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MEET THE BOARD

Dodd Cosgrove

Board Secretary

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.

Mia Divecha

Board Member

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.

Adam Fetcher

Board Member

As a result of his Minnesota roots - North St Paul and Carleton College - Adam has been traveling to the Boundary Waters and surrounding areas most of his life. Adam began his professional career working for the two Obama As a result of his Minnesota roots - North St Paul, the Brainerd Lakes Area and Carleton College - Adam has been traveling to the Boundary Waters and surrounding areas all of his life. Adam began his professional career as a journalist in the Twin Cities before joining President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign as a field organizer. He then served in the Obama administration during President Obama’s first term in office, holding several senior roles, including Press Secretary for the U.S. Department of Interior, before joining the 2012 Obama re-election campaign as Deputy National Press Secretary. After leaving public service, Adam was Director of Global PR and Communications for Patagonia, playing a key role in evolving the company’s activism for the modern politics and media environment. He most recently served as Senior Director of Brand Advocacy at Lyft, and now works as a communications and brand activism consultant to values-driven companies and their leaders. Adam currently lives in San Francisco with his partner, Christine, and their pet rabbit, Roger.

Lawson Gerdes

Board Member

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 Greene

Board Member

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.

Diane Hofstede

Board Member

As an eight-year riverfront Minneapolis City Council Member, Diane led key initiatives: the rebuild of the 35 W Bridge, organized, and chaired the Audit Committee that established the financial audit department in the City of Minneapolis, spearheaded work for the re-development of the historic Pillsbury A- Mill, and began the re-birth of the Mississippi Riverfront. During her tenure as a multi-term Board Chair of the Minneapolis Public Library Board of Trustees, she led approval, fundraising, and the successful completion of Minneapolis Downtown Public Library.  Renamed the Hennepin County Minneapolis Library after the Minneapolis Public Libraries transferred to Hennepin County, as the means of maintaining a free and public library system in Minneapolis.

 

Diane's career spans city government, finance, education, fundraising, and community activism with a focus on complicated issues, working with a diverse constituency, business, and civic leaders, unions, mayors, and the University of Minnesota. Diane serves as chair of the Great River Coalition, an environmental non-profit, the Guthrie Theater Board of Directors, the American Swedish Institute Board of Trustees, and the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis Board of Directors, in addition to Save the Boundary Waters where her heart lies at the edge of the Boundary Waters on Burntside Lake, a place her parents met and fell in love with the world's greatest treasure. A tradition passed to Diane.

Bill Hohengarten

Board Member

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.

Tadd Johnson

Board Member

In 2019, Tadd M. Johnson was named the University of Minnesota’s first senior director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations. As senior director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations, Johnson is housed at the U of M Duluth, where he is director of the Tribal Sovereignty Institute and director of Graduate Studies in the American Indian Studies Department. In addition to his academic work, Johnson is a resource to tribal governments and Native American people with more than three decades of leadership and service in the field of Federal-Indian law and policy. He served as a tribal attorney for more than 20 years, served as a tribal court judge and administrator, and is a frequent lecturer on American Indian history and Federal Indian Law. He spent five years with the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately becoming staff director and counsel to the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Johnson to chair the National Indian Gaming Commission. He is nationally recognized in the area of Native American Law and is an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. Johnson received a B.A. at the University of St. Thomas, a J.D. at the U of M Law School, and serves on the Boards of the Udall Foundation and the Native Governance Center.

Ann McNally

Board Member

Ann went on her first canoe trip, a 7-day Quetico trip, in 1992, was a guide-in-training in 1994 and 1995, and then guided in the BWCAW from 1996-2000.  After graduating from college, she took a break to get a Ph.D. in chemistry and then worked full-time on municipal water quality issues. She shifted to teaching college chemistry when her first son was born in 2010, allowing her to return to Ely in the summers starting in 2011, where she now directs the same youth wilderness tripping program she worked for in college.

Ann is especially enthusiastic about promoting wilderness travel to teenagers who might not typically be expected to thrive on a canoe trip – girls, minorities, the poor, people with disabilities. She has seen time and again that canoe trips are confidence-building and fun and help these youth develop a work ethic and sense of confidence and cooperation that will be serve them well in the future. A recent BWCAW highlight was taking both her mom and her children (aged 6 and 9) to Knife lake. Although she is always happy to lobby or review scientific data, she feels that the most important thing she can do to save the Boundary Waters is ensure that youth from a wide range of backgrounds are given the opportunity to experience canoe country.

Heather Meier

Board Member

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.

David Miller

Board Treasurer

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.

Jon Nelson

Board Co-Chair

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.

Jen Pearson

Board Member

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 Piragis

Board Member

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.

Becky Rom

Board Vice-Chair

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.

Paul Schurke

Board Member

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.

Jeff Soderstrom

Board Co-Chair

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.

Steve Snyder

Board Member

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.

Jason Zaborkrtsky

Board Member

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.