The Nature Conservancy Adds Three New Trustees to Help Guide its Work in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota

North Shore forest along Lake Superior.
North Shore Private landowners along Lake Superior's North Shore have a special responsibility to maintain this popular and ecologically important shoreline. © Uche Iroegbu

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The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has added three new trustees—Sean McCauley, Kathy Schmidlkofer and Christina Woods—to its Board of Trustees overseeing the organization’s work in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In addition to the new trustees, Mary Brainerd, of Mahtomedi, Minnesota and former CEO and president of Health Partners, was selected as chair of TNC’s Minnesota-North Dakota-South Dakota Board. John Knapp, a retired attorney who resides in St. Paul, agreed to serve as vice chair. And Hema Nealon, chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Peregrine Capital Management, an equity firm based in Minneapolis, will continue to serve as treasurer. 

McCauley, a resident of Rochester, Minnesota who serves as partner and Senior Advisor of TPG Capital and founder of Rochester Home Infusion, worked for TNC on a summer burn crew after graduating from college. Seeing how prescribed fires benefited Minnesota’s prairies stuck with McCauley. “I was deeply impressed with TNC’s effectiveness in protecting natural areas and since then TNC has been even more effective in protecting land and species diversity,” he says.

Schmidlkofer, president and CEO of the University of Minnesota Foundation who lives in Minneapolis, says TNC’s mission aligns with her own passions and interests. “When I look for relaxation, peace and perspective, I look to nature and the outdoors,” she says, adding that she also appreciates TNC’s pragmatic approach to solving problems like climate change. “They outline achievable solutions. The impact of TNC’s work isn’t something far off in the future. Its impact is immediate and guided with a sense of urgency.”

Woods, executive director of the Duluth Art Institute and a resident of Duluth, Minnesota, is also  a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. While she says TNC plays a role in advancing conservation in the region, Woods believes it can be even more effective by working in partnership with Tribes and learning from their experience and knowledge. “Indigenous people have long protected their lands and waters. Their vision, leadership and stewardship is incomparable and their voices are very much needed within the conservation community.”

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 more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.