Board of Directors
Mary Schwaiger, President*
Mary Schwaiger has been a member of the NWLT Board of Directors since its inception. She is currently the Board President and a member of the Executive and Finance Committees.
Mary has a B.A. in Mathematics from Rockford College, and has taken additional coursework in accounting through the University of Wisconsin – Platteville. She is a Certified Public Accountant and co-owner of Reach & Schwaiger, Ltd., CPAs in Eagle River.
Mary has always loved the outdoors. She volunteered while in college at Eagle Valley, a privately owned nature preserve in southwest Wisconsin that is a roosting spot for bald eagles, leading plant and wildlife hikes – and later worked in the office developing local field guides for visitors. When she was asked to join the NWLT Board, Mary jumped at the chance to be involved in a conservation organization again.
She has served on the Board of Directors of WXPR Public Radio in Rhinelander, WI and Headwaters Council for the Performing Arts in Eagle River. Mary is a member of the Rotary Club of Eagle River and served as District Governor for Rotary District 6220 during the 2009-2010 Rotary International year. She also serves as treasurer for the Rotary District 6220 Youth Exchange Program.
Robert Martini, Vice-President
Bob Martini has been a NWLT board member since 2004. He currently serves as Vice President of the board and a member of the Conservation Committee.
Bob has a B.S. in Zoology from UW-Milwaukee with graduate work in Microbiology. He worked for 32 years in the DNR Water Division on acid rain research, groundwater protection, the cleanup of the Wisconsin River, dam removal and licensing, and was the statewide river protection coordinator.
Bob and his wife Kathy donated a conservation easement on their Deerskin River property in Vilas County in 2006. Bob also serves as President of Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association, VP of the River Alliance of Wisconsin, President of the Nicolet College Foundation and former chair of the Nicolet College Board of Trustees, President of the Green Bass Lake Association, Trees For Tomorrow Natural Resource Education Center Advisory Council, the Oneida County Tourism Council, and a member of the Oneida County Board of Supervisors. Spare time is spent in wild places with water.
H.K. (Kirk) Mueller, Treasurer
Kirk Mueller was born and raised in Illinois and first visited the northwoods in the 1960’s by attending scout camps. He received his BS from Valparaiso University in 1975 and his MBA from DePaul University, where he served four years on the Finance Dept. adjunct faculty. He then moved to Dallas, TX and back to Chicago. In 1989 Kirk bought a cabin in the Eagle River area and moved here full time in 2010.
Kirk’s corporate career prior to 2000 included nearly two decades as an officer or director of multi-national companies including Santa Fe Railroad, Hyatt Corporation, Braniff Airlines, and Premark Int’l. His experience and leadership responsibilities spanned organization development, labor relations & human resources, mergers & acquisitions, business restructurings, retirement & benefit plan finance, and governance & ethics best practices.
From 2000 until his recent semi-retirement, Kirk supported dozens of non-profit organizations (including NWLT). His consulting engagements included strategic planning, organization assessments, executive coaching, leadership & board development, and capital campaigns. He co-led the startup of an executive succession consulting practice. Kirk started and leads two small, private non-profits: one a grant-maker, and the second an operating foundation devoted to Federal constitutional reformation and debt restructuring.
Kirk’s interests past and present have also included managing the affairs of two family-sized farms, their several woodlots, and Certified Tree Farms.
Peter Davison, Secretary
Pete feels fortunate to have grown up in northern Wisconsin, and even more fortunate to live on the shore of a clear, cold lake and on a family tree farm. Pete’s father, a 35 year veteran Forest Ranger with the Wisconsin DNR, and his steadfast wife built that several hundred acre tree farm acre by acre. Their foresight allowed three sons to work in those woods and put themselves through college. All three of the sons also gained an undying appreciation for the woods, water, and wildlife that nature provides.
After attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and receiving a degree in psychology, Pete returned to the north. He worked first as an educational counselor for UW-Extension, and recently finishing a 35-year career with the US Postal Service. Along the way he thought it important to be involved in the community – serving as a local reporter on mining, as a school and county board member, and on the state mining and investment board. Pete now focuses his volunteer work on lake associations, a library board, and town zoning.
Pete and his wife Brenda are now the stewards for part of the family tree farm, hoping to pass it on to their two daughters and four grandsons. As a Forest County representative, Pete also feels fortunate to be involved with the Northwoods Land trust and like-mined volunteers to help others find an opportunity to pursue their dreams of saving a piece of northern Wisconsin for the enjoyment of generations to come.
John Bates is the author of seven books and a contributor to seven others, all of which focus on the natural history of the Northwoods. John’s poems have also appeared in five different art/science collaborations, several of which have traveled nationally. He’s worked as a naturalist in Wisconsin’s Northwoods for 26 years, leading an array of trips all designed to help people further understand the remarkable diversity and beauty of nature, and our place within it.
John has also served on the Board of Trustees for the Wisconsin Nature Conservancy and the Wisconsin Humanities Council, and now serves on the Board of the River Alliance of Wisconsin. John and his wife Mary live on the Manitowish River in Iron County where they raised two daughters.
John joined the Northwoods Land Trust for two reasons: it’s filled with great people and has a great mission. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Sue Coffman has served as Treasurer and joined the NWLT Board in 2005.
Sue attended 1 year of college at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with coursework in accounting, animal science, psychology and horsemanship. Ongoing education has included other college courses in banking, bookkeeping, accounting, insurance and human behavior.
Sue has been in banking for 38 years. She has held many positions from teller, bookkeeper, deposit accounts, lender, mortgage lender and most recently collections specialist. Sue has been employed with River Valley Bank for the past 10 years.
Sue’s interest in conservation stems from her love of undeveloped land, be it woods and forest, lakes and rivers, or agricultural farm land. Sue and her husband Jim manage their 18 acres for wildlife habitat and hunting, especially deer and bear. They also own 11 acres on the Wisconsin River that is not developed, and they use this land for duck hunting and trapping.
Sue grew up in a family that hunted and ate what was harvested so she learned early about the importance of conservation. Outdoor activities include hunting, hiking, bicycling, kayaking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, raising chickens and also Birmingham Roller Pigeons. Reading books of all topics is a daily occurrence.
Atty. William Dickens
William Dickens, Jr. is an attorney and a philosophy instructor at Nicolet College. Bill holds a B.A. from Ripon College, a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a J.D. from the University of Oregon.
Bill joined the Board in September, 2009, after having served for three years in NWLT’s Conservation Committee. He continues to serve on the Conservation Committee, is a member of the Finance Committee, and helps annually monitor two conserved properties. Those activities reflect his special concerns with regard to the land trust.
Bill developed an interest in serving a land trust while in law school in Oregon. He also volunteered his assistance for the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust. He was and remains attracted to land trust work because he believes conservation easements provide an excellent vehicle toward cooperative conservation, as distinct from environmental litigation. Bill and his wife Beth Tornes, who is also an NWLT board member, live in Lac du Flambeau.
Ron Eckstein was born in Milwaukee and lived in southeast Wisconsin until age 10. He then moved throughout Wisconsin (Antigo, Waterford and Greenfield). Ron received a BS and MS in Wildlife Ecology from UW-Madison. After living in Madison for six years he and his wife Jan moved to Rhinelander in 1974.
Ron’s first job out of college was with the Wisconsin DNR. His first station was Rhinelander and he completed his entire 36-year career there.
Ron was one of two wildlife biologists covering Vilas, Oneida, and Forest counties as well as the statewide coordinator for the eagle and osprey conservation and survey work. He specialized in forest ecology, raptor management, and wild rice conservation. In addition, his job duties included working on big and small game management, property management, wetland management, wildlife surveys, and wildlife talks. During Ron’s career he banded about 1,500 eaglets in the nest, erected over 70 osprey nest platforms, and spent 22 years as a part-time Special Conservation Officer. Ron retired in December of 2010, but has remained involved as an Official Volunteer at DNR working on eagles, ospreys, and forest ecology. He maintains an office at DNR as “emeritus” wildlife biologist.
Jan and Ron Eckstein live near Nicolet College just south of Rhinelander and share a second home on Little Crooked Lake near Boulder Junction. They enjoy everything about Lake Superior and spend a lot of time close to the big lake (hiking, kayaking, XC skiing, and exploring).
John Huppert is one of the original founding members of the Northwoods Land Trust and Board of Directors. He held the position of Board President from 2004 to 2008 and currently serves as Past President.
His interest in the outdoors and natural resources began in childhood through family camping trips and fishing with his father. This lead to a professional career of over 30 years as a forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – all of which in northern Wisconsin within the Northwoods Land Trust service area. Recently retired from DNR, he now works part time as a private consultant forester. His career provided him the opportunity to spend countless hours in the woods working on forest management activities on both state lands and privately owned properties. Seeing first-hand the changes in land ownership and the increase in forest fragmentation and development over those years lead him to recognize the value of land trusts and conservation easements in protecting this unique landscape.
John earned a Bachelors Degree in Forest Management and Soil Science from UW-Stevens Point in 1979. He is a member of Ducks Unlimited and enjoys upland bird and waterfowl hunting. He is an avid cross-country skier and bicycler and also enjoys kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, fishing, and walking his dogs.
Atty. Mitchell Olson
Mitch Olson obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994, in International Relations (Managing the Global Commons) with Certificate in Environmental Studies. He subsequently earned his law degree from the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Ore., in 1997. He also received a Master of Science degree in Urban & Regional Planning from UW-Madison in 2003.
Since 1997, Mitch has been licensed and actively practiced as an attorney. He has worked at the Eckert & Kost firm in Rhinelander, WI (1997-2005) and Axley Brynelson in Madison, WI (2006-2012). Olson’s law practice focuses on civil litigation, with an emphasis on municipal, real estate, environmental and land use law.
Mitch joined the Northwoods Land Trust Board of Directors in 2004. Based on his time vacationing and residing in northern Wisconsin, he appreciates the developmental pressures affecting the region and the limited natural lands remaining, especially parcels with lake and river frontage. He strives to use his legal and land use expertise to assist the Board in its mission.
From a personal perspective, Mitch is a dedicated fly-fisherman and outdoors enthusiast, including hiking, biking, camping, and canoeing. He learned to appreciate the outdoors and the environment from his grandfather, who took him on many fishing adventures throughout the state. Mitch also supports other conservation organizations, including Trout Unlimited and Gathering Waters Conservancy.
Starting in 2004, Bryan Pierce became the first Executive Director of the Northwoods Land Trust. Pierce formerly worked with the University of Wisconsin-Extension for eleven years as a tenured faculty serving as Community Resource Development Agent in Vilas and Oneida Counties. Prior to UWEX, he worked at a variety of nature and environmental education centers in Wisconsin and Iowa. Pierce has a Master’s degree in natural resource management with emphasis in environmental education from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His Bachelor’s degree in zoology was from UW-Madison.
Pierce served as the founding President of NWLT in 2001, and recruited the original Board of Directors. Bryan and his wife Gail Gilson-Pierce have lived in the Eagle River area for 25 years. Gail worked at Trees For Tomorrow Natural Resources Education Center for 17 years before becoming a partner in “Wooly Lady”, a hand dyed wool fabrics business. The Pierces live on 11 acres adjacent to the Blackjack Springs Wilderness Area of the Nicolet National Forest.
Meta Reigel Brandt
Meta Reigel Brandt comes to the NWLT with over 35 years experience in Environmental Education. Working in nature centers and taking courses in natural resource management, she began undergraduate studies at Purdue University and continued through her Masters Degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources (CNR).
Meta joined the faculty of the CNR in 1993 and taught, developed and team-taught a variety of courses not only in the CNR, but also in the Division of Communication and the College of Professional Studies. As Senior Lecturer her courses included Environmental Issues Investigation and Action, Public Relations and Communication for Resource Managers, Humans and the Biosphere, Families and the Environment, Public Relations Case Studies and Crisis Management, as well as graduate level courses Energy Education and Environmental Lifestyle for in-service teachers.
For many years she served as Administrative Director for the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education (WAEE) and received their Aldo Leopold Award for Lifetime service to EE in 1998. She has been an active board member and officer in a variety of environmental organizations including Interstate Recycling, Audubon, Springstead Lake Property Owners Association and the Wisconsin Association of Lakes.
The family lands where she paddles and plays were entered into conservation easement with NWLT in 2005. She presently is a Board member and serves as Chair of the Education, Communications and Volunteer Relations Committee for NWLT.
Elizabeth (Beth) Tornes
Elizabeth (Beth) Tornes has been a member of the Northwoods Land Trust since 2005. Prior to joining NWLT, she was a Board Member and Treasurer of the Preserving Mother Earth Land Trust in Lac du Flambeau, WI from 1996 to 2005 when PME made the decision to come under the organizational umbrella of NWLT, donating their assets and taking a seat on the Board of Directors. She has served on the Finance Committee since joining NWLT. Her interest in environmental conservation began in childhood, when her family hiked and vacationed in many Ohio natural areas and State Parks throughout the year. Her father, Jim Tornes, a nurseryman and landscape designer in Columbus, taught her to identify many tree and plant species, and instilled in her a love of the natural world and all its beauty.
She is a member of Gathering Waters, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, The Nature Conservancy, and a number of other environmental organizations. She was also a DNR Loon Citizen Monitor for several years on Ross Allen Lake in Lac du Flambeau, where she lives with her husband Bill Dickens, also a NWLT Board member.
She holds advanced degrees in English and Creative Writing, and is also a poet, publishing an award-winning chapbook, Snowbound (2012) and poems in many literary journals. She currently works as a grant writer for the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc., a consortium of 12 Tribes of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. She also teaches creative writing and poetry workshops. She and her husband Bill Dickens met in 2009 when he first joined the NWLT Board of Directors. They enjoy hiking, bicycling, canoeing, cross- country skiing, and going on long walks together with their dog Bijou.
Dan Wisniewski grew up and went to school in Milwaukee, graduating from Marquette University with degrees in Journalism and English literature. Dan worked as a reporter and then held a series of positions in state and local government for 35 years.
Dan served on the staffs of three Wisconsin governors, including four years as chief of staff for Gov. Tony Earl. He retired after five years as Secretary of the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL). BCPL owned and managed 80,000 acres of forests and wetlands in northern Wisconsin. While at BCPL, Dan became acquainted with the work of the Northwoods Land Trust.
Dan and his wife Fran own a lake cottage in Vilas County. Since his retirement he has volunteered for a number of conservation organizations. None has been more important than NWLT. Being on the board has given him the opportunity to be an active part of conservation at a most basic, grassroots level, helping people preserve the land they love. What the land trust does will last forever. Dan hopes his experience in government provides value to the land trust.
Past Board Members:
Jim Holperin* (2001-2011)
Willa Schmidt* (2001-2013)
Tiffany Lyden* (2001-2002)
Tom Ellis* (2001-2005)
Ed Drager* (2001-2006)
Clifford Haskins* (2001-2004)
Martha Milanowski* (2001-2004)
Roger Sabota* (2001-2004)
John Seibel* (2001-2001)
Lisa Wood* (2001-2003)
Roxanne Poupart (2003-2005)
Cathy Techtmann (2003-2005)
Timothy Hagen (2004-2006)
Jerry Parker (2004-2010)
Ed Mouw (2006-2009)
Frederick Rikkers (2008-2009)
Scott Craven (2011-2013)
Michael Meyer (2012-2015)
*Founding Board Members