Conservation and Park Leadership Awards Announced

The Trust for Public Land recognizes outstanding conservation and park leaders in Minnesota

April 3, 2019
St. Paul, MN

The Trust for Public Land today announced the winners of its 11th annual Conservation and Park Leadership Awards, which recognize leadership in protecting and investing in Minnesota’s special places, at an event held today at St. Paul’s Science Museum of Minnesota.

“These awards bring together an incredibly diverse range of leaders and advocates,” said Susan Schmidt, The Trust for Public Land’s Minnesota state director. “This diversity of background and experience is a testament to Minnesota’s parks and natural lands – they really do have the power to bring people together”

The Trust for Public Land’s 2019 Conservation Leadership Award winners are (in alphabetical order):

Fred Bengtson is Area Wildlife Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, serving Stearns, Wright and Sherburne counties. Fred has worked for over 30 years to protect and restore upland and wetland habitat on both public and private lands, including creation of State Wildlife Management Areas for easier access to hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and other outdoor activities. The William H. Houlton Conservation Area in Elk River and the Grass Lake Wildlife Management Area in Wright County are two recent examples of this work.  Fred has a long history of building partnerships; working closely with communities, private landowners, and nonprofit partners like The Trust for Public Land to achieve common conservation goals. Fred and his family live and work on a small century farm in Sherburne County.

Monica Dillenburg is an active Brooklyn Park citizen leader who recently served as the campaign chair for the Brooklyn Park Residents for Parks bond funding measure, which passed with 63% support on November 6, 2018. Monica and her family moved to Brooklyn Park in recent years because of growing businesses and great amenities, including the City’s park system.  As a member of the City’s Park Commission, Monica learned about the growing need to invest in the city’s park and natural lands system for the city’s changing future.  Monica helped lead the committee of citizens, spread the word about the ballot measure and manage the campaign finances. Monica has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and works in the child care field. 

Senator Andrew Lang has represented Senate District 17 (Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Renville, Swift counties) in the Minnesota State Senate since January 2017.  He serves on the following Senate committees: Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Veterans Affairs, Transportation. The Trust for Public Land recognized Senator Lang for his leadership on the Lessard - Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which makes annual recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature on Outdoor Heritage Fund spending.  Senator Lang is the Chief Senate Author on the Outdoor Heritage Fund bill this year. Senator Lang served our country in Iraq in two separate deployments.  In addition to serving in the Senate, Senator Lang works as an air ambulance pilot for North Memorial Air Core. He lives with his family in Olivia. 

Bob Mitchell (1944 -2018) was recognized posthumously for his long-standing service to The Trust for Public Land.  He served as an early Minnesota Advisory Board member and one-time chair.  Under Bob’s leadership, The Trust for Public Land accomplished a wide range of outcomes: expanded protection of Savage Fen and its surrounding natural area in Savage; creation of LaSalle Lake State Recreation Area in Hubbard County; protection of Wayzata Woods for the community; and, creation of Frogtown Park and Farm in St. Paul.

Bob was a lawyer practicing with Lindquist & Vennum in New York and Minneapolis with a specialization in real estate and municipal law. Bob served his community for many years, including on Wayzata and Medina City Councils, and as Mayor of Medina.. Bob is remembered for his love of family, community, travel, horses, classic cars, reading, history, his dry sense of humor, and his service to The Trust for Public Land.  Bob passed away unexpectedly of acute myeloid leukemia on July 30, 2018.

Emmanuel Ortiz is with The Parks and Power Campaign, a program of Hope Community, in Minneapolis.  Emmanuel, and the Parks and Power team, is dedicated to building power within communities of color and low wealth through grassroots community organizing. Parks and Power aims to create and ensure people-driven, race-conscious public policy.  Emmanuel and Parks and Power team are recognized for speaking up and establishing an equity-based spending system for neighborhood park redevelopment – known as NPP20 - in Minneapolis and for speaking up to ensure that the Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment process be based on power-sharing and joint decision-making needed to prevent displacement of north side Minneapolis residents and ensuring public land serves public benefit.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.