30 + year career.  

As a founding board member, she considers the support she provided to Mississippi Valley Conservancy to be one of her major life achievements for the beautiful landscape that surrounds this magnificent river. She is proud to be back on the board after a six-year absence. She lives in La Crosse and has a grown son. 

Gretchen's special interests are aquatic plants and their ecology, scuba diving (anywhere), triathlons and quilting. 

Allan Beatty

Vice President
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When Allan and his family moved to La Crosse in 2004 they soon became enthusiastic hikers in the bluffs. Recognizing the importance of protecting the region’s bluffs and other natural areas, they became enthusiastic supporters of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy. In 2016 Allan was pleased to join the board of directors. He has served on the development, governance, and executive committees and has been an active volunteer helping with invasive removal, burns, and easement monitoring.

Allan graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with bachelor's and law degrees. He worked as an assistant state public defender for 28 years retiring in 2015. His other volunteer involvement includes the First Congregational United Church of Christ and La Crosse Chamber Chorale.

Allan is married to Michael Ross, a retired physician's assistant. They have three grown children. Allan shares Michael’s passion for gardening. Allan is active in the Heart Strings Harp Circle and performs the lever harp occasionally in the area.

Roy Campbell

Treasurer
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Roy Campbell has lived primarily in La Crosse since 1956. He graduated from UW-Eau Claire with an accounting major and received an MBA from the University of Minnesota. He was a CPA and also owned a software business. He owns several hundred acres of mostly woodland in La Crosse County. 

Some activities Roy enjoys in his leisure time are biking, hunting, hiking and snowshoeing.

Rob Tyser

Secretary
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Rob retired from the Biology Department at UW-La Crosse in 2015, where he taught courses in general biology, zoology, ecology and evolution for 37 years. He has been active in various sustainability-related organizations in the La Crosse community and continues to monitor bird populations in MVC’s New Amsterdam Prairie grasslands. 

Some of Rob’s fondest memories are of his childhood in southeastern Nebraska, where he explored nature on his grandparent’s small farm and developed a life-long interest in the outdoors. His hobbies include biking, car camping with family and friends, birding, backpacking, and a never-ending quest for the perfect golf swing.

His ongoing technical interests include climate change, ornithology, evolution, and EV cars.

Pat Caffrey, board member

Pat Caffrey

Board Member
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Pat Caffrey grew up in rural northwestern Wisconsin and spent much of his youth in the woods. He got his master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. He worked for one year for the University of Wisconsin Institute of Environmental Studies as a research specialist. The balance of his working career was with the City of La Crosse as a design engineer, superintendent of wastewater and director of public works. Pat retired in 2005. 

He is the site steward for the Conservancy's La Crosse River Conservancy and the New Amsterdam Grasslands and also serves on the boards of Friends of the Blufflands, Friends of McGilvray Road, Coulee Region Humane Society and Friends of Perrot State Park. Pat and his wife Peg Zappen (a Mississippi Valley Conservancy founding member) live near the village of Trempealeau.

Pat's special interests include land management, prairie restoration, invasive species and habitat protection.

Tim Dakin

Board Member
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Born in Maine Tim moved to Wisconsin in 2002 and to the Driftless region in 2014. An IT professional by trade, Tim is a lifelong outdoorsman new to conservation. In addition to the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, Tim is also on the committee for the La Crosse Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the board of West Salem's Blackhawk Archers.

In Tim's free time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and hiking the Conservancy Nature Preserves. 

Sue Dillenbeck

Board Member
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Sue Dillenbeck has lived in La Crosse most of her life and has never lost her appreciation for the natural beauty of the Coulee Region. She and her husband Jim raised four children here and the outdoors—hiking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, fishing and boating—remain a big part of their lives.  

Sue has served on the boards of the YWCA, Riverfront Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Greater La Crosse, Coulee Children’s Center, Valley View Rotary, Rotary Works Foundation, and the Viterbo University Advisory Board. She retired from Robertson Ryan & Associates as a commercial account manager in property and casualty insurance in 2017.  

The well-being of this community on every level has always been important to her. Having served two terms on the MVC board in the recent past, she is aware of the incredible work the organization does and is grateful to be a small part of it.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Julie Haas

Board Member
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Born and raised in La Crosse, Julie developed a great appreciation for the outdoors. As a young child, her parents managed Goose Island Campground, with the banks of the Mississippi River serving as a vast playground for her to explore. She graduated from UW‒La Crosse with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and an MBA. Julie has over 20 years of advertising agency experience and is the client service and strategy principal at Vendi Advertising. Her husband, Chris, also works at Vendi as the director of web development. Vendi has been a long-time supporter of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy through it’s pro bono Vendi Share program.

Julie has a daughter and a grandchild on the way. She enjoys spending time with her family at their boathouse on the Black River, hiking with their two dogs, golfing, gardening, trout fishing and traveling.

Bud Hammes

Board Member
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Bernard “Bud” Hammes grew up in the city of La Crosse.  He spent much of his childhood falling in love with the driftless area on relatives’ farms on St. Joseph and Middle Ridge as well as the primitive family cottage in Mormon Coulee.  As an adolescent he explored the Upper Mississippi refuge – fishing the backwaters in the spring, hanging out on sandbars in the summer, ducking hunting in the fall, and ice fishing and skating in the winter.
  
Bud received his BA and PhD from the University of Notre Dame.  His area of specialty was the philosophy of science.  Bud is retired from Gundersen Health System where he worked as a clinical ethicist for 33 years. 
 
In retirement, Bud’s focus is on preserving and protecting natural places and the ecosystems that sustain us for the benefit of his 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and all future generations. This work includes doing whatever small part he can to slow and reverse climate change.  To support this work, Bud has created the Barb Hammes Stewardship Fund for the Driftless Lands in memory of his wife, Barb, who served on the Mississippi Valley Conservancy Board in the early 2000s and promoted hiking on Conservancy lands.  Bud recently helped found the Friends of Trempealeau Lakes, a nonprofit that is dedicated to restoring and protecting these unique, spring-fed lakes.  Bud is serving as the chair of this friend’s group.  

Bud lives on the main channel of the Mississippi and enjoys being in the natural world with friends and family.  Activities include hiking, water skiing, boating, kayaking, fishing, hunting, and bird watching.

Drake Hokanson

Board Member
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Drake Hokanson is an author, photographer, editor, largely recovered college professor. Current job title: independent, organic, free-range scholar. Poor pay but great benefits.

He has taught at the college level for some 30 years at several institutions, most recently at Winona State University, in journalism, photographic communication and aviation, where he is Professor Emeritus, which provides a free parking space.

He is the author or coauthor of three books and the photographer of several photographic exhibits which have traveled nationally. He has new projects underway.

He likes nature. He’s a lousy birder and enjoys misidentifying them to the amusement of children. Two memorable nature experiences: hiking in the Himalayas and stepping in a mud dauber wasp nest in Iowa.

He is a traveler, having visited several odd corners of the globe, always with his beloved wife of several decades, Carol Kratz. He also likes airplanes, splitting firewood, prairies, the Mississippi River, and tent camping most anywhere.

He really likes Mississippi Valley Conservancy and its devotion to critical land protection

John Kelly

Board Member
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John holds degrees in geography and landscape architecture, and teaches human and environmental geography, GIS (geographic information systems), and mapping at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York State. He has worked with communities in the US (Vermont), Mexico (Calakmul Biosphere Reserve region, Yucatan Peninsula, indigenous mountain forest villages in Oaxaca, and the Huasteca Potosina), and Honduras (Muskitia/Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve), to map and plan land use and conservation and productive activities. His first job, thirty years ago, was with the Central Park Conservancy of New York City.

He loves to travel with his wife Sangeetha and elementary-school-age son Luke, sometimes by canoe. He has always loved maps as tools for exploring and understanding our lands, and for expressing our visions of the future.

His childhood affection for woods, fields, hills, and rivers was nurtured by his family, his teachers, and by neighbors like the late environmental activist and musicologist Pete Seeger.

Maureen Kinney

Board Member
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Maureen Kinney spent the first half of her growing-up years in Amery, Wisconsin and then moved to Superior where she graduated from Superior Senior High School. She received her undergraduate degree from UW-Madison in sociology-correctional administration. She later earned a law degree from the UW Law School. Since then, Maureen has lived in La Crosse, working with the law firm of Johns, Flaherty & Collins where she is currently a long-term partner. She practices in the areas of domestic relations, estate planning, trusts, probate and social security disability. Maureen has served on other area boards, including those of the Mississippi Valley Archeology Center, the La Crosse Area Boys and Girls Club, New Horizons Shelter and Women’s Center, Coulee Region Sierra Club, and the La Crosse County League of Women Voters.
 
In her spare time, she has run marathons (13), skied the American Birkebeiner numerous times and participates in triathlons. She loves to camp, canoe, hike, bike and travel. She belongs to two book clubs. 
 
Maureen was involved with the initial start-up of the Conservancy, completing its incorporation and securing its tax-exempt status. She continues to provide pro bono legal services, assisting with land purchases and conservation easements.

 

Fred Koerschner

Board Member
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Fred Koerschner grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where he enjoyed exploring the vast forests, lakes, and streams of the “UP”. He graduated from Michigan Technological University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and, later, earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota.

Fred worked for 3M Company in St Paul, MN for 35 years in various technical and business management positions until retiring in 2016.   After retirement, Fred, and his wife Lou Anne, moved to Madison to be closer to their children and grandchildren.  Soon after, they discovered the beauty of Wisconsin’s Driftless Region.  In 2020 they purchased property in Vernon County with an existing MVC conservation easement and continue to manage the property to enhance its wildlife population and diversity.

Fred has previous board and volunteer experience with numerous organizations including the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve, another Wisconsin land trust.  He enjoys many outdoor activities including hiking, bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, camping, and skiing.  

 

Karen Kouba

Board Member
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Karen grew up in the countryside near Hillsboro, Wisconsin, exploring the outdoors with her brothers and spending a lot of time on their grandparents’ farm. She is a graduate of Viterbo University with a degree in business administration-HR development. She retired in 2020 after working in human resources for 37 years with G. Heileman Brewing Company, Fleming, and Trane Technologies. Karen is now a part-time employee of the La Crosse County Historical Society and serves on the board of the Coulee Region Humane Society, the Viterbo University Alumni Association Board of Directors-Emeritus, and is a member of the Town of Shelby Planning Commission. She is also a past president of the La Crosse Area Society for Human Resource Management.

In her spare time, Karen is an avid reader and pursues a variety of outdoor activities such as biking, skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking. She and her husband, Jay Heldt, live in the Town of Shelby with their 2 cats. They both love to travel and especially enjoy exploring the western states, where they’ve summited 9 Colorado 14ers.
 

Dorothy Lenard

Board Member
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Dorothy Lenard is an Administrator for the School of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Math at Viterbo University. She has a degree from Michigan Technological University in Forest Hydrology and a Master’s in Servant Leadership from Viterbo. She and her husband Rich grew up in a small bay town on Lake Michigan surrounded mostly by State land. Yes, she loves and misses the lake effect snowfalls and outdoor saunas in the winter. Having lived in all regions of the United States, they eventually chose the Driftless area to settle down in and raise their three children. She has been active in numerous community activities and boards. Her passion is studying the environment, especially water protection. While on the La Crosse City Council, she worked with others to pass in 2009 the City of La Crosse and County of La Crosse Strategic Plan for Sustainability.

In the summer, her family has a huge community garden in their yard where their specialties are garlic and perennials.  Preparing and sharing sustainable food with family and friends is her favorite hobby.

Randy Poelma

Board Member
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Randy moved to the La Crosse area in 1995 and is an avid outdoorsman spending most of his free time exploring the waters and lands of the Coulee Region with his family. He has worked in the environmental field for over 30 years having positions in both the private and public sectors.  He has worked for the Ho-Chunk Nation for over 20 years developing and managing multiple environmental programs focused on water quality, air quality, brownfields, invasive species, compliance and restoration.

Randy also serves on the Lower WI State Riverway and Mt. La Crosse Ski Patrol Foundation boards and countless boards and committees related to his work with the Ho-Chunk Nation.  Randy joined the MVC Board in 2024 and serves on the MVC Land Protection and Management Committee.

Ross Seymour

Board Member
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Ross has been an attorney in La Crosse since 1987, with a general practice, but focused on employment law for a number of years.  Growing up in the Madison area, he attended the University of Wisconsin both as an undergraduate and for law school.  Needing to get the heck out of Dane County, he moved to La Crosse and began practicing law.

Shortly after moving to La Crosse, he met his wife of 30 years, Julie Nelson, and had two children.  

Ross is an avid outdoor person.  He has bicycled nearly every road in a 30-mile radius of La Crosse.  Recently he took up hiking and backpacking.  He backpacked in Wyoming, Montana and Colorado, as well as the Superior Hiking Trail.  Also, he loves to cross country ski, kayak and camp.
Ross has had a lifelong love of the Driftless Area and looks forward to assisting the Conservancy in its preservation.   
 

Pam Thiel

Board Member
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Pam Thiel grew up on a farm in north central Illinois and developed a strong sense of place.  One of her early childhood memories is walking down to Covel Creek and collecting water striders with her shoes because she was not fast enough to catch them with her hand.  The die was cast for a developing biologist.
She studied at Illinois Wesleyan University, Florida State University and received a MS from UW-L in aquatic biology.  Her entire professional career was spent on various aspects of management and research on the Upper Mississippi River System in the 5-state area of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri while working for the Illinois State Water Survey, the Wisconsin DNR, and the US FWS.  Pam held leadership positions in several professional organizations.

Pam has a long affiliation with the American Association of University Women where she served as the local and state president, regional director, and on the national board for two terms.   She was also on the local boards of Audubon and the League of Women Voters.  
Pam and her husband, also a retired biologist, have lived in the La Crosse area for nearly 50 years.   Pam loves to garden, fish, hike, read, and enjoy nature.

Steve Ventura

Board Member
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Steve Ventura is a Yooper by birth (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) and has lived in Madison since 1980. He enjoyed a long career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is now professor emeritus with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Soil Science. His expertise in remote sensing and GIS led him into many application domains, including natural resource management, environmental protection, land tenure, community and regional food systems, and biofuel production systems. Recent research and outreach focuses on land contamination and urban agriculture. 

Steve and his wife Margaret own 140 acres of land between Highland and Boscobel in Grant County. This land provides unlimited opportunity to while away the hours maintaining trails, gardening, firewood cutting, and hunting and gathering. When they bought this land three decades ago, it was over-grazed and high-graded. Land management since has been oriented to preserving remnants of oak savanna and white pine rock-faces while recognizing that a changing climate means helping much of this land adapt to a new normal.

Janet Wollam

Board Member
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Janet came to La Crosse from Boston in 1981. Raised in a U.S. Foreign Service family, she holds a BA in literature (Hamilton College), and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard. She has served in urban and rural parishes, and, for over 20 years, as an independent consultant in mostly non-profit organizations: congregations, social service agencies, education, public meetings, focusing on mediation, facilitation, conflict, systems, and decision design.

By 1991,Janet and her husband Dana started an organic lawn care business to provide a land friendly alternative to pervasive pesticide practices. They have been active explorers of the region with their son, and members of many area refuges and natural areas. They built a creation care team in the La Crosse Area Synod ELCA in 2018-20, volunteer for refuge activities birdwatch, and are active in current Climate Alliance initiatives.

Krysten Zummo

Board Member
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Krysten is trained as a wildlife biologist with a Master's in Fish, Wildlife, & Conservation Ecology from New Mexico State University. Krysten has worked all across the country, from New York to Oregon, researching how different habitat management practices impact local wildlife populations. She has nearly 10 years of experience in non-profit private lands conservation, including nearly 5 years working for Mississippi Valley Conservancy. She is currently the Grassland Ecologist for the National Audubon Society in Minnesota where she is responsible for bringing Audubon's premier grassland habitat program, Audubon Conservation Ranching, to the state for the first time.

Krysten lives in La Crosse with her sidekick pup Ellie, is an avid reader, and can be found on/along the Mississippi River, hiking, kayaking, and, of course, birding.
 

Barbara Frank

Board Member Emerita
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Barbara has been involved for over 50 years with environmental protection at local, state, and national levels. Her special interests include environmental health, environmental politics, energy and climate change.

She was one of the co-founders of Mississippi Valley Conservancy and is a past board member. In addition, she has served numerous other organizations as a Board member, co-founder and financial supporter: the Hixon Forest Eco-Park, Coulee Partners for Sustainability, the Coulee Region Group of the Sierra Club and the La Crosse Community Theater. She has also been active with the League of Women Voters, the Pump House and Options in Reproductive Care. She was a member of the Minnesota- Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission.

Barbara was Board President of Lutheran Hospital at the time of their merger with Gundersen Clinic. She served two terms on the National Sierra Club Board and has been active on the Club's State Chapter ExCom. She also works with Midwest Environmental Advocates.

Barbara was honored by Gathering Waters as their 2003 Conservationist of the Year and in 1998 received a Special Service Award from the National Sierra Club. Her hobbies and interests include art, especially painting; reading, she's a member of 3 book groups; canoeing, loves the Boundary Waters; and cooking, which she finds very creative.  She and her husband Donald have been happily married since 1960. They have 2 married children and 4 grandchildren.

Phil Gelatt, board member emeritus

Philip Gelatt

Board Member Emeritus
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Philip Gelatt, an avid bird watcher and CEO of Northern Engraving Corp., joined the Mississippi Valley Conservancy board of directors before the organization went public with an event on Grandad Bluff October 13, 1997. He brought both substantial financial backing and vision to the young organization. As the board huddled in the Grandad Bluff shelter after the public announcement on a windy, cold day, Gelatt asked the group to identify a project that could make a significant, immediate impact beyond the ability of the young organization to tackle. Craig Thompson told him of a 310-acre farm near Holmen in the Conservation Reserve Program that was a breeding area for rare grassland birds such as Bell’s vireo. It was likely to be developed for housing in the near future. Not long after that, Gelatt said that he would acquire and preserve the farm by swapping land that he owned next to the freeway in Onalaska. It took time, but several years later, he did just that. Gelatt had been restoring the New Amsterdam Grasslands to prairie for several years with the Conservancy's help. The Conservancy purchased it in 2007 using money from the State Stewardship Fund and a donation of a substantial part of the value by Northern Engraving.

Craig Thompson

Board Member Emeritus
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Craig Thompson is a recovering birder. For the past 30 years, he has held various positions with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, specializing in migratory bird conservation and landscape scale protection efforts. He holds adjunct faculty appointments in the Biology Departments of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo University and provides technical support for conservation initiatives in Costa Rica and Peru. He’s never met a motmot he didn’t like.