Most of us have heard the names of well known sportswomen doing great things for conservation. What I wanted to do instead is introduce you to some names of women who may not be as well known but are definitely worth knowing! These sportswomen are not only passionate about hunting, fishing and our natural environment but they are DOING something for the greater good! These ladies are definitely worth knowing and I highly encourage you to spend more time learning more about them!
1) Jenna Schweiss – South Dakota
Currently a student pursuing a Juris Doctorate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law this fall at the University of South Dakota School of Law.
Jenna Schweiss was very fortunate to grow up in a family and state that greatly encourages and supports an outdoors lifestyle. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December of 2016 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. While she was there, she emphasized in big game management, barriers between people and nature, range science, and soil ecology. Jenna participated on the land and range judging team, was a member of the wildlife club, started a student-led wildlife policy committee to get involved with issues at the legislative level, did internationally recognized undergraduate research on sustainable human behaviors and learning to co-exist in a mutual relationship with the environment again, was appointed an ambassador for the school of natural resources and later elected the natural resources/sustainability chair on the college of agriculture and natural resources student government advisory board, studied sustainability issues abroad in Puerto Rico, and volunteered in many groups and organizations that allowed her to further promote environmental outreach.
Jenna has recently decided to compete for the title of Miss South Dakota International in October, with a platform being centered around conservation and a mission to get more youth, especially young girls, interested and involved in the outdoors. Through her local rein as Miss Missouri River International, She has continued to spread my passion for the outdoors through conservation education. Jenna has spoken at many events, hosted events of her own, and even started her own non-profit organization that focuses on nature as a source of both physical and mental therapy. She is also in the works of partnering with several other organizations to offer a summer conservation camp for kids next year! This fall, the money Jenna has raised through fundraising efforts will be split between scholarships for high school seniors interested in pursuing an outdoors-related college major, Nature’s Healing Touch, and South Dakota Envirothon – an organization I have been working with that aims to get conservation education into our state’s school curriculum.
If you’d like to follow along with Jenna’s journey to (hopefully) becoming the next Miss South Dakota and continuing to represent and promote conservation in our state, please visit her Facebook page!
2) Sara Domek – Wyoming
Executive Director of the National Bighorn Sheep Center and co-founder of Artemis Sportswomen
Sara Domek grew up in western Wyoming allowing her to be close to the land and wildlife for most of her life. From a young age, she loved following in her father's footsteps fishing and hunting in Wyoming's public lands, whether it be by horseback or on foot. From the age of 15, Sara started working on wilderness trail crews in the Wind River and Wyoming Mountain Ranges, where she'd spend 10 days at a time in the backcountry wilderness cross-cutting trees, repairing 11,000-foot rocky trials and watching high mountain meadows fill with grazing elk as the evenings set in. Sara focused on environmental studies and ecological restoration at Northland College in Ashland, WI and returned to WY every summer continuing her work with the Forest Service and later on a fisheries crew with the WY Game and Fish Department.
Sara’s passion for public land conservation lead her to the Wyoming Wilderness Association where she campaigned for public lands protection in the Bighorn Mountains and opened an outreach office in Dubois, WY to work to protect some of the wildest country remaining in North America on the Shoshone National Forest. From D.C. to Cheyenne, Sara worked with some of the finest public land advocates in efforts to protect these areas for future generations. After several years in the backcountry and in meetings, campaigning for the Shoshone wild country, she transitioned to serving as the Executive Director of the National Bighorn Sheep Center. “I love what these incredible icons of wild country, wild sheep, embody,” she says. Sara is professionally and personally deeply connected to wildlife, public lands and the outdoors. She loves to hunt, and is passionate about helping to empower more women in public lands and wildlife conservation. Sara is also currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy.
3) Alexis Bongofsky – Montana
Freelance Photographer and Writer and a Fellow with the Lannan Foundation; currently writing about community organizing, conservation and politics in the West. Also, co-founder of Artemis Sportswomen.
Alexis has worked in the conservation field for her entire career. She is a fourth generation Montanan and grew up on a small farm along the Yellowstone River. Both of her parents hunted and fished, so she grew up tagging along with them whether she liked it or not. That is where her love for the land came from and her desire to work in the conservation field. Luckily, right out of graduate school Alexis was hired by the National Wildlife Federation to be their public and tribal lands program intern. Shortly after her internship she was hired to work in the Tribal Lands Partnerships Program and stayed there 11 years working with Tribes all over the West on environmental education, renewable energy development, bison restoration and helping fight fossil fuel projects that impacted sensitive environmental and cultural sites important to Tribes. Alexis’s biggest accomplishment during those years was successfully helping the Northern Cheyenne Tribe stop the largest proposed coal mine in the nation - the Otter Creek coal mine - from being built.
Alexis’s conservation interests are wide ranging but her ultimate goal in her work is helping people become effective advocates for the places that they love and want to protect. Whatever she can do to help, that's her goal. To get more specific, Alexis is deeply involved in pipeline safety since her farm was impacted by an oil spill in 2011. She also wants to see us keep the big open spaces for wildlife in the West. Alexis believes that our critters need room to roam and so do us humans. She is an avid hunter and loves helping other women learn to shoot and hunt as well.
Want to know more about Alexis? Follow her on any of these media outlets!
FB photography page: www.facebook.com/easternMontana
4) Nicole Wood – Missouri
National Wildlife Federation Regional Board Member and Director of Operations at Wood Land and Cattle
Nicole Wood is directly involved in the daily management for 20,000-acres of land in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks for her family business with her father. The 25-employee company operates a 10,000-acre managed hunting operation with a dedicated conservation easement, a 4,000-acre select harvest timber operation and a 6,000-acre sustainable beef cattle operation. In all aspects of the company, consideration is given to natural resources. One special project Nicole worked on was the establishment of a conservation easement monitored by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Texas County targeting the restoration and conservation of the Current River Watershed, which at one time had been logged bare.
A life lived outdoors has shaped Nicole into the woman she is today. Her family’s devotion to conservation is well noted. As the daughter of a former Missouri Conservation Commissioner and dedicated citizen volunteer, she was afforded unique life experiences at any early age. She saw firsthand what it meant to give selflessly of oneself for the benefit of others. She learned how to navigate obstacles and move plans forward for the greater good. Spending time at the State Capitol, she received an education in the political process. Through deep family involvement in the Conservation Federation of Missouri, she learned how a strong vision supported by collective efforts, compromise and partnerships could create a lasting impact on the conservation of forest, fish and wildlife.
Nicole is dedicated to service. She currently serves as a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Regional Board Member (2009 – current) and on the NWF Endowment Board of Directors. While working as a NWF Board Member, Nicole has actively served on many committees, helped fund the program expansion of Great Outdoors University with Tennessee Wildlife Federation & North Carolina Wildlife Federation, the action plan meeting for the NWF Monarch Program in the Midwest, Schoolyard Habitat in Austin, TX, Eco-School signs across the US and Renewable Resources Coalition’s fight against Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay. Currently, she is involved in the start of NWF newest initiative, Women in Conservation Leadership, which had its first summit in March of 2017 to begin the strategic goals.
Nicole is a sportswoman. She recognizes conservation is the top priority for the continuation of the great American traditions in the outdoor. Nicole has been blessed by opportunities with NWF to travel to destinations across the country with conservation concerns, such as the algae bloom in Lake Erie and the devastation on the Louisiana Coast; ensuring diverse outdoor experiences are available to future generations is of the utmost importance to her and her family.
To learn more about National Wildlife Federation you can visit their webpage at www.nwf.org.