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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Blake has been livin’ and lovin’ Montana since moving to Helena in 2018 for an AmeriCorps position with the Montana Department of Commerce. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Blake spent a short stint in D.C where he worked as an intern with the EPA to develop flood resilience tools for local organizations. Having wandered around the wilds of Wyoming and Montana during college, Blake jumped on the opportunity to come out West and create a resilience plan for the State of Montana. Blake looks forward to sharing his passion for protecting, enhancing, and exploring the outdoors with the next generation of Helena and East Helena as PPLT’s education program lead. Outside of the office and PPLT’s outdoor classrooms, you can discover Blake biking around town, scoping birds from the trails, or throwing clay on the potter’s wheel.
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.”
Tim was born in the sprawl of Chicago. He completed a bachelor of arts in history from Beloit College in 2012. Days after graduating he took to the road to begin his first season with Montana Conservation Corps’ Northern Rockies Kalispell office. Since then he has worked two more seasons with the MCC as a crew leader running a crew out of Schafer Ranger Station in the Great Bear Wilderness and Bob Marshall and a senior crew leader out of Helena’s Central Divide office. He’s spent the last three seasons in the Forest Service out of Lincoln Ranger District, two of which he led the wilderness trail crew in the Scapegoat Wilderness. He’s spent two of his winters here in Helena as a bread baker for Park Ave. When he’s not covered in dirt and sawdust on the trail, he’s cooking for friends or reading a book and writing with a french press of coffee.