April Sansom, Executive Director April Sansom holds a PhD in Environment and Resources from the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. April’s dissertation focused on the intersection of community-based conservation and rural development and how these disciplines can be combined to empower local people to be stewards of their own landscape. She worked with groups of dairy farmers living in the buffer zone of a protected area on the eastern slope of the Andes in Napo Province, Ecuador, during her dissertation research process. April holds a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development, also from the Nelson Institute. For this degree her research focused on women’s groups in rural Bolivia and their participation in natural resource management decision-making. Before graduate school, April lived in the Philippines for over three years, first as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer and then as a Community Organizer for the Philippines program of Conservation International. April led environmental education programs for a local non-profit organization, and she worked with an indigenous group of people on Coron Island that had just received legal rights over their ancestral land and water. She coordinated a conservation enterprise project, which focused on the processing of cashews by the local people.
Lamar Janes, Bookkeeper Lamar Janes has a BS in Biology from Stanford and studied aquatic ecology at UW-Madison. He worked for the Wisconsin and Arkansas DNRs in water quality. He has been involved in a variety of cooperatives and grassroots nonprofits for 45 years. At age 52 he realized he wanted to be a bookkeeper when he grew up. Lamar lives at Dancing Waters Permaculture Cooperative, an intentional community near Gays Mills. He enjoys Tai Chi, meditation, gardening and fixing things and was a cod in a previous lifetime.
Board of Directors
Dr. Teri Allendorf (President) Dr. Teri Allendorf is a conservation biologist who has been working on issues of local communities and protected areas since 1994. She is a scientist in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a research associate with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. She is also an Honorary Fellow in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Land Tenure Center at the UW. She has been a member of USAID’s Biodiversity Team and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal. She conducts research on local communities’ attitudes and perceptions of protected areas and how those can be used to manage protected areas more sustainably. She has worked in Nepal, Myanmar, China, India, Uganda, Guyana, and Guatemala, to develop the capacity of local and national NGOs to design and implement biodiversity conservation projects in collaboration with local communities.
Joe Rising (Vice-President) has a strong background in not-for-profit organizations and law. He has a Juris Doctor Degree and undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Anthropology. Joe is a licensed Minnesota attorney with nearly 25 years of experience advocating for the environment and assisting communities with resource conservation. His environmental commitment came off the prairie where Joe grew up spending summers near St. Cloud, MN. He has written for numerous publications and enjoys writing haiku to reach further into nature. Community Conservation has always been an integral part of Joe’s work.
Dr. Terry Beck (Secretary) has a Ph.D. in Rhetoric & Composition from the Union Institute and taught in the English Department at UW-La Crosse from 1978 to 2008. He has a small farm near Avalanche, Wisconsin where he raises sheep and chickens, and tends the family gardens, fruit trees, bushes, and vines. He was a founder and long-time board member of Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School in Viroqua, Wisconsin. He currently serves on the Board of Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua and volunteers at the Kickapoo Reserve, and organizes spoon carving classes and activities for the Driftless Folk School.
Dr. John Delaney (Treasurer) grew up less than an hours drive from Viroqua, Wisconsin, in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. He received his PhD from Iowa State University in 2014 where he researched biodiversity and pollinator conservation in cattle pastures and tallgrass prairies. John coordinates the citizen science water quality research program for Valley Stewardship Network (VSN) by providing trainings and support to volunteers. As VSN’s agroecologist, John serves farmers and landowners with information and technical services for promoting biodiversity and improving water quality.
Shelly Gradwell-Brenneman was raised in a small farming community in central Iowa. Shelly credits her grandparents with inspiring her life’s work in natural resources with their example of conservation leadership in their community. Shelly attended Colorado State University where she earned a B.S. in Environmental Interpretation and completed her internship in Rocky Mountain National Park. After college, she served as a volunteer environmental and ecotourism educator in the rainforests of Costa Rica. She went on to Iowa State University, where she studied sustainable agriculture and earned a M.S. degree in Agronomy and Rural Sociology, while helping launch one of the first community supported agriculture projects in Iowa. She worked with Practical Farmers of Iowa and Iowa State University Extension on several sustainable agriculture and natural resource education projects. The call of wilderness and sustainable fishing brought her to Alaska, where she worked for the Kenai Watershed Forum and also helped harvest wild salmon at her family fishing camp for many summers. She now lives in Viroqua, where she enjoys sharing the wonders of the Driftless with her two boys.
Keefe Keeley comes from the Kickapoo Valley of Wisconsin. He studied biology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and then traveled on a Watson fellowship to live with farmers in the UK, Zambia, New Zealand, India, and Japan, and learn about the spiritual dynamics of their relationships with the land. He returned to Wisconsin and worked at an organic vegetable farm, and at the state’s Department of Agriculture connecting farmers with mentors. Since he began volunteering with Community Conservation partners in Peru, he has developed an ongoing effort to use agroforestry to improve livelihoods for cacao farmers and habitat for the critically endangered San Martín titi monkey. He is also doing research focused on engaging farmers with their forests in the Kickapoo Valley, for a MS degree in Agroecology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He lives in Madison, where he enjoys canoeing, bicycling, and escaping the city to plant trees on his family’s farm.
In Memoriam: Community Conservation Founder Rob Horwich
Dr. Rob Horwich founded Community Conservation in his living room in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, in 1989. Rob was first inspired to work alongside local people to protect their forests in Belize. He initially travelled to Belize to study black howler monkeys, locally known as baboons, and quickly realized that without joining forces with local people to protect the howlers’ forest home, there might not be any more howlers to study in the future. Working with local human community members provided the opportunity to protect habitat via what is now known as the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a model for local community management of natural resources and ecotourism that is managed by and directly benefits the local people.
Rob continued his work focusing on people-centered conservation in 14 additional countries. His passion for protecting endangered habitat was limitless. His friends reflect on his endless kindness and generosity, and twinkling sense of humor. From his base in his rural home in Gays Mills, he inspired a generation of conservation professionals across the globe. We are grateful for his mentorship and legacy as we continue to work with local people to protect habitat around the world.
Please take a look at this wonderful video describing Rob’s pivotal work in Belize with the Community Baboon Sanctuary.