2020Annual Meeting Speakers


August Ball

September 16: Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Conservation

August Ball combined her passions for the environment, diversity, and equity when she founded Cream City Conservation and Consulting. After a decade of working in the environmental field, August noticed a theme: Lack of representation of people of color in leadership positions and a lack of knowledge on how to mitigate existing organizational cultures which lead to workforce homogeneity in the first place. August helps environmental and community-based organizations address diversity and land stewardship needs through the cultivation of inclusive culture and creation of equitable green career pipelines. Cream City Conservation and Consulting provides training and equity audits to help organizations tackle environmental racism and work toward equitable representation in decision-making positions. The Conservation Corps coordinates environmental programs for youth and young adults of color in the Milwaukee area.

August says, “Because segregation, environmental racism, and racially homogeneous leadership have all been intentional, what we do to rectify these circumstances must be very intentional as well.” That’s why she’s working so hard to create equitable green career pipelines. During its first decade, through partnerships with local and national organizations, Cream City Conservation has helped engage thousands of Milwaukee youth and young adults in hands-on service to the land.

Originally from Madison and Racine, August is a woman of color and citizen of the world. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

August Ball headshot

Todd Ambs

Sept. 23: Transformative Opportunities and New Challenges in WI Conservation

Todd Ambs is the Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, appointed in March, 2019. Todd has worked in the environmental policy field for nearly four decades and worked in state government in both Ohio and Wisconsin for twenty years. From 2013 until becoming Assistant Deputy Secretary, Ambs was the Director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, a nongovernmental coalition advocating for programs and policies at the federal level that benefit the Great Lakes. Prior to that, Todd was President of the national conservation group River Network. Prior to that, he ran the Water Division for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for nearly a decade (2003-2010).

His extensive experience in both state government and nonprofit organizations includes serving as Executive Director of two statewide river organizations, Policy Director for the Ohio Attorney General and Senior Policy Analyst for the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Todd currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Great Lakes Commission, the Regional Administrative Council for the North Central Region Water Network and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Advisory Council.

Todd’s awards include National River Hero by the River Network in 2003, Steady Currents Award by the River Alliance of Wisconsin in 2014, and Conservationist of the Year by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation in 2017. Todd has a BS in Political Science/Speech from Eastern Michigan University.  


Todd Ambs Head Shot - 2020

Senator Janet Bewley

Sept. 23: Transformative Opportunities and New Challenges in WI Conservation

Wisconsin State Senator, Janet Bewley (D-Mason) represents District 25, which covers a large portion of northern Wisconsin. She is the Senate Minority Leader. She was elected to the Senate in the fall of 2014 after serving two terms in the Wisconsin State Assembly. She is a member of the Senate’s Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, Committee on Education, Committee on Insurance, Housing, and Trade and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. 

Senator Bewley serves on the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority Board and is also a member of the Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations, the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, and the Governor’s Council on Tourism.  Prior to her first election in the fall of 2010, she served on the Ashland City Council for two years.

Senator Bewley’s over-30 year professional career in northern Wisconsin includes working with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority as Senior Community Development Officer/ State Tribal Liaison/ Business Development Officer. She has also served as the Executive Director of the Mary H. Rice Foundation and as the Dean of Students at Northland College. She was one of the original cast members at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua and continues to perform as part of the Rittenhouse Chamber Singers. She graduated from Case Western Reserve University, the first in her family to graduate from college. She has a Master’s degree in Academic Administration from the University of Maine.

Senator Rob Cowles

Sept. 23: Transformative Opportunities and New Challenges in WI Conservation

Wisconsin State Senator Robert L. Cowles (R- Green Bay) serves the 2nd Senate District which includes portions of Brown, Outagamie, Shawano, and Waupaca counties in Northeast Wisconsin. In the 2019-2020 Legislative Session, he serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. Senator Cowles also serves on the Senate Committee on Transportation, Veterans and Military Affairs and was a member of the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality.

Senator Cowles is recognized for his ability to guide sound policy that balances environmental protection with the needs of property owners and businesses. This Session, he spearheaded over a dozen environmental initiatives that set Wisconsin on a course to establish the first statewide third-party water quality trading marketplace, increased position authority and funding for WPDES permitting, including the CAFO program, provided an additional $5.2 million for water infrastructure projects in State Parks supplementing last session’s bill which provided $4.5 million for similar projects, banned the use of firefighting foam with PFAS for training, highlighted the issue of Lyme disease, and more.

Building on these successes which became law, Senator Cowles offered additional bills that didn’t make it into law this session but are still noteworthy. This includes efforts on lead remediation in schools and daycares, establishing a hydrologic restoration comprehensive permitting program, updating Clean Sweep to include PFAS firefighting foam, funding the Producer-Led Watershed Grant Program and other conservation activities, establishing a farmer nitrate pilot grant program, prohibiting coal tar sealants, and creating renewable energy workforce development grants.

In previous Sessions, Senator Cowles has authored efforts that became law to help remove lead water laterals from our communities, keep plastic microbeads out of our waterways, help homeowners remediate or replace contaminated wells and failing septic tanks, create the Focus on Energy program to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency, combat the spread of the invasive sea lamprey, restore funding for local recycling grants, establish and fund Producer-Led Watershed Grants, and much more. As a result of his efforts, Senator Cowles has earned numerous recognitions from groups representing natural resources and clean energy.

Senator LaTonya Johnson

Sept. 23: Transformative Opportunities and New Challenges in WI Conservation

State Senator LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) was elected to Wisconsin's 6th Senate District in 2016. Sen. Johnson previously served in Wisconsin's 17th Assembly District since 2012. Sen. Johnson has lived in Milwaukee for over 30 years. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Tennessee State University.

Sen. Johnson is a strong advocate for workers and working families, and served as an Executive Board member for AFSCME District Council 48, President of AFSCME Local 502, and Chair of AFSCME's Women Committee. She also acted as a Financial Employment Planner for Wisconsin Shares and was a member of the Special Committee on Public Assistance Program Integrity. Sen. Johnson is a proud graduate of the Emerge-Wisconsin Class of 2012.

Sen. Johnson currently serves on the following committees:

  • Joint Committee on Finance
  • Senate Committee on Eduation
  • Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing, and State-Federal Relations (Ranking Member)


Representative Joel Kitchens

Sept. 23: Transformative Opportunities and New Challenges in WI Conservation

Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) was elected in 2014 to represent Assembly District 1. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Ohio State University. He moved to Sturgeon Bay in 1984, where he and his wife started a veterinary practice. For over 30 years, he managed the business and worked as a farm animal veterinarian in Door and Kewaunee Counties.

He served on the Sturgeon Bay School Board for 13 years, including as president, before election to the Assembly. In the Assembly, he has advocated for common sense legislation to protect both the ground water and the economy of his district. He continues to encourage collaboration between agriculture and conservation communities, as well as scientists, to ensure the district is a healthy community full of opportunities.  

Committees 2019-2020

Assembly Standing Committees:

  • Committee on Environment (Chair)
  • Committee on Education (Vice Chair)
  • Committee on Agriculture
  • Committee on Financial Institutions
  • Committee on Tourism
  • Speaker's Task Force on Water Quality


Representative Joel Kitchens

Russ Feingold

Sept. 25 Keynote: Global Conservation, Policy, and Science

Russ Feingold is the President of the American Constitution Society. He served as a United States Senator from Wisconsin from 1993 to 2011 and a Wisconsin State Senator from 1983 to 1993. From 2013 to 2015, he served as the United States Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

During his 18 years in the United States Senate, Russ was ranked 6th in the Senate for bipartisan voting. He is a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and cosponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold Act), the only major piece of campaign finance reform legislation passed into law in decades. Russ was the only Senator to vote against the initial enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act during the first vote on the legislation and was well-known for his opposition to the Iraq War and as the Senate's leading opponent of the death penalty. He served on the Judiciary, Foreign Relations, Budget, and Intelligence Committees. Russ was Chairman or Ranking Member of the Constitution Subcommittee.

For the better part of the last 10 years and in addition to his congressional and diplomatic career, Russ has taught extensively at various American law schools including Stanford Law School (where he is currently teaching), Yale Law School, Marquette University Law School, and Harvard Law School. In this capacity, he has played a significant mentoring role to law students, preparing him for his role as President of the American Constitution Society. He has also taught foreign policy to graduate and undergraduate students at Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, Yale University, Lawrence University, and American University.

Russ is the Honorary Ambassador for the Campaign for Nature which is a global effort calling on policymakers to commit to address the growing biodiversity crisis. The Campaign seeks a science-driven, ambitious new deal for nature at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, in 2021.

He is the author of While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call for the Post-9/11 Era and contributes regularly to various publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian. He appears frequently on MSNBC and CNN. Russ holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, all degrees awarded with honors.

Russ Feingold