Our Story

Lands within Montana’s Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, Powell and Broadwater counties have undergone significant change during the past 20 years. Much of the predominantly rural land immediately surrounding the city of Helena has been converted from open space. As the population has increased, recreational opportunities, uninterrupted views and open lands have diminished and access to open lands, both public and private, has been closed off.

Prickly Pear Land Trust is committed to the belief that open space is essential to the well-being of all communities. Spacious views, abundant wildlife, and recreational opportunities renew and revitalize our spirits. Maintaining traditional agricultural lands preserves Montana’s cultural heritage. At Prickly Pear Land Trust, we seek to preserve and protect the rural character of the Prickly Pear Valley and adjoining lands in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, Broadwater and Powell counties through voluntary and cooperative means. Further, we strive to connect people to their natural surroundings though trails and access to public lands.

Our Mission

To inspire connections to the landscapes, water, wildlife, recreation and agricultural heritage of west-central Montana through conservation, now and for future generations.

Our Core Values

In support of our mission, the core values of Prickly Pear Land Trust define our organizational culture:

PPLT Staff

Mary Hollow
Executive Director
With PPLT Since: 2015

As a fifth-generation Montanan and outdoor enthusiast, Mary has long been connected to the lands and waters of Big Sky Country. She holds University of Montana degrees in business finance and economics. She began her career in the U.S. Senate and later for a housing organization in Washington, D.C. Upon her return to Montana, Mary ran a fishing lodge in the Blackfoot Valley. Inspired to further conservation efforts, Mary then went to work for The Nature Conservancy during their acquisitions of Plum Creek Timber land in western Montana. For nearly 10 years she managed land deals and served as the Government Affairs Director for TNC in Montana. Mary joined the PPLT staff in 2015 as executive director. Connecting people with conservation values and the outdoors in our urban communities is a key goal for Prickly Pear Land Trust and a personal interest for Mary.

Andrea Silverman
Land Protection Coordinator
With PPLT Since: 2008

After a childhood spent roaming the outdoors of western New York State, Andrea earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and then completed a master’s of environmental management degree in resource ecology from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. After three years at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, two summers with The Nature Conservancy of Montana in the Big Hole, a year in Seattle with the King County Noxious Weed Control Program, and three years with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Andrea joined PPLT in February 2008. She loves working in private land conservation, and finding ways to connect people with the natural world around them. In her spare time, she enjoys running, skiing, horseback riding, and fly fishing with her husband, Joel.

Nate Kopp
Project Manager
With PPLT Since: 2015

Nate came on board as a PPLT trail intern in April of 2015 and now serves as the project manager for PPLT’s Peaks to Creeks campaign. He hails from a small town in western New York and studied geography and environmental studies at the State University of New York at Geneseo. The wild places called him west after graduating, and he spent some time working in Yosemite National Park where his passion for all things outdoors was fully realized. After doing trail and conservation work across California, from Big Sur to the Sierra Nevadas, and in the green mountains of Vermont to the coastal jungles of North Carolina, he found his way to Montana. When he’s not hanging out at PPLT’s Tenmile Creek Park you’ll find him with his wife Julia, and their dog Mooka out on the trails, in the woods camping, or out on the disc golf course.

Lanie White
Development Manager
With PPLT Since: 2015

Hailing from the hills of the North Valley, Lanie has been a part of the greater Helena community since childhood and is excited to be doing work to promote and protect open space in the area that is most near and dear to her heart. She became interested in open space conservation during her adolescence as she watched the once beautiful and elk-filled farmland below her childhood home developed and subdivided. Lanie moved to Portland, OR in 2008 and furthered her passion for outdoor recreation and conservation when she began teaching, guiding, and coordinating the climbing gym for the Outdoor Program at Portland State University while attending classes to earn her B.A. in Spanish. After five years of city life, she decided that a more natural setting, more specifically Montana, was the superior place to reside and moved back to her hometown, later to be hired by Prickly Pear Land Trust. She is thrilled to be a part of such a hard-working and dedicated staff, board and community!


Evan Kulesa
Trails Coordinator
With PPLT Since: 2017

Originally from eastern South Dakota, Evan moved to Montana in 2010 after receiving a degree in accounting from Augustana University and working as a public accountant for two years. In Montana, Evan ignited his passion for the outdoors and trails first with Montana Conservation Corps and later with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation and U.S. Forest Service. Evan extends his love for connecting people to their landscape in his role as trails coordinator. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, climbing mountains and travelling with his wife, Krystle, and cat, Tofu.

Travis Vincent
Project Associate
With PPLT Since: 2017

Travis joined the PPLT crew as a project associate in late 2017. Having spent an adventurous childhood backpacking, swimming and exploring in the Flathead and Swan Valleys, he is thrilled to be back in Big Sky Country. Travis’ long road to Helena began with degrees in Russian and economics from the University of Montana. He later traveled to Russia, California, Italy, D.C. and Namibia to work and study, camping along the way. With a wildlife and open-space career in mind, Travis earned a policy and economics master’s degree with a concentration in environmental affairs from Johns Hopkins in early 2017. In his free time, he is camping, running the trails or, depending on the season, in the water.

Breena Buettner
Membership and Outreach Coordinator
With PPLT Since: 2018

Breena has always been drawn to the mountains. After her childhood in Amarillo, Texas and degree in Fine Arts from the University of North Texas, she followed her inspiration from the flatlands of the panhandle to the Rocky Mountain West. A ceramic artist by trade, she found work in studios in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado before heading north to work in a pottery studio in Montana. Around the time she was scheduled to depart Montana, she spent a weekend fishing the Blackfoot, then quickly unpacked her car and called Helena “home”. Breena managed the Archie Bray Gallery here in Helena before making the move to Prickly Pear as our Membership and Outreach Coordinator. The role is a perfect fit for the young artist as it combines community engagement and opportunity for creative work. Breena still practices wheel thrown and hand-built porcelain work in her downtown studio when she isn’t hiking, fly fishing, floating or facing her fear of speeding downhill on her mountain bike and set of skis.

Emmett Purcell
Trails Assistant

Emmett was born and raised in Helena. He attended Montana State University, where he was on the alpine ski race team and eventually became an assistant ski coach. He continued ski coaching with the Great Divide Ski Team, leading to a career spanning various roles in the ski, bike and trail worlds. He has been moving dirt and exploring and building trails since his high school years, when mountain biking was in its infancy. He and his friends explored old routes that had not seen much travel over the years and cleaned them up. Emmett says: “I feel very fortunate to live in a great trails community and to be able to cobble together a life that includes bikes, skis, trails and yoga.”

Sue McNicol
Office Manager
With PPLT Since: 2018

Sue knows what Montana Communities are all about. A non-profit jack-of-all-trades, she has worked in as many different positions as groups of people she has supported and advocated for. At St. Peter’s Hospital, Sue spent 13 years in three roles – HR Generalist, Director of Admissions/Registration, and graphic artist. Her ability to connect with folks and her experience in care brought Sue to work in residential facilities for youth in crisis, and later the Montana Independent Living Project as an advocate for people with disabilities. Before making the move to head PPLT’s office, Sue completed her seventh year at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church where she managed finance, administration, and adult education. Born and raised in Great Falls, Sue graduated from Colstrip High School. She received her Bachelor of Science in Human Services from what she lovingly refers to as Eastern Montana College (now MSU-Billings). Sue packs her free time working with mixed media and fiber art, hiking, and golf, and she hasn’t missed a Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs in years. She is surrounded by friends and family and her wheaten terrier, Junee.

PPLT Board Members

Eliza Frazer
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2017

Eliza first fell in love with Montana as a teenager, enchanted by the brilliant stones sparkling in the rivers (not at all like Pittsburgh’s), the unimaginable space and the smell of sagebrush. She came often to ski, fish and bird hunt, and finally moved to Helena in 1992. The move “home” to Montana was delayed by a BA at Wesleyan, an MBA at the University of Chicago, and a dozen years of desk jobs, mostly in finance. In Helena, she has been on the boards of several nonprofits including the Holter Museum and the Montana chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Eliza and her husband Barry Hood are thankful to have raised their son, Jack, in Helena. They continue to enjoy Montana’s outdoors most every day.

Janet Hedges
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2017

Janet was born in Missoula and lived in Billings most of her early years. She moved to Helena in 1989 where she worked for the Montana State University System for 10 years. Janet is a graduate of Carroll College with a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance. She has been in the financial service industry since January of 2000. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™,  she runs the Helena Branch of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Growing up, her playground was centered in the Beartooth and Absaroka mountains as her family camped, rode horseback, hiked and fished almost every other weekend. She appreciates the ability to recreate in open lands and wants to make sure that option is available for future generations to come.

Jim Utterback
Board President
With PPLT Since: 2011

After a successful career in public accounting in Texas, Jim relocated to Montana to become a new car auto dealer. The beautiful landscape of the Big Sky Country and the opportunities to flyfish and bird hunt were the motivating factors in that decision. Jim and his wife, Cindy, have made Helena their home for 27 years. Their home is within a stone’s throw of the South Hills trail system promoted and maintained by PPLT. They enjoy it almost daily with their Labrador retrievers. Jim has been an active member of the Helena community and has served on many boards, including as president of the Helena Chamber of Commerce, trustee of the Montana Historical Society, director of St. Peter’s Hospital, Crimestoppers and Trout Unlimited.

LeRoy H. Schramm
Board Vice President
With PPLT Since: 2006

LeRoy (Ph.D. Cornell University, J.D. William Mitchell College of Law, M.A. State University of New York at Albany, B.A. Valparaiso University) came to Montana from Minnesota in 1978. He directed all state government labor relations as head of the Montana Labor Relations Bureau from 1978 to 1981. He then served as Chief Legal Counsel for the Montana University System and the Montana Board of Regents from 1981 to 2006.  He is currently retired and lives in Helena with his wife, Diana. He has been a member of the PPLT Board of Directors since 2006.

Dawn North
Board member
With PPLT Since: 1999

Dawn was born in Missoula and raised in Bigfork.  All of her grandparents homesteaded in Montana.  She has coached 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students for about 40 years. She also substitute teaches. In her spare time, she likes to cook, hike, travel, garden, take pictures, and design stained glass. She is an avid member of Prickly Pear Land Trust and Last Chance Public Radio. Closest to her heart are her husband, John; her border collie, Alder; her cat, Pintler; her eight chickens; 15 goldfish; sports; open space; and public radio. Dawn has been a board member of PPLT for 18 years.

Sarah Jaeger
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2005

Sarah came to Helena in 1985 for a residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the ceramic arts, thinking she would be here for a year. After a two-year residency at the Bray, she decided to make Helena home. The landscape and Helena’s open space and trails played a large role in that decision. She set up a studio and has been a studio potter for the past 30 years. Her work is in public and private collections and, most important, in many kitchens throughout the country. She served on the board of directors of the Myrna Loy Center from 1990 to 1995. From 1992 to 2003, she served on the board of directors of the Archie Bray Foundation and was chair of the development committee. Since 2005, Sarah has been a member of the board of directors of the Prickly Pear Land Trust and served as president from 2010 to 2013.

Erin Woodrow
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2012

Erin is a South Carolina native who made her way to Montana in 2004. Erin graduated from MSU-Billings and received her MA in health promotion through the University of Alabama. She currently works as an account manager for PacificSource Health Plans. Her true passion is mountain biking and road cycling with her husband and many supportive friends. Although if you asked her, she’d tell you fat biking up the 2006 trail at night during a snowstorm is her idea of a perfect January evening after work. She is excited to be a part of the Prickly Pear Land Trust mission to preserve open space so we can always have access to the beauty our valley has to offer.

Dennis Milburn
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2014

Dennis was raised on the family homestead and worked on a variety of ranches in his youth. Shortly after graduating from college, he went to work for the U.S. Forest Service. He spent the next 32 years employed as a fire management specialist in several western states. After retiring from the Forest Service in 2004, Dennis has devoted much of his free time working as a volunteer for natural resource related organizations such as the Montana Forest Restoration Committee and the Elkhorn Restoration Committee, both groups work to promote more naturally functioning ecosystems. He also spends a lot time with the Last Chance Backcountry Horsemen helping maintain trails, bridges and cabins for the Helena National Forest. Dennis and his wife, Debbie, Helena area residents for the past 32 years, have put their conservation ethic into practice by working with the Prickly Pear Land Trust to place a conservation easement on their acreage along Sevenmile Creek.

Paula Jacques
Board Secretary
With PPLT Since: 2001

Paula is a native of Kansas who first learned to appreciate Montana’s open space as a kid on family vacations. When her husband headed back to pharmacy school, they chose to live in Montana and have been here ever since (not counting a couple years in Reno and one in Connecticut). Helena has been her home for the past 25 years. She is currently CPA and shareholder with the firm of Anderson ZurMuehlen and Co., P.C. and has served on the PPLT Board for several years. She is married with two children, a golden retriever and a pug – which makes for interesting hikes! She and her husband keep a sailboat on Canyon Ferry Lake and enjoy time relaxing there in the summer.

Ed Santos
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2016

Ed was born and raised in Connecticut, but came to Montana with his wife Alice in 1994. He immediately fell in love with the mountains and lakes of Helena and made it his permanent home in 1995. Ed’s conservation background goes back to his youth, and as a young adult he was very involved with the Student Conservation Association and was a member of Rails to Trails. He owned Aspen Consulting & Testing, an environmental consulting firm, for 16 years, and although he recently sold the business, he still works for the company. Air quality testing has taken Ed all over the state and the Northwest and has given him a great appreciation for the outdoor recreation in Helena. He and his wife have been involved with Prickly Pear Land Trust for over 14 years and fondly remember the first years of Harvest Moon and Don’t Fence Me In. Several years ago, Ed took to mountain biking and has become passionate about the sport ever since. He is incredibly grateful for the beautiful and plentiful trails in Helena and the surrounding areas, and is thankful that his wife and kids (Pilar and Eva) often join him in the outdoors on the weekends. Ed is excited to be on the board of such a progressive and successful organization and to contribute to the upcoming projects in any way he can.

Jonathan Krauss
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2009

Jonathan was born in southeast Pennsylvania, Jonathan developed an early love of the land on the family farm. After law school in Oregon, Jonathan practiced local government law in the mountain towns of Telluride and Steamboat Springs. He is currently employed as an Assistant Attorney General for the Montana Department of Justice, handling criminal appeals on behalf of the people of the state of Montana. Jonathan and his wife, Helenan-by-way-of-Seattle Ann Mary Norton, have lived in Helena since 2004. Jonathan was an active PPLT volunteer for a number of years before his appointment to the board in 2009. After a brief (but very slow) trail running career, Jonathan continues to bike and hike on the South Hills trails, and also enjoys getting “out there” during hunting season and Nordic skiing.

Tyrell Hibbard
Board Member
With PPLT Since: 2013

Tyrrell enjoyed an agricultural upbringing in a generational ranch family where work and recreation often coincided. Montana’s rich character, natural bounty, and historic working landscapes inspired Tyrrell to expand on his background and pursue conservation on a scale larger than his family’s ranch. He joined Western Sustainability Exchange where he has worked in market-based conservation through sustainable agriculture. Recently, the Helena native has begun adding value to Montana agriculture commodities by distilling fine spirits, as a proprietor of Gulch Distillers. When not ranching, distilling, or developing markets for farmers and ranchers, Tyrrell chooses to enjoy the outdoors with his wife and two young daughters, usually skiing, hunting, mountain biking, or fishing. He has every intention to preserve these opportunities for his community, his daughters, and the generations after them.

Chris Hunter
Board Treasurer
With PPLT Since: 2011

Chris and Carol Hunter moved to Helena from Kalispell in 1979. Chris received his masters in zoology from the University of Montana in 1974 and has worked as an aquatic ecologist since then, although a lot less lately. These days Chris likes to hike, camp, spend time at the lake and help Carol with grandkids. They have two grown children and four fabulous granddaughters.

Jane Kollmeyer
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2011

Jane was raised in Michigan and graduated with a Bachelor degree in Forestry from the University of Michigan. Soon after she graduated she moved to Oregon to begin her career with the Forest Service.  In her career Jane worked primarily in forestry, recreation, lands, wildlife and fisheries management.  She returned to Helena in 2010 after retiring as the Supervisor of the Sawtooth National Forest. Jane’s career has given her an understanding of the value of public lands and experience on how to protect those lands.  She loves hiking Helena’s open lands with her husband, her dog and her hiking group.

John Beaver
Board member
With PPLT Since: 2012

John grew up in rural Oklahoma and moved to Wilsall, Montana, in 1990 where he worked on a cattle ranch while his wife, Debra, managed a large organic garden. John graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College in biology and obtained a master’s degree from MSU in range science. John is a partner at WESTECH Environmental Services, Inc., where he specializes in restoration with native species, plant and wildlife surveys, and noxious weed management. He has two daughters: Kate, who is in college, and Emma, who is a senior at Helena High and a busy volunteer with PPLT! John is particularly interested in the economic and health benefits of open space as well as the community connections that open lands and trails provide.