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Kathleen Preece

Kathleen Preece stands in the snow between two donkeys. Over the years, Kathleen Preece has lived many different lives. As a girl in Minnesota, she grew up riding trails outside of Bemidji on her pony where, she reveals, “The forests and the environment seemed to naturally become my language and my calling.” As a young woman, Preece headed west to Bozeman to study at Montana State University before moving to Florida to ride horses at a racetrack in Ocala. Eventually, Preece returned to Minnesota to pursue a degree in wildlife biology at the University of Minnesota, which led her to positions with the Tamarack National Wildlife Refuge and on Isle Royale Island, where she spent six months studying moose. After this, she worked as a necropsy technician for the DNR outside of Grand Marais, where she picked up road killed deer along Highway 61; postmortem examinations were conducted to analyze the animals for diseases and parasites. In 1980, as a 26-year-old, Preece began working as a scaler for Potlatch out of Cass Lake, which she describes as her “first introduction into the world of forestry.” This led Preece into another unique position: for the last 30 years, she has worked in forestry communications, writing for timber companies, the DNR, and magazines like the Minnesota State Tree Farm Program’s Tree Farming for Better Forests.

Preece has always been fascinated by words. “In eighth grade,” she recalls, “a teacher told me: someday you’ll be a writer, Kathleen.” While her education provided her the technical expertise to write about complex forestry concepts, it’s Preece’s attentiveness to language that has allowed her to creatively translate these ideas through writing. Over the years, Preece has written everything from instructive pamphlets about controlling invasive species to newsletters for Minnesota’s School Forest Program, which works with 85 school districts who own forested land to turn these spaces into outdoor classroom. In 2006, Preece was nominated by Minnesota state foresters for the Society of American Foresters’ National Forestry Journalism Award, which she received in Pittsburgh. “It was an honor to be realized in that way,” Preece says.

In addition to this communications work, Preece also serves as the executive director for the Minnesota Forest Resources Partnership (MFRP), a group of woodlands owners, natural resources managers and professional timber harvesters who support sustainable forestry practices. Preece was introduced to this work by MFRP’s founder, Jack Rajala. Known for his fierce advocacy for white pine, Rajala became a close mentor to Preece. “I can’t even measure the miles of woods I walked behind him,” she says. When Rajala passed away in 2016, Preece was asked to speak during his celebration of life. “It was such an honor,” Preece says. After all of Rajala’s work on behalf of Minnesota’s forests, Preece shares, “In my perspective, it was really a eulogy to forestry.”

In 2010, Preece joined the Minnesota Forest Resources Council as a private landowner representative. As Preece readily acknowledges, she represents a big group with diverse interests. Yet, connecting with private landowners and other Council members is exciting for Preece. “Learning the priorities and concerns of these stakeholder groups has given me an awareness of, and a sensitivity to, the diversity of interests and concerns of the ‘bigger world’ as they relate to our Minnesota woodlands,” she says. As chair of the Council’s newly formed Communications Committee, Preece is helping bring increased awareness of the Council and its work to everyday Minnesotans. “I want to show how much work the Council has done with regards to forestry in Minnesota,” Preece says. “And that the Council members are people like your neighbors, representing diverse interests and perspectives at the Council table.”

Preece’s connection to her own private woodlands is another strong link to the group she represents, allowing her to intimately understand their perspective. Preece lives on 100 acres outside of Bemidji, land which includes oak savannah, pineries, and wetlands, as well as 30 acres dedicated to rescue ponies and horses. “Simply, by being aware of the heartbeat of the woodlands that surround me,” Preece shares, “I feel I am connected to the thousands of private landowners who are caregivers of a forest, as I am.”

To connect with Council member Kathleen Preece, contact her at The Minnesota Forest Resources Council exists to support and advocate for Minnesotans like you! Please join us for our bimonthly public meetings, with Zoom links available via  our calendar . We hope to see you there.

Preece poses with harnessed donkeys.
"It's not all 'play,' for the donkeys.  Preece is teaching them to wear harnesses and pull a sleigh.
Preece poses with pack and trekking poles in front of a Lake Superior vista.
Preece hiking on the North Shore. 

Preece and her dog in a kayak on the water.
"The forests and the environment seemed to naturally become my 
language and my calling," Preece says. 

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