"Climate change and protecting our lands and waters — these are the big challenges of our time," says Ann Mulholland, chapter director for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Mulholland will be speaking about these challenges, and TNC's work to find answers for them, in a virtual presentation scheduled to take place this Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. Though the presentation will emanate from TNC's Twin Cities offices, it will be hosted locally by the Prairie Woods Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, which is based in Detroit Lakes. It can be viewed via a link posted on the Ikes' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/PWIkes.
"At its core, The Nature Conservancy is about protecting nature and tackling climate change, and we do that in a whole lot of different ways," she said in a phone interview earlier this week. "We work on things like reforestations, ag practices and soil health practices, so we work with the agricultural community quite a lot."
Mulholland added that renewable energy and sequestering carbon — the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide — are both important in reducing global climate change, and will feature prominently in her presentation on Tuesday.
"Nature plays an interesting role in holding and sequestering carbon — the soil, trees and prairies play a really big role," Mulholland said. "We work with the folks that work on the land — farmers, ranchers, the timber industry — on strategies to help sequester as much carbon as possible through nature."
Recently, TNC and American Forests collaborated on a project known as the "Reforestation Hub" — an online tool that offers the most comprehensive look to date at the potential to reforest the contiguous United States, focusing on the most cost-effective and feasible options.
The Reforestation Hub (reforestationhub.org) identifies up to 133 million acres of formerly forested lands in the United States that could be reforested to boost carbon storage. Approximately 3.6 million of these acres are found in Minnesota.
"“Planting trees to restore forests where it makes good economic and ecological sense is a powerful natural solution to global warming,” says Meredith Cornett, director of conservation science for TNC in Minnesota. “But prior to this analysis, there was no quick and easy way to figure out where exactly we might put all those new trees.”
This is just one example of TNC's efforts to combat climate change and protect natural resources throughout the United States, Mulholland noted. Another is to work directly with farmers and agricultural industry experts on improving soil health through better management practices, to provide food and water sustainably.
"That's the work we're doing with the agricultural industry," she said. "We're working directly farmers and farmer advisors on soil health practices — how we use nutrients in the soil, as well as where, how much, and what kind, as well as things like cover cropping and no-till agriculture, those kinds of practices."
Mulholland added that her Tuesday presentation will also focus on the need for more biodiversity.
"I’m going to talk a little bit about what we believe is a biodiversity crisis that we’re in right now, and the call for protecting 30% of our biodiversity by 2030," she said.
Mulholland became the chapter director for TNC about a year ago — but it wasn't the first time she came to work with them. In the past, she has served as a board chair, trustee and marketing executive for the TNC regional chapter.
"Nature, and the role it plays in our health and economy ... it’s been a passion of mine my entire life, or as long as I can remember," she says.
Though Mulholland will not be visiting Detroit Lakes for this particular presentation, she is no stranger to the community.
"It's where I met my husband back in 1990," she said, adding that he had helped run former U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson's first campaign for office. "It's a small world, isn't it?
"I just drove through Detroit Lakes this past summer, visiting some of our (TNC's) preserves," she added.
Mulholland says she is excited about Tuesday's presentation, and the opportunity it provides to showcase some of the work TNC has been doing in Minnesota, and beyond.
"The Nature Conservancy has been around in Minnesota since 1958," she said. "We have a very proud and strong history of land and water conservation and I love the opportunity of talking about some of the neat work we've gotten to do over the years."
For more information about TNC's work in the region, as well as Mulholland's role in it, visit www.nature.org.