Sou Barrett
Grizzly Council Chair
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2012

SouBarrettSou grew up in the Middle East, which wasn’t quite the landscape for the Great Bear. At the young age of eleven, she was introduced to the World Wildlife Fund by a teacher and was hooked. She went door-to-door selling chocolate and spreading the message, but most people were confused by her passion for wildlife. Sou now resides in beautiful Missoula, Montana with her four-year-old daughter and husband where every day is treasured for its unique beauty. They owned a successful television production company in Missoula until selling it in 2011. Sou came to Vital Ground after viewing Animal Planet’s Growing Up Grizzly episode about Doug Seus, his bears and The Vital Ground Foundation. She felt the message of the show was powerful and was compelled to do her part immediately. Investing the time to educate local communities about Vital Ground’s mission is always on her mind. Sou now serves as a Trustee and is the Chair of Vital Ground’s Grizzly Council.

 

Walter Becky
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2014

Wally Becky

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Capp
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2011 

JackCappJack graduated from Colorado State University with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Wildlife Biology. Jack brings 38 years of experience from his US Forest Service career. In his career, he worked in several positions in 9 different locations in Oregon, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Alaska, and Washington DC. In DC, he worked one year on the personal staff of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. While Alaska Director of Wildlife, Fisheries, Ecology, and Subsistence, he provided key leadership in the controversial revision of the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan. His last assignment was Special Assistant to the Director of International Programs. He established international partnerships for conservation of migratory wildlife species and served on international wildlife conservation councils. He now serves on three boards at Colorado State University for the Department of Athletics, College of Natural Resources, and the Alumni Association. He also does part-time consulting in nature education in inner-city schools in Chicago and Houston. Jack lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

 

Douglas H. Chadwick
Vital Ground Trustee since 1991
Doug Chadwick
Doug received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in wildlife biology from the University of Montana. After working as a seasonal biologist in Glacier National Park, he turned to popular writing about nature and conservation. The author of 11 books, Mr. Chadwick has also produced hundreds of articles for publications as varied as Reader’s Digest and the New York Times Review of Books. He contracts mainly with the National Geographic Society, which has sent him to explore ecosystems from Siberia to the Congo. Doug has had a special interest in grizzly bears for 30 years. As a scientist, he played a role in getting the species listed as threatened in 1975. His recent book, The Wolverine Way (May 2010), is a chronicle of adventure and discovery while helping study one of the least-known wild animals on the continent. His latest book (May 2014) is Crown of the Continent: The Wildest Rockies, with photographer Steven Gnam. A founding board member of Vital Ground, he lives in Whitefish, Mont., with his wife, Karen Reeves, whose professional background is in forestry.

 

Charlie E. Eiseman, Treasurer
Vital Ground Trustee since November 2009

CharlieEisemanCharlie brings extensive financial experience to the board, having worked in marketing, management, and retail lending for such institutions as Federal Home Loan Bank Seattle, Western Security Bank and Havre Federal Savings and Loan. Having retired from the Federal Home Loan Bank Seattle in February 2011, he is now an owner of PEAK Health and Wellness Center, Missoula’s premiere fitness facility. Charlie graduated from the University of Montana–Missoula in 1973. Dedicated to conservation, he served on the board of Five Valleys Land Trust in Missoula and is now providing guidance, advocacy and support of Vital Ground’s mission. As the board’s treasurer, he contributes valuable expertise and insight to Vital Ground’s staff and fellow trustees.

 

Russell Fox
Vital Ground Trustee 2015 and 2016

Russ FoxRuss married Vital Ground Board Member Carolyn Dobbs (1942-2014) 42 years ago. They both were faculty members in environmental studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., for 40 years, and both are Faculty Emeriti. Their inseparable love of, exploration of and research in natural resource management issues and strategies in North America, Ecuador and Great Britain has included a focus on wildlife habitat protection. Russ was a not-so-silent partner in accompanying Carolyn during her tenure as a Vital Ground trustee and was elected to complete her term on the board. Russ has a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington and has a long history of public service in a wide variety of both governmental and non-profit community development initiatives in the state of Washington. He is currently board chair of the South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust.

 

John Hechtel
Vital Ground Trustee since November 2014

john_hechtelJohn has over 30 years experience in bear management, bear research, bear-human conflict prevention, and bear safety instruction. John has worked extensively on bears in Arctic and Interior Alaska with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. John, a founding member of a non-profit Safety in Bear Country Society, co-wrote and produced a series of four training videos: Staying Safe in Bear Country, Working in Bear Country, Living in Bear Country and Polar Bears: A Guide to Safety. John served 6 years on the governing Council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management, the worldwide professional organization of bear experts. Since retiring from Fish and Game, he is continuing his work on bear safety and conflicts prevention as a consultant to industry, government and non-profits.

 

Kelly Johnson, Vice Chair
Vital Ground Trustee since 2002

Kelly WilsonKelly has served the board from 2002 to 2013. After being “termed out” for a year, we are pleased to again have her on the board. Kelly has served as Vital Ground’s secretary and on the Development Committee, and she chaired the organization’s successful 20th anniversary event in Park City. She has had an active career in real estate and can bring valuable insights to our land transactions. Kelly was raised in western Pennsylvania with a family keen on the outdoors, and in that state she studied wildlife technology at Penn State University. Kelly lived for 12 years in New Zealand, where her two daughters were born. She then lived 15 years in Park City where she was active in the charitable community, principally on animal welfare and conservation. Kelly now resides in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., with husband Keith, her daughters and three rescued dogs.

 

Maureen Henry Mayer
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2011

MaureenMayerWith Maureen’s background as a neonatal ICU RN she learned as part of the University of Utah’s elite flight nurse team to take potential disaster and turn it into success. She brings a wealth of volunteer experience to Vital Ground, having served on the boards of the Snake River Institute in Wilson, Wyoming, Indian Springs Ranch HOA in Jackson, Wyoming and the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Virginia. She is a prolific fundraiser for numerous causes, including co-chair of the Inova Health System Gala, which raised over one million dollars for emergency and disaster preparedness in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, as well as the 2002 Ride to Remember, a bicycle ride from Ground Zero to the Pentagon over four days, to raise money for the families of the victims of the Pentagon attack. In addition to all of her philanthropic accomplishments, she is executive producer of Druid Peak which is a film currently in post production. Maureen has spent parts of over 30 years in the Intermountain West and the last 20 in Jackson, Wyoming. She has a deep familiarity with both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, which lead to her interest in wildlife preservation and conservation. She believes that Vital Ground’s mission is of “vital” importance given the cascade effect on all species of wildlife.

 

Theresa Young
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2013

Theresa_McCallTheresa is an associate director at Sandler O’Neill Mortgage Finance L.P. Her experience within the mortgage industry spans 18 years in a variety of roles. Prior to joining Sandler O’Neill Mortgage Finance as an analyst in February 2001, she was employed with First Tennessee Capital Assets, Univest Financial Services and Financial Federal Savings Bank. Theresa is responsible for analyzing data provided by clients for securitizations and potential whole loan sales of various loan products including first mortgages, second mortgages, HELOCs, auto loans, commercial and multifamily mortgages, A&L analysis, FAS 140 valuations, FAS 107 valuations, M&A valuations, capital raisings, balance sheet analysis and servicing sales. She received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance and real estate from the University of Memphis. In addition to Vital Ground, Theresa is currently a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and Mensa.

 

Andrea Nasi
Vital Ground Trustee since March 2016
Andrea NasiAndrea Nasi was born in Torino, Italy. After obtaining a master’s degree in business administration from the “Scuola di Amministrazione Industriale dell’Universita’ di Torino,” he moved  to the United States for a series of year-long internships with Carl Ally Advertising and Westinghouse International in New York City and with Scott Paper Company in Philadelphia. Upon his return to Italy he joined the FIAT group, and specifically Fratelli Fabbri Editori – the group’s magazine and book-publishing division. He moved to New York in the early ‘70s to establish FIAT’s publishing activities in the U.S. In 1983 he founded Eridanos Press, a literary publishing company that he managed until 1990 when the firm was sold to David Godine Publishers in Boston. He returned to Italy where he joined the board of directors of IFI,  FIAT’s holding company, where he served until 2010.  While in Europe, he purchased a controlling interest in Turner Libros, a Spanish art, art criticism and non-fiction well established in the Spanish-speaking world, involvement that continues to this date. In 2010, he returned to the United Sates to be with his wife and children, first in Scottsdale, Ariz., and then in Ketchum, Idaho, where he currently resides.

 

Doug Seus, Vital Ground Co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
Vital Ground Trustee from 1991-2006

DougSeusDoug and his wife Lynne obtained their first wolf in 1971 and subsequently launched a career in the animal training business for the entertainment industry. Between educational programs for universities and commercial shoots for television, Doug and Lynne expanded their wildlife menagerie to include cougars, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, owls and eagles. But in 1977, they followed their dream and bought a grizzly bear cub from a zoo in Peoria, Illinois. Through their movie work with Bart the Bear and their humane training methods, the Seuses spawned a legion of followers and are considered the premier animal trainers in the entertainment business. With Bart as ambassador, the Seuses launched Vital Ground in 1990 through the purchase of 240 acres of prime grizzly bear habitat adjoining protected land in The Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Swamp Preserve along the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. For Doug, the joy of working with bears and other animals doesn’t come from teaching tricks or seeing them on screen. It’s about building a relationship with them.

 

Lynne Seus, Vital Ground Co-founder
Vital Ground Trustee 1991-2004, 2006-2015

LynneSeusLynne and her husband Doug founded Vital Ground in 1990. The famed animal handlers raised and trained an orphaned Kodiak brown bear named Bart to appear in feature films, which have included Legends of the Fall, The Edge and The Great Outdoors, among many others. Before his death in 2000, Bart had worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Brad Pitt and Sir Anthony Hopkins. Today, the Seuses operate Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife Ranch and focus exclusively on grizzly bears and wolves. At present, a substantial amount of their time, resources and the talent of their animals are dedicated to promoting the work of Vital Ground. The Seuses reside in Heber, Utah.

 

Sally O. Smyth
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2010

sally2Sally has always been torn between working (as a copywriter, feature and business writer), traveling (as much as humanly possible) and doing the right thing: enabling wildlife to survive among us. Moving from Manhattan to Camden, Maine in 1985 provided hands-on experience with wildlife neighbors. After rehabilitating a series of raccoons—sometimes called ‘wash bears’—Sally and her husband, Tom DeMarco bought three acres of tidal waterfront land frequented by these raccoons and other wildlife for foraging and donated it to a local land trust for ongoing protection. Sally obtained her Masters in Environmental Policy from Tufts University in 1996. A random viewing of Doug Seus interacting with his bears on Animal Planet led her to Vital Ground. Vital Ground’s focus on ensuring safe passage for grizzlies, an umbrella species, fit Sally’s belief in wildlife corridors: “To travel from one foraging area to another, wildlife need the equivalent of our roads, but without cars…”

 

Stuart D. Strahl, Ph.D., Chair
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2006

StuartStrahlWith 25 years in national and international programs, Stuart is a career conservationist with deep experience in applied science, restoration ecology, public policy and not-for-profit management. He currently serves as President/CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society and Director of the world-famous Brookfield Zoo. From 1996-2003, Stuart was founding President/CEO of Audubon of Florida, leading Audubon into national prominence in the largest ecological restoration initiative in history, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. He gained international experience as Research Fellow and founding Director of Latin American Programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society between 1985 and 1992. Fluent in Spanish, Stuart is dedicated to converting conservation into a mainstream public issue, has broad experience in bringing together diverse interests in the U.S. and Latin America, which has resulted in preservation of over 30 million acres of wildlife habitat and over $15 billion in conservation funding. Stuart received his B.A. in Biology from Bates College, and his Ph.D. in Biology from the State University of New York at Albany. He has served on numerous boards and appointed commissions, and is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Conservation Biology, the Everglades Foundation, Elective Member of the American Ornithologists’ Union and Professional Member of the Boone and Crockett Club, among others.

 

Debi Strong
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2011

DebiStrongDebi has an eclectic background that ranges from forensic law enforcement to environmental education. Raised in New York City but seeking wilder places, she left for Colorado in 1972 where she received her B.A. in Environmental Biology and B.S. in Reportorial Journalism from the University of Colorado. Debi has worked for the National Park Service in Rocky Mountain National Park (as their first female law enforcement ranger), wrote a syndicated environmental column for five years, and has written two published editions of a reference book on recycling. Debi has served on the boards of The Glacier Institute in Kalispell, Montana, We Recycle in Vail, Colorado, Trout Unlimited in Boulder, Colorado, and founded the Douglas County Women’s Crisis Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. Having had an abiding interest in bears for over three decades, she has volunteered with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, working in the field with a Grizzly bear biologist. Debi has been actively involved in environmental and conservation issues for over 40 years, and is deeply committed to preserving grizzly bear habitat for the good of all species. She hikes throughout the year in bear country, and lives in Bigfork, Montana with her husband, Rich, and daughter, Xiaoxiao.

 

David E. Wesley, Ph.D., Secretary
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2007

DavidWesleyDavid is a wildlife biologist by training, experience and interest. He has bachelor and masters degrees from Mississippi State University and a Ph.D. from Colorado State University. He spent several years teaching at both the high school and college levels followed by 22 years with Ducks Unlimited where he gained experience in habitat conservation, fundraising and administration. David was the manager of DU’s conservation/habitat programs in the United States when they began opening regional offices in 1984. He retired from DU in 1996 and refocused his attention on elk via the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Since retiring from RMEF, he has done consulting work with the Wildlife Habitat Council where he helped initiate a migratory bird conservation program with emphasis on corporate lands. Since his second retirement, he has been involved with a number of conservation groups with focus on youth conservation. His personal interests, combined with his professional activities, led him to co-edit a book entitled Fireside Waterfowler and to engage in a variety of conservation videos. David and his wife, Mary Dale, live in Missoula, Montana.

 

Meggen Wilson
Vital Ground Trustee since October 2011

MeggenWilsonMeggen learned to love conservation early in life. An example was set by her parents’ involvement with the Audubon Society. She and her husband, Brian, have three active daughters in the Orlando area and their interests have prompted a portion of Meggen’s community involvement in areas such as the Crew Boosters of Winter Park and her service as a Winter Park High School College and Career Counselor. Broader interests have involved her as a volunteer, supporter or board member of Central Coalition for the Homeless, Orlando Regional Healthcare Foundation, March of Dimes and Freedom Ride and several other organizations. Her family’s second home in Whitefish, Montana has connected her to America’s wild places and, inevitably, to the conservation of grizzly bears. Of particular concern to her is how shaping the nature of private land use bordering U.S. parks and forests can help reduce the human/bear conflicts that so often result in bear mortalities. To the myriad of organizations lucky enough to have Meggen’s support, she brings expertise and enthusiasm in communications, events and fundraising.