As State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, Mary Jean heads a team of conservation practitioners, policy experts, scientists and fundraisers addressing the key challenges facing nature and people in Wisconsin. Huston joined the organization in 1981 and held a series of positions of increasing responsibility in several state chapters and the Midwest Region until she became State Director in Wisconsin in March of 1999.
Mary Jean works with the Board of Trustees and staff to set the chapter’s conservation vision and priorities, and she ensures the program has the financial resources and personnel to carry out its work. The Conservancy has more than 20,000 members in Wisconsin, and offices in Madison, Baraboo, East Troy, Minocqua and Sturgeon Bay. Since its founding in 1960, the Conservancy has protected more than 230,000 acres (360 square miles) of Wisconsin's most ecologically important forests, grasslands, lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.
Some of her most significant accomplishments as State Director include completing the 64,000-acre Wild Rivers Legacy Forest working forest easement, leading a conservation campaign that raised $31.7 million in four years, maintaining a strong statewide Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program (public funding for land protection), bringing federal funds to Wisconsin for conservation priorities, and launching the North America Regional Initiative of the global Alliance for Water Stewardship.
A native of Iowa, Mary Jean received her undergraduate degree in biology from Grinnell College.