Stories in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota

Our Plan for a Healthy and Resilient Future

Protecting Nature and Tackling Climate Change

Silhouette of a bison on the prairie at sunset.
Cross Ranch Bison at sunset on TNC's Cross Ranch preserve in North Dakota. © Richard Hamilton Smith

Working Across Borders, Aisles & Sectors

Our nonpartisan approach, commitment to science and collaboration with local partners and colleagues around the globe will help us realize a future in which nature and people thrive together.

Our Challenge

Our planet faces the dual crises of rapid climate change and the loss of biological diversity. We have years, not decades, to address these existential threats. And that calls for our biggest most ambitious plans—for nature and people. The Nature Conservancy is committed to helping conserve, protect or restore 30 percent of the world’s lands and waters and removing or sequestering 3 billion metric tons of carbon by 2030. Our work in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota is aligned with that audacious goal.

Chapter Priorities

  • Illustrated icon of land and water.

    Protecting Land & Water

  • Illustration of sun and thermometer.

    Tackling Climate Change

  • Illustrated icon of wheat crop and water droplet.

    Providing Food & Water Sustainably

The Nature Conservancy has helped conserve more than 900,000 acres across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Yet today, the rivers, lakes, forests and prairies we worked for decades to protect are facing unprecedented threats that require us to significantly increase the pace, scope and scale of conservation. 

TNC preserve sign against a prairie backdrop at sunrise.
© ©2011 Richard Hamilton Smith

Places We Protect

Our network of preserves offers opportunities for you to experience some of the most iconic habitats of our region, and they serve as places for us to test and demonstrate conservation practices. Plan your visit to a preserve today.

Accelerating Conservation to Meet the Moment

Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota’s forests and grasslands help keep our air and water clean, but what remains is at risk due to climate change and conversion for agriculture and other uses. Globally, 320 million acres of forests have been lost since 1990. A significant percentage of the rivers in the U.S. are too polluted for fishing and swimming—including many in our region. Those forests, rivers, lakes and streams are central to our health and well-being and important economic sectors such as outdoor recreation, which directly employs 136,000 people across the three states.

Improving those conditions, saving places that define our culture and safeguarding habitat for wildlife are core to the mission of The Nature Conservancy. In the coming years, we will protect land and waters with new tools, new relationships—and new urgency. Climate change is altering forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes, and our way of life. But with partners, leaders and everyone who lives, works and plays in these three states, we can take actions today that will benefit nature and people.

Climate change is happening right now. The Nature Conservancy is leveraging science, innovation and collaboration to help nature adapt, to prevent catastrophic impacts and to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions.

Two hikers walking in a prairie toward the setting sun.
© Richard Hamilton Smith

Our Changing Climate

We must act today to prevent extreme disruption to our economy, devastating health impacts and a loss of our way of life. Dig into our work to use the power of nature and people to tackle climate change and discover how you can support a sustainable future. Learn More.

Harnessing the Power of People and Nature

The past decade has been hotter than any other time in recorded history. In Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, climate change is altering our lands, our waters and our lives. Imagine grasslands without prairie chickens, forests without moose, or lakes and rivers without loons and walleye. Experts predict that one-fourth of Earth’s species will be headed for extinction by 2050 if the climate warming trend continues at its current rate. Farmers are trying to feed a growing population while adjusting to more extreme and less predictable weather conditions, putting the more than $37 billion combined annual income from agriculture across the three states on the line.

There are solutions available, and The Nature Conservancy isn’t waiting to act. Our research shows that proper land management can provide up to one-third of the emissions reductions necessary to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius— a critical threshold. Those practices—along with smart policies, an informed constituency and strategies to help nature adapt—can bring us closer to a healthier tomorrow.

Providing food and water sustainably to an increasing global population is imperative. With collaboration, we can restore and protect nature and ensure that farmers remain productive and profitable.

Cattle grazing on native prairie with two ranchers on horses in the background.
© Richard Hamilton Smith

Beef, Bison and Climate Change

To feed the world and combat climate change, we are working at the intersection of ranching, land management and habitat restoration. Bison and cows can be a part of the solution to protecting our iconic grasslands and helping those areas retain significant amounts of carbon. Find out what you can do to help.

Protecting Nature, Nourishing People

Farmers are stewards of the land, working to maintain their own livelihood. They can play a significant role in addressing the climate crisis, improving water quality and protecting wildlife and habitat. Those outcomes can be achieved while also feeding the world— which is no small task. Agriculture production must double by 2050 to keep pace with the global population.

That’s why in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, we are collaborating with the agriculture sector to provide enough healthy food for all of us without sacrificing nature. We are bringing tested solutions such as the 4R Nutrient Certification Program to local farmers, which lowers their costs and offers incentives to apply the right fertilizer at the right rate at the right time and in the right place. With respect, collaboration and commitment to the shared goal of sustainable production, we can have clean water, abundant food and a thriving economy— today and tomorrow. 


Our Insights, Your Inbox

Keep up with great conservation work happening here at home and around the globe.

Our Greatest Strength is People

Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota make up a diverse, beautiful and threatened region. Together, our staff of experts, dedicated trustees and advisors, and everyone who loves this part of the country can meet this moment and ensure nature can inspire and sustain generations to come.

Get to know the esteemed scientists, hardworking stewardship professionals, and talented philanthropy, finance, marketing and operations experts who lead our local work. 

Marissa Ahlering

Lead Prairie Ecologist 
Fargo, ND

Christopher Anderson

Marketing Director 
Minneapolis, MN

Jacob Anderson

Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Field Steward 
Karlstad, MN

Elizabeth Beery

Prairie Recovery Specialist 
Morris, MN

Eric Behrens

Ellen Ordway Grassland Fellow
Leola, SD

Rich Biske

Freshwater Conservation Program Director
Minneapolis, MN

Jill Bjorholm

Philanthropy Coordinator
Minneapolis, MN

Jessica Blair

Associate Director of Philanthropy
Minneapolis, MN

Kristen Blann

Freshwater Ecologist
Cushing, MN

Joe Blastick

Prairie Coteau Conservation and Fire Manager
Clear Lake, SD

Haley Bloomquist

Paulson Grassland Conservation Fellow
Center, ND

Linda Bormann

Land Protection Specialist
Minneapolis, MN

Julie Brazell

Western SD Conservation Coordinator
Rapid City, SD

Lori Brown

Western SD Rangeland Specialist
Rapid City, SD

Corissa Busse

Western SD Conservation Manager
Rapid City, SD

Ben Carlson

Prairie Restoration Specialist
Albany, MN

Stephen Chaplin

Prairie Conservation Coordinator
Minneapolis, MN

Eric Chien

Prairie Forest Border Field Steward
Cushing, MN

Meredith Cornett

Science Director
Duluth, MN

Elizabeth Crow

External Affairs Director
Minneapolis, MN

Flannery Delaney

Associate Director of Philanthropy
Minneapolis, MN

Christopher Dunham

Resilience Forestry Manager
Duluth, MN

Sandra Edmunds

Conservation Information Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Jonathan Eerkes

Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Land Steward & Fire Boss
Karlstad, MN

Neal Feeken

Grassland Conservation Program Director
Minneapolis, MN

Ben Gery

Prairie Coteau Field Steward
Clear Lake, SD

Christopher Gordon

Cross Ranch Land Steward & ND Fire Manager
Center, ND

Sachiko Graber

Climate Policy Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Matthew Graeve

Prairie Forest Border Land Steward and MN Fire Manager
Cushing, MN

Tamala Hagen

Donor Relations Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Leah Hall

Freshwater Project Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Beth Hayden

Deputy Director of Philanthropy
Minneapolis, MN

Nina Hill

Science Fellow
Glyndon, MN

Eric Hoff

Agassiz Beach Ridges & Sheyenne Delta Land Steward, Fire Boss
Glyndon, MN

Todd Holman

Mississippi Headwaters Program Director
St. Cloud, MN

Jane Howard

Director of Philanthropy
Minneapolis, MN

Travis Issendorf

Prairie Recovery Specialist
Detroit Lakes, MN

Molly Jansen

Government Relations Associate
Minneapolis, MN

Autumn Jensen

Southeast MN Site Steward
Kellogg, MN

Erin Johnson

Conservation Coordinator
Duluth, MN

Marya Johnston-McIntosh

Conservation Specialist
Minneapolis, MN

Alora Jones

Digital Marketing Strategist & Conservation Writer
Minneapolis, MN

Michelle Kalantari

Philanthropy and Systems Records Coordinator
Minneapolis, MN

Nancy Labbe

Northern Great Plains Rangelands Program Director
Denver, CO

Christian Lenhart

Freshwater Restoration Ecologist
Minneapolis, MN

Mavis Lindstrom

Philanthropy Coordinator
Minneapolis, MN

David Losure

Ordway Prairie Field Steward
Leola, SD

Jim Manolis

Forest Conservation Program Director
Minneapolis, MN

Makayla Marshall

Missouri Coteau Conservation Technician
Columbia, SD

Rachel Mason

Resilience Forester
Duluth, MN

Natalie McCormack

Forest Data Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Christopher McGrath

Land Protection Specialist
Minneapolis, MN

Peter Mead

Agriculture Project Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Mary Miller

North-Central SD Conservation Manager
Leola, SD

Angela Miner

Prairie Recovery Specialist
Litchfield, MN

Fatuma Mohamed

Conservation Administrative Assistant
Minneapolis, MN

Ann Mulholland

Chapter Director
Minneapolis, MN

Sarah Nagel

Preserve Management Assistant
Glyndon, MN

Brandon Newberg

Conservation Assistant
Minneapolis, MN

Cynthia Ojczyk

Senior Executive Assistant
Minneapolis, MN

Lorena Ortiz Carranza

Finance Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Reshma Pattni

Human Resouces & Operations Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Stephanie Pinkalla

Government Relations Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Michael Pressman

Director of Habitat Protection
Minneapolis, MN

Paul Priestley

Fire Ecology Restoration Coordinator
Cushing, MN

Justin Pszwaro

Forest Restoration Technician
Duluth, MN

Benjamin Pucket

Southern Black Hills Conservation Manager
Hot Springs, SD

Nancy Purdy

Contracts & Operations Specialist
Minneapolis, MN

Luke Romance

Cross Ranch Field Steward
Center, ND

David Ruff

Southeastern MN Conservation Coordinator
Kellogg, MN

Derek Savage

Agassiz Beach Ridges Field Steward
Glyndon, MN

Doug Shaw

Assistant Chapter Director
Minneapolis, MN

Kayli Skinner

Conservation Coordinator
Minneapolis, MN

Mark Staples

External Affairs Manager
Fargo, ND

Jonathan Thompson

Information Technology Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Ruth Thornton

Deputy Director of Habitat Protection
Minneapolis, MN

Terry Walker

Information Technology Manager
Minneapolis, MN

Dale Watt

Conservation Data Manager
Duluth, MN

Sonia Winter

Stewardship Program Assistant
Glyndon, MN

Sheng Yang

Finance Specialist
Minneapolis, MN

Nancy Young

Conservation Coordinator
Minneapolis, MN

Meet the knowledgeable, dedicated trustees who help advance conservation across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Chad Abraham

CEO, Piper Sandler Cos. 
Orono, MN

John H. Anderson

Senior VP, Private Wealth Manager, Merrill Lynch Duluth
Cody, WY

Mary Brainerd, Vice Chair

Former CEO and President, Health Partners
Mahtomedi, MN

David Bryant

Manager of Community Development, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
Prior Lake, MN

Steve Christenson

Senior VP & Assoc. General Counsel of Global Regulatory Affairs, Ecolab
Minneapolis, MN

Judson Dayton

Venture Capital Investor
Wayzata, MN

Claire Dempsey

Community Volunteer, Nonprofit Board Work
Edina, MN

Kristin Weeks Duncanson

Owner & Partner, Highland Family Farms
Mapleton, MN

Allison Gage

Chief Engagement Officer, mPulse Mobile
Edina, MN

Michael Hoffman

Managing Partner, Excelsior Ventures
Excelsior, MN

Tadd Johnson

Sr. Director of American Indian Tribal Nation Relations, University of Minnesota
Duluth, MN

Jay Kim

Executive Vice President & General Counsel, HTLF
St. Paul, MN

John Knapp, Chair

Retired Partner, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
St. Paul, MN

Rick Kupchella

Founder & CEO, Informed Engagement Network
Minneapolis, MN

Craig Larson

CEO & Chairman of the Board, Starion Bank
Bismarck, ND

Doug H. Lewis

Chairman, North Shore Financial Corporation
Duluth, MN

Mark J. Magness

Retired Banking Executive
Fargo, ND

David Mortenson

CEO, Mortenson Construction
Minneapolis, MN

Tim Mulcahy

President & CEO, RMC Learning Solutions
Minneapolis, MN

Hema Nealon, Treasurer

CFO & COO, Peregrine Capital Management
Minneapolis, MN

Gordon Ommen

Principal, Capitaline - Farmland Investment
Brookings, SD

David L. Reinschmidt

Partner, Munger, Reinschmidt & Denne, LLP
Burbank, SD

Peg Skold

Community Volunteer, Nonprofit Board Work
Prior Lake, MN

Randy Turner

Assistant Federal Public Defender
Pierre, SD

Mary Sue Vorbich

Arbitrator, Mediator & Owner, solVo LLC
Minneapolis, MN

Lucia Watson

Chef & Restauranteur
Minneapolis, MN

This group of distinguished leaders plays an important role in advancing our work to restore grasslands and a host of other important strategies in North Dakota. 

Jerry Doan

Rancher & Owner, Black Leg Ranch 
Bismarck, ND

Craig Larson

CEO & Chairman of the Board, Starion Bank
Bismarck, ND

Mark J. Magness

Retired Banking Executive
Fargo, ND

George Sinner

Senior Vice President, Business & Ag Banking
Fargo, ND

Our work in South Dakota focuses on rangeland management and protecting and restoring key rivers and streams, and members of this local advisory board inform and guide those strategies. 

Jim Faulstich

Rancher & Vice Chair, South Dakota Grasslands Coalition
Highmore, SD

Deb Mortenson

Rancher & Lobbyist, The Nature Conservancy
Hayes, SD

Gordon Ommen

Principal, Capitaline - Farmland Investment
Brookings, SD

David L. Reinschmidt

Partner, Munger, Reinschmidt & Denne, LLP
Burbank, SD

Dan Rykhus

President & CEO, Raven Industries
Sioux Falls, SD

Jeff Scherschligt

Pendar Properties
Sioux Falls, SD

Randy Turner, Chair

Public Defender
Pierre, SD

Jeff Zimprich

Producer, South Dakota Grasslands Coalition Board of Director
Brandon, SD