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French departing KRLT for new post in Duluth

Nelson French has resigned his position as executive director of the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, effective March 25th.

Nelson French has resigned as executive director of the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust to take a new position with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Duluth, KRLT president Dan Wilkening announced Thursday night.

"Nelson has been an outstanding leader at KRLT as demonstrated by our accomplishments over the last 3 years," Wilkening wrote in a letter to supporters.

French will have served as director just over 3 1/2 years, having come to River Falls in August, 2007, after having worked five years as director of legislative affairs for the MPCA -- the agency which he's rejoining.

"While Nelson will be missed, KRLT is a strong organization with a terrific history that will continue to work on its mission of working with the community to protect the natural resources and scenic beauty of the Kinnickinnic River Watershed," Wilkening wrote. He indicated the KRLT board will begin the search for a new director soon.

Among accomplishments Wilkening cited during French's tenure were raising $6 million-plus of the $7 million "Protect the Kinni" capital campaign to protect 1,000 acres of endangered land, increasing KRLT's visibility and reach in the community through a variety of community events, and revising its strategic plan resulting in prioritization of conservation sites and an emerging watershed focus for KRLT.

The KRLT was the first Wisconsin land trust to receive accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. It was also named the Gathering Waters Conservancy 2009 Wisconsin Land Trust of the Year and was honored as "Non-Profit of the Year" in 2009 by the local Chamber.

"In the end, it's the people living in the place who end up doing it," French said about conservation when he first arrived in August, 2007.

Prior to his time with the MPCA, French worked four years with the community-based non-profit organization called Friends of the Minnesota Valley. The organization established the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and works at raising awareness within the watershed community.

French worked six years as the vice president and state director of the Nature Conservancy of Minnesota. There he helped create partnerships and strategies; double the organization's size; expand Nerstrand Big Woods, Temperance River and Tettegouche state parks; acquire 30,000 acres of additional habitat; and worked with government to protect Minnesota's biological diversity.

French also served for seven years as the executive director of what is now called the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

He got involved with establishing high protective standards against acid rain and worked on programs that improved air quality and forest management. French continued work protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Outside of his job, French is an avid canoeist, fisherman, bird watcher and outdoorsman.

A native of Hibbing, Minn., French said those surroundings certainly affected how he thinks about the environment.

"I had a passion for natural resources and an interest in science...I followed my passion."