Executive portrait of The Nature Conservancy's State of Michigan Director, Helen Taylor. Photographed in The Two Hearted River watershed, Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Helen Taylor, MI St-Dir Executive portrait of The Nature Conservancy's State of Michigan Director, Helen Taylor. Photographed in The Two Hearted River watershed, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. © Michael D-L Jordan/dlp

Our People

Helen Taylor

State Director, Michigan

Lansing, Michigan

  • Areas of Expertise

    Great Lakes conservation, environmental policy, partnership facilitation

Biography

Helen Taylor has spent more than 30 years working on Great Lakes protection, policy and conservation. She joined the Conservancy in 1996 to lead its Great Lakes Program, and since 1999 has served as state director of its Michigan program. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Helen worked in the environmental policy field with a concentration in Great Lakes issues, pollution prevention, waste and public/private partnerships and engagement. She worked for ICF, Inc. and Clean Sites, Inc. (now known as the Delta Institute), consulting to industry, government (municipalities, state and federal agencies) and environmental organizations.

Helen was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to serve as a Commissioner and his representative on the Great Lakes Commission, the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission and, most recently, she was appointed to the Governor’s Environmental Rules Review Committee. She has also held gubernatorial appointments to the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council in 2003 and Agriculture Preservation Fund Board from 2004 to 2007.

Currently, Helen serves on the boards of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy, as well as the External Advisory Board of University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute. Helen holds a degree in philosophy from Northwestern University where she graduated with honors.

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A Statement on the Great American Outdoors Act

July 23, 2020

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 310-107 to approve the Great American Outdoors Act, which would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make critical investments in our national park system and other public lands. The bill, which passed the U.S. Senate last month, now goes to the president for his promised signature.

“The Great American Outdoors Act will not only help rejuvenate the outdoor-based economy in Michigan, it will aid in our state’s recovery from several of the economic, health and social challenges we are facing, said Madhu Anderson, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Michigan.

This would not have happened without the dedication of many champions, including Senators Stabenow and Peters, as well as Representatives Dingell, Upton, Kildee, Bergman, Slotkin, Moolenaar, Lawrence, Huizenga, Levin, Stevens, and Tlaib, and they have our deepest gratitude.

“Fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and caring for Michigan’s iconic national parks such as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or Sleeping Bear Dunes signals a recognition of all the benefits nature provides. This act provides critical support needed to protect and restore public lands and increase access to nature for all communities. This investment in conservation will pay economic, health and societal dividends for generations to come,” notes Helen Taylor, TNC’s state director in Michigan.

The bill combines two conservation proposals that each have strong, bipartisan support. The first would provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for LWCF, an amount derived from offshore oil and gas revenues – not tax dollars. A recent economic analysis shows that every $1 million invested in LWCF could support between 16 and 30 jobs. Additionally, research on the impact of the LWCF shows that $1 spent generates $4 in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone.

The second part of the bill would invest $1.9 billion annually for the next five years toward maintenance in national parks, other public lands and at the Bureau of Indian Education. Over $20 billion in direct visitor spending is disseminated each year to local communities adjacent to national park sites. A recent National Park Service study of maintenance investments in this legislation found that it will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years.

Helen Taylor, State Director
The Nature Conservancy in Michigan

Statement on Racial Injustice from TNC in Michigan

June 12, 2020

It has been over two weeks since George Floyd was killed, and, in reflection on that and ensuing events, we must not be silent. One of the earliest taglines of The Nature Conservancy was “Quietly Conserving Nature” and that approach has often permeated our organizational culture to this day.  We like to keep our heads down and just get things done.  But the events of the last few weeks remind us again that sometimes being quiet is synonymous with being complicit, and we have a responsibility to add our voices to the chorus speaking out against police brutality and the systemic discrimination against our neighbors of color.

Michigan was the terminus of several routes of the Underground Railroad and many people of color have come here seeking freedom and a better way of life. Unfortunately, we in Michigan have often not lived up to our shared commitment in the Michigan Constitution “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of his civil or political rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof because of religion, race, color or national origin.”  The last few weeks’ events demonstrate our failure to meet our obligations to end racial injustice, both as individuals and as an institution. We must commit to doing the deep work needed, to learn and engage in difficult conversations about racism, privilege, bias and inequity and understand the history of systemic racism in this country so we can be part of and contribute to change. 

At The Nature Conservancy we have made it our mission to “Conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends” and as we fulfill this mission in Michigan, it is even more important HOW we undertake our work. The Conservancy is guided by a set of Core Values that guide our focus, including “Respect for People, Communities, and Cultures” and a “Commitment to Diversity.”  Until all Michigan residents can access and enjoy those resources equally, without fear of discrimination or mistreatment, and until experiences in articles like this cease to happen, our job will not be complete.  In condemning the senseless killing of George Floyd and so many others, we pledge to work to truly conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends, for all people.  

Hope stirs as we see persistent protests across the country and around the world, that this is a watershed moment. I hope our members, supporters and partners will help us define our path, and work with us as an environmental community to be part of the change together. 

With deep sincerity,
Helen Taylor, State Director
The Nature Conservancy in Michigan

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