MEET THE BOARD
Duluth resident Jon Nelson has been visiting the Boundary Waters regularly since 1980. For many years he led trips for Wilderness Inquiry, taking people of all abilities on canoe and dogsled journeys in the Wilderness. He has served on the boards of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness for many of the past 25 years. He frequently travels with his family and friends to the Boundary Waters, in all seasons, to enjoy the area’s pristine beauty. His experiences of being in the area, and sharing those times with people who appreciated the opportunity to visit there, led him to become passionate about protecting the Wilderness. The threat of sulfide-ore copper mining and its long history of polluting water inspired him to become a board member of NMW.
A lifelong conservationist, Jeff Soderstrom has been paddling the Boundary Waters and Quetico since 1982. His first trip as a high schooler in the Chicago area led directly to his decision to study and ultimately settle in Minnesota. Jeff is a Senior Vice President of Risk Mitigation for Ameriprise Financial in Minneapolis. Upon learning more about the sulfide-ore copper mining threats in 2013, Jeff helped start a Twin Cities Boundary Waters Business Group to raise awareness in the corporate community. At home, Jeff and his wife began taking their three children to the BWCA when they were very young, and in 2005 they purchased a cabin near Ely in Eagle's Nest Township. The kids went on to become experienced YMCA Widjiwagan campers and are now adventurers and wilderness advocates in their own right. They represent an example of just how important the access to wild areas continues to be in shaping values and self-sufficiency in young people. The importance of wilderness experiences like those offered in the Boundary Waters is a passion for Jeff and his family. He remains dedicated to support sustainable economic development around our most precious lands and preserving the Boundary Waters for generations to come.
Becky Rom, a retired attorney, is a third generation resident of Ely. She is the daughter of Bill Rom, who owned and operated Ely-based Canoe Country Outfitters for 30 years. Becky worked in the family business and learned at an early age the importance of wild country. She first worked on wilderness preservation when she was a seventh-grader, engaging in public debates on the merits of the bill that became the Wilderness Act. For the past 40 years Becky has worked as a citizen activist on wilderness preservation throughout the United States but she continues to be drawn back home to the Boundary Waters. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is her fourth national campaign to protect the area.
Dodd first paddled the Boundary Waters in 1964, one month before it gained official designation as a Wilderness area. Retired after 30 years working as a Chartered Financial Analyst, Dodd has served on multiple boards, including The Quetico Superior Foundation and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, at times serving as treasurer for both. For the last 19 years he and his family have owned a cabin on Little Long Lake and all of his children have been campers at a Y camp near the Boundary Waters.
David Miller began visiting the Boundary Waters with his father and brothers in 1965, developing an early and lifelong connection to the area. It was those experiences that led him and his wife, Kathleen, to relocate to Minnesota following graduate school, where he has had the privilege of introducing Kathleen, their three children, and now their grandchildren, to the BWCA and Quetico. David recently retired after practicing corporate law for almost 40 years. This allows David to spend much of his time at his family’s cabin on White Iron Lake, southeast of Ely on the edge of the Boundary Waters, and to share his passion for and knowledge of the BWCAW by working with guests of an Ely-based canoe country outfitter. David’s belief that America’s most visited wilderness deserves the respect and defense of all who use it inspired him to join the board of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness in its efforts to protect the Boundary Waters from the risks of sulfide-ore copper mining.
Meghan’s love for the Boundary Waters began on family trips to Lake Three during her childhood and
grew during many formative years at summer camp. After college, Meghan worked as a professional
guide and educator in Maine. Ultimately, the draw of the Northwoods drew Meghan back to Minnesota
where she has spent the majority of the last 18 years supporting camping programs at Y of the North.
Currently, Meghan is the executive director of Camp Menogyn. The camp is uniquely situated on the
edge of the Wilderness outside of Grand Marais. One of the great joys of the work is seeing the
transformation a participant experiences after spending time in the Boundary Waters--whether they are
returning from a 3-hour day-trip to Rose Falls or a 20-day expedition. Providing access and opportunity
to the Boundary Waters is of great importance to Meghan and she works each day to inspire the next
generation of stewards to protect these incredible waterways.
Born and raised in Berkeley, CA, Mia Divecha now calls herself a proud Minnesotan and BWCA enthusiast! She moved to MN in 2013 to pursue her PhD in Chemical Engineering, and since then has fallen in love with everything outdoors in MN. Having not grown up camping, the BWCA felt out of reach for her for many years until she and her family made their first trip in 2017 with excellent outfitting and support from Hungry Jack Outfitters on the Gunflint Trail. Now she delights in bringing up new people to experience this magical place and introduce them to the world of canoe camping. Mia believes these lands belong to all of us and should be protected for future generations to enjoy. Catch her biking around the Twin Cities, supporting local political races, and evangelizing Minnesota to her out of state friends.
Amy fell in love with the BWCAW at an early age while canoeing with her family. Her heart is very close to the Boundary Waters, and she is passionate about sharing this place with as many people as possible in addition to protecting the BWCAW for future generations. Her involvement with NMW began in 2014 when she and her husband, Dave, volunteered to become the first adventure advocates for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters by paddling Sig the canoe (filled with the signatures of people wishing to protect the BWCAW from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining within the watershed) from Ely to Washington DC, and then spending an entire year in the BWCAW in 2015/16. The book they wrote about their journey and advocacy is A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters.
2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year, Amy and Dave, have traveled tens of thousands of miles by kayak, canoe, dogsled, and sailboat through some of the world’s wildest places. They run the Wilderness Classroom (Amy as Development Director and Dave as Executive Director) an educational nonprofit organization that engages thousands of elementary and middle school students in their expeditions through online educational resources and virtual school assemblies. Since 2002 Amy has worked as a guide and outfitter in northeastern Minnesota, beginning with Hungry Jack Outfitters, then Superior Coastal Sports, and more recently Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Ely Outfitting Company. When Amy isn’t in the Boundary Waters she can be found with Dave on their 35-foot expedition sailboat, Iron Bark, which they have sailed from the Caribbean to Newfoundland/Labrador and back over the past couple years.
As a budding ecologist, Lawson came of age during the environmental movement of the 1970s. In her early 20s, a sense of adventure and wanderlust compelled her to take extended treks; hiking iconic parks and wilderness areas throughout the US and Canada. It was during this period, while working as a naturalist at the Isabella Environmental Learning Center, that Lawson developed a deep personal connection with the wild landscapes of northern Minnesota, especially the Boundary Waters Wilderness. And so it was natural that in 1978, she embarked on another pivotal adventure, joining wilderness advocates in Washington DC to fight for the passage of the BWCA Wilderness Act.
Since then, Lawson has accumulated more than 40 years of experience as a field ecologist and conservation practitioner; including wildlife biologist on the Superior National Forest, landscape ecologist on the Hiawatha National Forest, and field ecologist and northern coordinator for the Minnesota Biological Survey. Over the years, she has provided technical data and scientific analysis to address the conservation of biodiversity across the upper Great Lakes region. While working with the Minnesota Biological Survey, Lawson travelled extensively throughout the Boundary Waters Wilderness; collecting vegetation data, documenting rare plants, and assessing native plant community and landscape conditions.
Lawson regards the Border Lakes Ecosystem; the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park and Quetico Provincial Park in Canada, as one of the most ecologically intact and significant natural landscapes on earth. She sums up the experience of the Boundary Waters this way, “While immersed in the breathtaking beauty and biodiversity of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, we are able to experience first-hand, the complex species interactions and intact natural processes that expand our understanding and appreciation of the immense ecological and social value of the natural world. There is no more suitable place than the Boundary Waters, to reflect on our relationship with wilderness and wild lands and renew our commitment to protect these places for the sake of generations to come.”
Hunt started traveling the Boundary Waters in 1963 over 50 years ago. He is a native of Texas who attended Camp Nebagamon in Wisconsin during those Boundary Water summers. He went on to graduate from Northwestern University in Chicago and The Harvard Business School in Boston. This all led to property he purchased on Lake Vermilion next to the BWCAW in 1971 and a job he took as an investment banker in Minneapolis in 1975. Hunt, also serves on the board of Wilderness Inquiry which is active in creating outdoor experiences for urban and other children, as well as people with disabilities. Life is all about the outdoors now and for future generations. The BWCAW is one of the most pristine and heavily used and enjoyed wilderness areas in the world. It contributes substantially to Northern Minnesota and provides important experiences and jobs for everyone involved.
Heather Meier grew up camping with her family in the Superior National Forest, spending every long weekend and vacation there. She feels her love for the wilderness is the greatest gift she was given by her parents.They purchased land and ultimately built a log cabin on Eagles Nest Lake #3 near Ely. Though they owned the land, they didn’t own the mineral leases. Heather’s parents worked hard to create a beautiful log cabin home that they would one day leave to her and her nephew. In 2011 her parents were notified by the State of Minnesota that state-owned mineral under their property had been leased to a mining company. Heather and her parents work to save their beloved land, home, and legacy.
Michael began exploring the Boundary Waters with his father, Jim Millenacker, as a teenager.
Forming bonds with nature and stories for a lifetime. Those gritty days and the conversations
had while in the front of dad’s boat, lead to a life of adventure travel and a love for wild places.
He came to appreciate natural wonders such as the Boundary Waters as crucial elements to our
well-being and has been a lifetime supporter. His passion for the outdoors brought him a
career in the outdoor industry leading brands including Royal Robbins, The North Face and
Eagle Creek, aligning growth strategies with brand values deeply rooted in conservation. He is
inspired by the mission-led organizations in the outdoor industry and what impact they can
have to do more to protect our wild places.
Bill went on his first wilderness canoe trips in the Quetico-Superior as a 10-year old camper at Camp Owakonze in Ontario. That was the beginning of his life-long love of the Rainy River watershed straddling both sides of the international border, which to him is the most beautiful and iconic wilderness anywhere. In 2011, forty years after those first childhood canoe trips, Bill realized his long-held dream of moving full-time to the Boundary Waters area and now lives with his family outside of Ely, just a short paddle from the Wilderness boundary. Before moving to Ely, Bill practiced law in Washington, D.C., with a focus on Supreme Court and Appellate litigation, including pro bono cases defending our nation’s wilderness lands. After completing law school, Bill also served as a law clerk to Justice David H. Souter of the United States Supreme Court, and to Chief Judge Jon O. Newman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
A native of Massachusetts, Steve came to Ely in 1975 to work as a biologist for the EPA where he met his work partner, Nancy, who later became his wife. Coming from New England to Ely, with its abundance of birds, botany and fish, was like discovering paradise. Steve and Nancy fell in love with Ely and the Boundary Waters on their first trip to Hegman Lake. This inspired them to go into the business of selling and renting canoes and the gear that canoe campers need. In 1979 they founded their Ely-based company Piragis Northwoods Company and Boundary Waters Catalog in Ely, where they employ 26 full-time employees and 60 summer staff. The Boundary Waters supports their family and employees, and Steve feels strongly about stopping the threat of acid mine drainage that would result from the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining project in the area. He believes that the Wilderness is their future and mining copper is a boom-and-bust business that has devastated many other small communities like Ely. That belief is what drives Steve and his wife to work to stop the proposed mining project.
Paul Schurke is an Ely resident with a long history in the Boundary Waters. In the 1970s, he and Greg Lais founded Wilderness Inquiry, a non-profit endeavor to provide Boundary Waters canoe trips for disabled persons. The trips became so popular that they decided to start dogsledding journeys as well. Those outings led to the foundation of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, a business Paul runs with his wife, Susan. In 1986, Paul, Will Steger, Ann Bancroft and their team reached the North Pole in the first confirmed trek to the top of the world without resupply. Paul is recipient of several explorer awards and Wintergreen has been honored by Outside magazine. Paul and Susan’s three children also work with them in the business. Paul’s deep love of the Boundary Waters and his deep roots in the area inspire him to work hard to keep the area pristine and unspoiled for generations to come.
Jen began doing Boundary Waters trips with her family as a young child. With a family cabin on Lake Vermillion, and an early love of the nearby BWCA that quickly developed, later years were spent canoe guiding, honeymooning, and eventually taking her own husband, children and family members on trips as well as taking annual “mother-daughter” trips with friends/daughters. As a family practice physician and medical school faculty living in Duluth, she’s become a vocal advocate of the need to incorporate human health effects into the regulatory process for industry with potential significant adverse effects to both ecological and human health. With the current threat of sulfide-ore-copper-nickel mining, this voice of advocacy has been coordinated with other health professionals and amplified in effort to protect the iconic and beloved BWCAW and its utilizers. She welcomes the opportunity to work with the NMW Board to help preserve and protect this wild, beloved, soul-feeding place that beckons many to choose to call northern Minnesota “home”.
Steve Snyder has traveled the BWCAW/Quetico every year for 60 years, now often with his two grandsons. He and his wife spend as much time as they can at their island cabin off the Echo Trail. His roots run deep in Northeastern Minnesota. Steve’s grandfather was a mine laborer, and those grandparents and a great-grandmother are buried in the Ely cemetery. Steve paid for his college education working summers as a fishing guide for Sawbill Lodge, north of Tofte. Later, he walked the halls of Congress in support of the 1978 BW Wilderness Act and assembled the legal team that defended the Act all the way to the Supreme Court. Steve has served as a Board member for various Minnesota-based environmental organizations. He is an attorney.
Mikaela’s love of the unique wilderness of the Boundary Waters began as a child on a trip organized by Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. She grew up attending YMCA Camp du Nord on the edge of the BWCA, she eventually became staff, and now brings her family there to experience the joy of the Northwoods. Professionally Mikaela has guided trips to the BWCA through Wilderness Inquiry, spent 16 years supporting community engagement for REI Co-op - including advocating for people to visit and protect the BWCA, a previous board member of the MN Children and Nature Connection, and now works for REI Co-op’s national Community Advocacy and Impact team supporting the co-op’s philanthropy and government affairs. She is passionate about inspiring and enabling a life outside for everyone, especially those who experience less access, comfort, or sense of belonging than others in outdoor spaces. You’ll find her in the Twin Cities area playing outside in all 4 glorious seasons with her family and friends.
Jason Zaborkrtsky’s passion for the Boundary Waters was born in the mid-1990s when he led youth groups on adventures in the Wilderness area. That passion grew into a career and in 2007 he founded Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service. He resides year-round in the area, just on the edge of the Boundary Waters. He and his staff of outdoor educators provide professional guiding services and the equipment needed for wilderness canoe trips. For guests who prefer to be self-guided, Jason and his staff teach skills necessary for enjoyable Boundary Waters adventures. In the winter, Jason leads dogsledding trips and in warmer months he travels to seldom-visited parts of the Boundary Waters. Jason’s experiences in the Boundary Waters have made him passionate about wanting to protect the area from sulfide-ore copper mining.