Illinois hunting and fishing

Michelle Carr, new state director for The Nature Conservancy in Illinois. Photo courtesy of Cristina Rutter.

Nature Conservancy names new state director

February 10, 2013 at 05:25 PM

Michelle Carr said she hopes to see bison run through an Illinois prairie again, and with her new job, she’ll get a chance to help make it happen.

Carr, from Chicago, starts her new job as the new state director for The Nature Conservancy in Illinois on Monday.

She comes to the Conservancy from Goldman & Sachs, Co. where she was a vice-president.

Carr said making the transition from the business world to the nonprofit world isn’t as drastic as it seems.

“The leap doesn’t feel that extreme because there are dedicated people in both places that are very results oriented,” she said. “When you are looking at numbers – whether it is scientific data or financial balance sheets — to get the best outcomes, it’s not a leap at all.”

Carr said part of her role will be speaking with business leaders and helping them understand the value of The Conservancy’s work in Illinois and around the world.

“Plus with The Nature Conservancy, there is the bringing together of various constituencies, governments and individuals in an effort to find partnerships that win for everybody,” she said.

Carr said experience gained in Illinois can benefit projects underway in other parts of the world.

Restoration of the 7,000-acre Emiquon Preserve in Fulton County is one example.

“River restoration and wetland restoration right here in our state very much affects the Mississippi River that is part of our global rivers partnership,” she said.

Carr will be traveling to South America soon to meet with scientists working in the Amazon River basin.

She also will visit the Badlands of South Dakota to see how bison have been integrated into grasslands there. The Conservancy has plans to reintroduce bison to the 3,500-acre Nachusa Grasslands just west of Chicago.

Carr said part of her job is helping apply work done at the local level to the big, possibly global, picture.

“They have an incredibly vibrant volunteer network (at Nachusa),” she said. “The volunteers are out there harvesting seed, especially from plants that are endangered and seed banking them.

“So how do we (use what they are learning at Nachusa) and weave that into bringing bison back to this prairie?”

Bison and other large grazing animals once played a significant role in the prairie ecosystem, particularly in the Great Plains.

Carr said she is currently meeting with Conservancy staff, getting to know them and finding out what tools they need to do their jobs.

She also will continue to visit sites around the state from Nachusa in the north to the Cache River in the south.

“It is a real hands-on culture (at The Nature Conservancy) that has been very refreshing to me,” she said. “It reminds me of Missouri being the ‘Show Me’ state.

“And Nachusa is a great example,” Carr said. “Until you see those rolling hills and majestic oaks and the rugged terrain — you don’t know it until you’ve seen it.
“I can’t wait to get bison out there because it will be a real draw for families.”

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.