The Nature Conservancy announced the hiring of Gretchen Benjamin as assistant director of its Upper Mississippi River (UMR) Program today. Benjamin will help organize the Conservancy’s efforts to develop a basin-wide strategy that recognizes the river’s tremendous ecological and economic value. She will also serve as the primary liaison to key partners including the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Our goal is to help ensure that we sustain the rich collection of native plants and animals within the Mississippi and its tributaries,” said Vince Shay, the Conservancy’s UMR Director. “Gretchen will help us work together with all stakeholders involved in the Upper Mississippi River Basin so that we can help to restore and maintain a healthy ecological system for everyone’s benefit.”
Benjamin, who grew up along the banks of the Mississippi in Winona, Minn., has been working on the river for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) since 1984, most recently as the agency’s Mississippi River Team Leader. In that position, she worked with policymakers and partners on Upper Mississippi River conservation and funding issues. She served as WDNR’s Mississippi River Planner from 1990 to 2004, working with federal agencies and other UMR states on restoration projects. She also has extensive field experience related to the river’s fisheries, water quality and aquatic vegetation.
Benjamin said that she was interested in working for the Conservancy because she believes the job and the organization would enable her to have an even larger impact in helping returning the river to a healthy ecosystem.
“I started working on the river as a field biologist and the more work I’ve done the more I’ve learned about what it is that makes the river tick,” she said. “I want to be able to help provide the resources necessary to manage the river as an entire ecosystem. It’s a perfect fit.”
In addition to helping oversee the Conservancy’s UMR Program, which is focused on the river from its headwaters in Minnesota to its confluence with the Ohio River, Benjamin will lead the organization’s efforts in the watershed from Minneapolis-St. Paul to the Quad Cities.
Benjamin will work out of her home office. She resides in La Crosse with her husband Ron and son Dan.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.