Our Story

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:

  • Support the enhancement and restoration of conservation values of strategically identified lands.
  • Protect and steward strategically identified open spaces in perpetuity.
  • Provide easy trail access and open spaces that interconnect our community for all to enjoy.
  • Provide information to the community on resource conservation and open space issues.
  • Conduct and communicate our business with openness and integrity.
  • Be responsive to, representative of, and in service to our community, or, serve those in our community who have interests in open space and conservation.
  • Instill a connection with the land that fosters its permanent protection.

Prickly Pear Land Trust 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.

Rachel Rountree Associate Director

With PPLT Since: 2020

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.

Rebecca Dudek Associate Development Director

With PPLT Since: 2021

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.

AshLy Tubbs Outreach Manager

With PPLT Since: 2021

As a 5th generation Montanan with deep Helena roots, AshLy is passionate about people and places under the Big Sky. She is committed to keeping Montana the last best place while warmly welcoming folks to the great outdoors with open arms. When serving the public as the Governor’s Director of Constituent Services, leading a high-profile statewide Task Force, organizing campaigns, and founding an innovative project to support local small businesses– AshLy developed an expansive network and finds a familiar face wherever she goes. As Outreach Manager, she will be our communications conductor, marketing master, and event planning extraordinaire. When AshLy isn’t in our office showcasing and sharing the PPLT story, you will find her on the trails, in the water, and all around the heart of downtown with her kids and husband.

Nate Kopp Program & Trails Director

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.

Travis Vincent Lands Project Manager

With PPLT Since: 2017

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.


With PPLT Since: 2021

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.

Sue McNicol Minister of Happy

With PPLT Since: 2018

Montana has always been home for Sue, and non-profit work has been her passion for the past 35 years. As a graduate of Montana State University Billings in the field of Human Services, Sue has worked in areas of health care administration, disability rights, youth education and community outreach and currently serves part-time as a licensed local pastor in the United Methodist tradition. She describes herself as a “nudge enthusiast” and believes we all need encouragement and support as we explore our passions and interests. Sue loves to plant new ideas and grow meaningful connections for individuals interested in the work at hand. As PPLT’s “Minister of Happy” Sue coordinates all levels of giving back to our neighbors whether it be through volunteer coordination, community outreach, or fostering fun!

Tim Lawrence Trails and Parks Coordinator

With PPLT Since: 2021

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.

Sherry Berrin Lands Steward

With PPLT Since: 2022

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 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.”

Prickly Pear Land Trust Board Members

Willis Yarberry Board Member

Jill Lloyd Board Member

Jill Lloyd is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The road to becoming a CPA is something she fought by exclaiming “I don’t want to wear a black suit and have people think I’m boring!” So in addition to her business classes, she enrolled in MTB101 and informed her parents she needed a mountain bike for school.

Professionally, Jill has spent her recent years working at professional associations. She has grown her expertise in nonprofit accounting, Federal grant management, human capital management, and lobbying regulations.

Jill became involved with Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT) when she attended a family hike hosted by PPLT. Her family of four still enjoys hikes, though 50% of the family would prefer to always be on a bike, 25% could go either way, and the remaining 25% is hiking only.

Jill is excited to join the PPLT board and share her professional knowledge, joy of community, and commitment to land conservation and accessibility for all.

John Tietz Board President

With PPLT Since: 2020

John moved to Montana from Colorado in 1977 when his father accepted a job at Montana State University. After graduating from Bozeman High School and MSU, John moved to Seattle, Washington to pursue a career in environmental remediation & consulting. In 2001, John decided he needed a new adventure, and enrolled at Seattle University School of Law. After graduating in 2004, John and his wife Leah and son Bridger moved to Helena so John could join the law firm of Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven, PC, where his practice focuses water rights, land use, and environmental law. John became involved in protecting Montana’s open lands when he joined the Heritage Lands Working Group, an ad hoc committee established by the City of Helena, Lewis and Clark County, and PPLT to make recommendations to the L&C County Commission regarding options to preserve the county’s heritage working lands. John subsequently served on the county’s Citizens Advisory Committee on Open Lands, which provides guidance to the County Commission on the funding of conservation projects under the county’s Open Lands Program. When he is not riding his bike, John can be found skiing, backpacking, canoeing, or hiking somewhere in Montana’s public open lands.

John Beaver Board Member

With PPLT Since: 2012

Farming, ranching, and gardening brought both John Beaver and his wife, Debra, from Medford, Oklahoma, a little town on the edge of the prairie, to Iowa, Aspen, and finally to Montana. After completing his range science degree at MSU, John moved to Helena and is now a partner at WESTECH Environmental Services, a biological consulting firm. John is the quintessential Helenan, spending his free time skiing, running, biking, hiking, hunting, and even painting. He and Deb’s daughters, Emma and Kate, both grew up exploring the outdoors around Helena and the South Hills. Of course, he has also spent years working with PPLT and serving on the board, and now he’s excited to lend his expertise and leadership in all things outdoors as our board president. It is John and PPLT’s goal to make a connection with the natural world available to everyone in our service area.

Jim Utterback Board Member

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 almost 30 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, Trout Unlimited. and was PPLT’s Board President from 2016—2019. We are grateful for his leadership and that he will remain on our board!

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.

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.

Paula Jacques Board Treasurer

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.

Tyrrell 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.

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.

Eliza Frazer Board Secretary

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.

John Doran Board Member

With PPLT Since: 2019

A native of Salem, Oregon, John Doran grew up on a baseball field. John’s talent as a switch-hitting second basemen took him to the University of Portland, where an injury to his throwing hand turned fortunate, leading him to meet his wife, Anna. After college, he began a career in journalism and coached a little college ball. Writing and editing brought the family first to Missoula, then Helena, where John took the helm as executive editor of Helena’s Independent Record. To give back to the outdoors he so immensely enjoys, John got involved with PPLT. He is a member of the former trail work group, the Trail Ninjas, and sunk scores of hours into the Waterline Trail. John is now Blue Cross Blue Shield’s VP of External Affairs and is on the trails with Anna and their two kids, Ellie and Finn, hiking, biking, or running almost everyday. He is excited to help PPLT in his new role as a board member. While incredibly grateful for PPLT’s work protecting Mount Ascension, John is also impressed with the work PPLT does to open up more access to “all outdoor enthusiasts – children, people with disabilities, or folks who might be intimidated by the steep and rough trails in the South Hills.”

Bill Shropshire Board Member

With PPLT Since: 2019

A life-long visitor to Helena, Bill Shropshire and his family finally became full-time residents in early 2013. Bill began his visits in 1976, first to see family, but later to explore. It became a life goal to live here. He has worked for American Chemet Corp. since he left the trading floors of the Chicago Board of Trade in 1998.  As Bill’s responsibilities at American Chemet increased, so did the frequency of his visits to Helena and East Helena. By 2013, Bill and his wife of 20 years, Audra, decided: “Hey, let’s go live there”! Bill and Audra have been PPLT supporters since their arrival, and are delighted they and their three kids, Ella, Maya, and Will, get to call Helena home. A long-time skier and cyclist, Bill’s road bike has been feeling increasingly neglected as he spends more and more time on fatter, knobbier tires. Bill is honored to serve on the board, noting he loves not only the trails and conservation efforts, but that Prickly Pear stays true to its motto of “connecting land and people.”

Jeannie Etchart Board member

With PPLT Since: 2020

Jeannie is a fourth generation Montanan from a well-known and respected ranching family in Northeastern Montana.  She grew up in Helena and later went on to attend the University of Notre Dame, graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2006.  Following graduation, Jeannie moved to Washington, DC where she held multiple political, event-planning and fundraising positions including at The White House, United States Senate and The Prince of Wales Foundation.  In December 2015, Jeannie moved back to her dear hometown of Helena. She always knew she wanted to return to her beloved Montana and is happy to be back to her roots and a part of the wonderful and thriving community.  Jeannie recently formed her own event planning business, Etchart Events LLC, to assist the area with planning, coordinating and executing a variety of functions. She is also very involved in the community and serves on the Boards of the Helena Area Community Foundation, Carroll College Saints Athletic Association, Green Meadow Country Club, St. Peter’s Health Foundation and most recently PPLT. Jeannie enjoys many things Helena and the surrounding areas have to offer such as skiing, golfing, rafting and hiking Mount Helena and is excited to join the PPLT Board and help further their mission to help preserve the beautiful public lands we are so lucky to get to call home!

Pam Bucy Board member

With PPLT Since: 2020

Pam was born and raised in Townsend, Montana. It took only a short stint of city living to convince her that fresh air and wide-open spaces were a necessary ingredient for her happiness and success. She has been incredibly fortunate to live and work only 30 miles from where she grew up, surrounded by her large family. She is an attorney by trade and has had a wide variety of legal positions in both the private sector and state government. She currently serves as the Chief Discipline Counsel for the State of Montana. When not at work, you will find her with her family, Mark, Errol, Emma and Quinn and their two dogs, Piper and Daisy, hiking, boating, and exploring Montana.

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