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

A dock on a foggy lake.
At the Lake A dock extends onto Fourmile Lake in Minnesota. © Jason Whalen/Fauna Creative

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MINNEAPOLIS—The Nature Conservancy announced today that it has added four new trustees—Catherine Gunsbury, Jessica Hellmann, George Hicks and William Rahr—to its Board of Trustees overseeing the organization’s work in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In addition to the new trustees, Jay Kim, executive vice president & general counsel and chief administrative officer of Heartland HTLF and a resident of St. Paul, agreed to serve as vice chair. Mary Brainerd, of Mahtomedi, Minnesota and former CEO and president of Health Partners, will continue to serve as chair of TNC’s Minnesota-North Dakota-South Dakota Board. And Hema Nealon, vice president of corporate development at UnitedHealth Group, and a resident of Minneapolis, will continue to serve as treasurer.

Gunsbury, who lives in Minneapolis and serves as founding partner and co-owner of Solhem Companies, has admired TNC’s conservation work for decades. “While at General Mills, I had the privilege of working with TNC staff whose scientific research on soil and watershed health enabled the company to craft a trailblazing regenerative agriculture strategy,” she says. “TNC brings sound science to the table while helping businesses and communities balance immediate needs with sustainability aspirations.”

Hellmann, a resident of St. Paul, is the executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the Ecolab Chair for Environmental Leadership. She is also a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences. She has devoted her career to understanding and preserving biodiversity—a commitment TNC shares. “Our region sits at the confluence of the eastern hardwoods, prairie and boreal forest, and we’ll see a lot of changes in those boundaries—thanks to climate change—that will require special attention and stewardship,” she says.

Hicks, a Minneapolis resident, and co-founder and co-executive chair of Värde Partners, first became involved with TNC during a fundraising campaign to protect the Mississippi headwaters area and other critical waterways nearly 10 years ago. “Being a native of southwest Minnesota and having been involved in the agricultural industry, I had an interest in prairie and forest restoration and preservation, and the next generation of farming practices,” he says.

Rahr, a Minneapolis resident and president and CEO of Rahr Corporation, hopes he can help engage the business community in supporting actions that advance TNC’s mission to protect nature. “Climate change threatens the viability and sustainability of Minnesota’s unique and diverse natural areas,” he says. “We urgently need solutions that strengthen their resiliency against a warmer and more volatile climate and improve our region’s carbon balance.”

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.