Melissa Smith founded Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife in 2011 shortly after wolves were delisted from the Endangered Species Act for the first time in Wisconsin.
Melissa founded Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf in 2011 shortly after wolves were delisted from the Endangered Species Act for the first time in Wisconsin. She learned more about the processes for wildlife decisions, environmental sociology and ecology of Wisconsin. She vowed to make it both her professional and personal mission to have a wildlife governance that considered all members of the public.
Melissa served as an elected delegate to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress for 8 years where she found many friends who also felt similar. Melissa has been building bridges between both communities and has found we have more in common, by charming people, standing on equal ground and making people laugh, no matter what side of an issue a person was on. We value her for this unique leadership ability. We could use a little less of the charming “language” at times though. 🙂
Melissa is a sociologist and has worked for as an organizer and lobbyist for other national NGOs such as Endangered Species Coalition, but always felt that the Great Lakes region was treated as a fly over zone (and we literally are by several endangered birds, insects and bats) that needed special attention, a rebirth in preservation of wildlife and wildlands. She formed the Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance just for that purpose of fighting for and making the Western Great Lake states leaders in wildlife ethics. Her ability to laugh and have empathy and make others feel the same, is missed skill in the environmental movement! Her resilience and work ethic is unmatched.
Melissa is most inspired by everyday people such as yourselves for doing what is right when it seems impossible and giving the voiceless a fighting chance. Melissa loves hiking, canoeing, wildlife watching, travel, swearing and doing stand up comedy in her spare time. Her favorite animal is the raccoon and she is quick to remind you that it’s your favorite too.
Britt Ricci is a University of Wisconsin-Madison Geography and Environmental Studies graduate living in the heart of wolf country in northern Wisconsin.
Britt is Northern Wisconsin native and lover of all things wildlife and nature! The subject of predator-human relationships has always been of great interest to her, and involved a significant amount of research during her final years in Madison where she studied under Dr. Adrian Treves in his Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
After graduating college in 2009, Britt was offered a job as a wolf educator at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota but ultimately turned the job down as she felt a much stronger calling to join the grassroots wolf advocacy community in her home state of Wisconsin.
When wolf management responsibilities were turned over to the states in 2011, Britt began writing op-eds and guest blogs to help reveal the aggressive wolf management policies that began taking hold here in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Region.
Since joining Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife in 2013, Britt has been working to overcome her fear of public speaking to be a voice for those who can only howl their sorrow for the family members lost at the hands of trophy hunters. One thing she has learned in doing this work is that there is nothing more powerful than speaking the truth, even if your voice shakes.
Throughout her years with FOTWW, Britt has worked as a content writer, campaign organizer, volunteer coordinator, social media platform manager and developed several websites for our cause and partnering organizations.
In her free time offline, Britt especially enjoys gardening, foraging for wild and medicinal edible plants, camping, hiking, swimming, dancing to live music, wake surfing, paddle boarding, downhill skiing, studying astrology, taking care of her many houseplants, savoring her morning cup of coffee and hot summer nights.
Board of Directors
Sarah Bergstrom lives in the town of Eagle Point, Wisconsin on a small subsistence farm where she is raising fruits, vegetables and poultry.
Sarah lives in the town of Eagle Point, Wisconsin on a small farm that has been in her family for 4 generations. In addition to raising fruits, vegetables and poultry on her subsistence farm, she works in software design and data analytics.
She has a degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, and has experience working with political campaigns and policy reform initiatives.
Sarah believes that wolves are a keystone species that are vital to a healthy ecosystem, and is committed to protecting wolves for future generations in Wisconsin and beyond.
Diane Cain lives on a family farm in Wisconsin and enjoys being a wildlife watcher.
Like so many others involved in animal advocacy, Diane was born with a love for animals. She is grateful to be a part of an animal advocacy group with others who are committed to reformation and education in response to an escalation of wildlife exploitation for recreation, trophy, and sport.
Diane lives on a family farm in Wisconsin and enjoys being a wildlife watcher. Upon her retirement from a 45-year career as a nurse, Diane vowed to dedicate as much time and energy as possible, for as long as possible, to be a voice for those wild ones who have no voice.
Paul Collins lives with five rescue dogs + two rescue cats and has had a lifelong passion for animals. He has been actively advocating for them in Wisconsin for over a decade, especially for wildlife.
Paul is a lifelong animal advocate that was born and raised in Wisconsin. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Disaster and Emergency Management from Upper Iowa University and has worked as a public servant for law enforcement and higher education public safety agencies for over two decades.
Paul also served in the United States Army Reserve as a quartermaster. While that might be a different path to animal advocacy, Paul has had a lifelong passion for animals and has been actively advocating for them for over a decade in Wisconsin, especially for wildlife.
Outside of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife, he is also the Wisconsin State Director for Animal Wellness Action. He has also worked with wildlife rehabilitators to transport injured and orphaned wildlife for many years. He is an avid hiker, wildlife watcher, aviation enthusiast and has a fondness for music. Paul considers himself a 24/7/365 animal advocate and he shares the ethos and passion that the FOTWW team possesses.
Gary Feest first became aware of the plight of wolves through Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife and has been working to keep them protected ever since.
Gary owns and manages a record store, Sugar Shack Records, in Madison, Wisconsin. He first became aware of the plight of Wisconsin wolves through Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife.
The work of this organization interested him because his father always loved wolves and had wolf paintings in almost every room in his house. After his father died, Gary and his five siblings drew straws to see who got which wolf painting.
Begrudgingly, Gary doesn’t get enough opportunities to get out and enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors, but when he does, he loves every minute of it! And he sure as heck does not want to see piles of bait left for bears, or hear barking, rampaging hounds running through the woods and fields.
Gary wants to send thanks to all of you who give your time and efforts to helping preserve Wisconsin’s beautiful landscape and wildlife.
Diana Miller is a member of the Menominee Nation and she works closely with the tribes of Wisconsin on water and wildlife issues.
As a member of the Menominee Nation and former tribal chairwoman, Diana works closely with the tribes of Wisconsin on water and wildlife issues for Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife.
She also worked as a staff representative for over AFSCME for 30 year until retirement. As a tribal elder, she helps youth reconnect to their native languages and traditions.
Diana also is president of the Wisconsin Indian Caucus and Idle No More Wisconsin.
Erik Schyvinck considers himself an ecologically-minded deer hunter and gathers only what can be used sustainably by himself, his family and our community.
Erik has been a deer hunter for 29 years. His family has always fostered an appreciation for nature, agriculture, and science.
He expanded upon the wisdom and advice gained from his hunting experiences when attending the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. In 2009 Erik graduated from the College of Natural Resources with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Forestry Management, Urban Forestry Management, and a minor in Soil Science.
As a father, Erik shares his understanding of natural knowledge and reminds his children of the importance of crafting a more sustainable society. Erik considers himself an ecologically-minded deer hunter and gathers only what can be used sustainably by himself, his family and our community.
Nancy lives in Ewen, Michigan where she co-exists on her property with a variety of wildlife, including wolves.
Since 1993, Nancy has been committed to dispelling myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves by investigating facts and studying the scientific research.
Her passion began when she learned that there were a handful of wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She became involved by attending workshops, conferences and lectures and realized that for wolves to survive there needs to be human tolerance. Nancy believes one way to increase social tolerance is through education.
For her, wolves are a part of the bigger picture. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, she has been an advocate for environmental protections as well as a proponent of other wildlife issues.
Nancy’s current Volunteer Leadership Roles include Timber Wolf Alliance Advisory Board; Executive Director, National Wolfwatcher Coalition; and Northwood Alliance Board of Directors.
Other Volunteer Activities: Timber Wolf Alliance Speakers Bureau; Wisconsin Volunteer Carnivore Program 1995-2012.
Past Activities: MI DNR Wolf Roundtable developing the guiding principles for the MI Wolf Management Plan; Wood Turtle Monitoring Program for the Ottawa National Forest; Michigan Wolf Advisory Council for the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Campaign; President Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition.