The Nature Conservancy Hires Anna Dirkswager as Climate and Energy Policy Advisor in the Midwest
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced this week the hire of Anna Dirkswager as its new Midwest Climate and Energy Policy Advisor. While the organization’s priorities continue to be focused on protecting land and water, providing food and water sustainability and building healthy cities, it’s become clear in recent years that finding solutions and mitigating the impact of climate change must be a priority.
Dirkswager, of Andover Minn., served most recently as Program Manager for the Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development in which she oversaw advancement of industrial energy efficiency across the Midwest and served as co-lead on biomass and carbon capture storage advancements.
“I’ve spent the better part of the past 11 years building unique and atypical coalitions in order to move the needle on climate and energy issues,” Dirkswager said. “I was drawn to TNC for its ability to be an amazing convener and create durable and long-lasting results.”
“I look forward to continuing the work of building relationships across the Midwest,” Dirkswager added. “There’s been a lot of changes on the political scene, especially in this region. However, I have seen the successes when there are diverse voices at the table – utilities, oil and gas representatives, state and local leadership and environmentalists. We may have different missions, but we really all have similar goals for the communities in which we serve and live.”
Dirkswager’s new role includes research and policy analysis as well as an integration of the Conservancy’s regional climate work into a community of practice with its staff and volunteers. Also, in the five-state region -- Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana – Dirkswager will work to identify opportunities and develop strategies to connect with audiences to garner support for climate policy.
“The Conservancy is extremely lucky to have Anna, a passionate policy expert who has helped drive clean energy business advocacy in Minnesota,” said Bill Stanley, the Conservancy’s Ohio state director. “She recognizes that nature is both at risk and also has a key role to play in helping people adapt to the risks posed by climate change.”
In Ohio, a clear majority of voters want more emphasis on wind, solar and energy efficiency. A 2017 poll conducted on behalf of The Nature Conservancy found that two-thirds of respondents believe greater renewable energy will benefit the state economy, and nearly nine-in-ten would advise elected officials to support policies that encourage renewable energy—including more reasonable wind turbine setback rules. Current Ohio law makes it nearly impossible for new wind farms to be developed. This not only reduces property owners’ rights to lease their land for this purpose, it has also crippled the state’s ability to help ensure a clean and secure energy future.
Though the Conservancy has been involved in climate issues for many years, there is more and more evidence that shows that alterations to the atmosphere are causing serious impact: the violent storms, the heat and drought as well as flooding. Since 2015, the Conservancy has worked closely with the MacArthur Foundation to identify and engage a cross-section of constituencies to create coalitions for durable action on climate policy in the US. After initial pilot work, the Conservancy then rolled out a larger 50-state climate plan with a focus on renewable energy and sustainable, low-carbon land use.
“We need to make a great deal more progress on climate, and fast, so that’s why numerous agencies like TNC are dedicating time and resources to this issue, including hiring smart strategists like Anna,” Stanley added. “There is a lack of federal leadership on climate change right now, so many of the best opportunities to make progress are at local, state, and regional levels. The Midwest is a key region of the country because of our energy use, our sources of energy, our political influence, and the importance of our region to the economy.”
Dirkswager previously worked for Clean Energy Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a renewable energy consultant. She has a degree in environmental biology from Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minn. and a master’s in natural resource and science management from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Andover with her husband and children.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.