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.
An avid hiker, runner and outdoor enthusiast, Rachel fell in love with Helena after visiting in 2014. Drawn to the kind people, family-friendly community and beautiful nature, she and her family made the big move to Helena in the spring of 2020 to work for PPLT. She is a seasoned professional with over 15 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising and political fields. The first few years of her career she navigated the nonprofit and political worlds before she became a political fundraiser, working with clients from all over the world. After four years of intense travel, she decided to follow her passion for the outdoors and joined The Trail Foundation in Austin, Texas, as their Development Director. For six years she helped to grow and build the organization to meet the needs of the most visited urban green space in Central Texas. Rachel enjoys devoting her career to the outdoors, protecting natural spaces and encouraging people to go outside. A skilled communicator, Rachel thrives at being able to listen to input, facilitate, and creatively overcome challenges to achieve goals. As the Associate Director for PPLT, Rachel will oversee the daily operations and future needs of the organization.
A Pennsylvania native, Rebecca’s love for Helena and its wide-open spaces began when she was a little girl. She spent her summers visiting family in Montana and always felt a close connection to Helena, the people, and the beautiful landscape surrounding the town. Her dream of leaving the East Coast and calling Helena “home” became reality in 2015 when she was offered the Children’s Miracle Network Manager position at Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena, Montana. During her time at Shodair, Rebecca gained nearly seven years’ worth of experience in the nonprofit sector and helped grow the hospital’s fundraising through education, advocacy, and stewardship.
Because of her love and connection to the landscape, trails, and recreational opportunities around Helena, Rebecca jumped at the opportunity to join PPLT as the Associate Development Director. In this role, she will oversee the organization’s fundraising efforts and will continue to grow connections between PPLT and its community and statewide supporters.
Nate came on board as a PPLT trail intern in April of 2015 and currently serves as the Program and Trails Director overseeing PPLT’s Community Conservation program. 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 graduation, and he spent some time working in Yosemite National Park where his passion for all things outdoors was fully realized. After implementing trail and conservation projects 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. You’ll find him with his family (and dog Mooka) out on the trails, in the woods camping, or out on the disc golf course.
Having spent an adventurous childhood backpacking, swimming and exploring in the Flathead and Swan Valleys, Travis is thrilled to be home, working in Big Sky Country. His long circle back to the state began with the study of languages and economics at the University of Montana. From there he traveled to Russia, California, Italy, 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 in Washington, D.C. He finally escaped the city and made his way home to the mountains in and has spent the last few years working on PPLT lands projects. In his free time, he is camping, running the trails or out with his wirehair hunting birds.
Kevin has a long career in land protection. Before joining PPLT, Kevin spent 20 years in conservation, working for the National Park Service, two Land Trusts in Colorado, and the State of Montana. A thoughtful, curious and motivated protector of wild places, Kevin grew up exploring the mountains of southern Appalachia. It wasn’t until after high school, when he spent working away in Glacier National Park, that he decided to dive head first into conservation. And of course, Kevin doubles as an accomplished nature photographer and likes to share his images at his gallery in downtown Helena. In his free time he enjoys exploring Montana and the western United States with his wife and daughter.
Renae is a Montana native and a dedicated wife and mother of five. With a deep love for the outdoors, she finds joy in hiking, running, yoga, and treasured family moments in Montana’s beautiful landscapes. Her academic journey led her to Carroll College on a basketball scholarship, where she majored in accounting and minored in business administration. The first chapter of her career was spent at Mountain West Bank, where she dedicated 12 years to the world of finance and business. However, her heart called her home to raise her family. Together with her husband, they owned and operated The Bagel Company in Helena for nearly 22 years, serving their community with delicious, handcrafted bagels and fresh roasted coffee. As her children grew, she re-entered the workforce with a new mission. She is deeply involved in the nonprofit sector, where she continues to make a positive impact on the community. Her journey from finance to entrepreneurship and ultimately to nonprofit work has been a fulfilling one, and she looks forward to the exciting opportunities the future holds.
Audra Shropshire came to Helena with her husband Bill Shropshire in the early 90’s to visit family. They spent their time hiking Mt. Helena, floating the Missouri, and enjoying local attractions. As Bill’s career progressed they spent more time in Montana and eventually moved here in 2012 with their children Ella, Maya, and Will. Audra grew up near the Great Lakes and spent most summers in the woods of The Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her love for dirt roads, open spaces, and clear lakes was born there. She received her Elementary Education degree from the University of Wisconsin, minoring in Geography and Environmental Education. Her Master’s degree in Educational Administration came from Loyola University Chicago. Across 22 years, Audra has taught grades 8th,5th,3rd, and Pre-K With each age group she worked to get her classes outdoors. She taught third grade in a progressive school where each classroom had a courtyard for learning that backed up to a woodland park. Here she realized the benefits of nature’s classroom. She looks forward to sharing these discoveries and connecting land and people in the greater Helena area.
Tim has been doing trail work for nearly ten years. He studied liberal arts and history at Beloit College in Wisconsin, graduating in 2012. Since then he spent several of his trail seasons in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex with the Montana Conservation Corps and the Forest Service. He’s happy to be doing trail work in this great state, for this unique trail system. When he isn’t on the trails he is in the kitchen or on the porch with a book.
Sherry moved to Helena in 2017 bringing with her over 20 years experience in the conservation field including working as a Land Steward for the Deschutes Land Trust in Bend, Oregon and as a Natural Resource Specialist for the Winooski Valley Park District in Vermont. While she spent most of her childhood on the Great Lakes in Michigan, a brief stint in Colorado after college had her falling in love with the mountains. She and her family are happy to call Montana home now. Sherry will be splitting her time working as the Stewardship Manager for PPLT and for the Montana Natural Heritage Program as the Zoology/Botany Data Specialist. As the Land Steward in Oregon, she gained valuable experience working with private landowners, monitoring both Land Trust properties and conservation easements. In her free time, Sherry enjoys exploring Montana with her husband, daughter, and two dogs!
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.”