FOW Board of Directors: Vern Fish-President, Douglass Blount-Vice President, John Holmes-Secretary/Treasurer, Dave McTeague, Mary Jean Blaisdell, Ray Tallent, Randy Trudeau, Maurice Poulin, Mhairi McFarlane, Beth Rausch, Trevor Twose, Brian Beney & Laurence Mills. We have several open positions. We strive for a balance between Canadian and U.S. board members. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested. (Please join one of our committees too.)
Vern Fish, President
Vern is the former Executive Director of the Black Hawk County Conservation Board in Waterloo, Iowa. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Board and the Conservation Corps of Iowa/Minnesota. He is the president of the Black Hawk Creek Water & Soil Coalition and the Friends of Wabakimi Provincial Park. As an advocate for clean water, he also serves as the co-chair of the Cedar River Watershed Coalition and as an assistant commissioner for the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District. A passionate paddler he has run wild rivers from the Mexican border to Hudson Bay and north to the Arctic Circle. (Current term to 2024,)
Douglass Blount, Vice-President
A 1957 Quetico trip with his father introduced Doug to wilderness canoeing. He got back into serious wilderness canoeing in the 1999 with another Quetico trip with his son. Wilderness tripping became a passion which now includes 16 weeks with "Uncle" Phil and The Wabakimi Project. As a trip leader in 2008, his group made a west-to-east crossing of Wabakimi Park from Davies Lake to the Ogoki reservoir. In 1969, upon completion of a 4-year stint in the US Navy serving on a destroyer and a net layer, he began a real estate career in which he is still active, operating a small brokerage firm. He is an avid skier, hot air balloon pilot and sailor. (Current term to 2025)
John is a Mechanical Engineer from Thornbury, Ontario who has done many canoe trips in Northern and Northwestern Ontario parks, including 28 weeks on The Wabakimi Project trips. An avid hiker, he and his wife have trekked in South America, Europe, Africa, Iceland, Greenland, the Canadian Rockies and New Zealand. John designs and builds bicycle frames in his spare time and is a keen road and MTB cyclist. Proper trip planning and safety, along with a good balance between trail work and fishing, photography, or relaxation time are a part of John's trips. (Current term to 2024)
Board Chair, Membership,
Dave is a former Oregon State Representative and retired small state agency administrator (chiropractic licensing board). Born in Minneapolis, he canoed the BWCA in his youth and many times since; and has paddled in Quetico, Woodland Caribou and British Columbia. He did four trips with the Wabakimi Project and then more Wabakimi trips in 2019-2022. As a legislator and conservation activist Dave has worked on fishery and habitat restoration issues and is keenly interested in the preservation of the wildlife and beauty of the boreal forest. He lives in Milwaukie, Oregon with his wife Naomi and chronicles his canoe adventures on his Oregon Dave YouTube page. (Current term to 2024)
Laurence (Laurie) Mills was born in England and emigrated to Canada as a young man. After a 30 year career in financial services spanning various major international and trans-Canada postings, he decided it was time for something truly different and retired to Northern Ontario. Once there, a casual interest in canoeing quickly turned to passion for paddling in remote waters, and a deepening fascination with the remote wonders of Wabakimi.
Frustrated with the absence of reliable and comprehensive canoe route maps for the area, Laurie began creating and expanding detailed maps and additional information based on his direct experiences, leading to the creation in 2008 of wabakimimaps.com. Introducing others to this sparsely traveled and pristine canoeing paradise has in itself become a passion and led directly to Guidebook produced for the Friends of Wabakimi’. (Current term to 2025)
Beth has been anchored in the northern outdoors since her childhood in the family’s aluminum Ouachita canoe named “Two-Ton”. Five decades and five layups later, she continues to enjoy paddling, whether solo or as part of a group. A veterinarian by training, she teaches in the Department of Animal Science at UW-River Falls. She enjoys solo and group paddling, as well as phenology and birding as effective pathways to community education and conservation. Her tax-based home is River Falls, WI, but she spends as much time as life allows in a dry cabin in Cook County, MN paddling, hiking, and birdwatching.
Whether it's paddling, backpacking, camping in all seasons or just being active outdoors, Brian loves to share his enjoyment of wilderness experiences with others. Most recently his adventures have taken him backpacking on the Pukaskwa Coastal Trail the La Cloche Silhouette Trail and paddling down the Kopka River.
Brian is grateful for the opportunity to assist other 'Friends' of Wabakimi to advocate for the area's preservation and promote responsible and respectful use as guests on this vast landscape. Brian lives in Waterloo, Ontario with his wife Lynn, and when he isn't dreaming of his next wilderness journey to the north, he works as an Elementary School Principal.
Mary Jean Blaisdell,
Mary Jean Blaisdell lives in Independence, Iowa. She is a retired elementary principal who loves wilderness paddling and camping. As a principal, she did annual presentations to young students about her trips in order to encourage them to seek outdoor activities and the wilderness. She currently serves on her local Buchanan County Conservation Board. She has sea kayaked with a group to the Apostle Islands, gone on some local river paddling outings with others, has been on over 15 trips to the BW/Quetico areas, participated on 3 Wabakimi Project trips and has done 3 solo trips to the Boundary Waters. (Current term to 2023,)
Mhairi is the Director of Science and Stewardship for Ontario Region of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. She oversees stewardship of NCC properties throughout Ontario, and landscape scale planning for property acquisition. She first joined NCC in March 2008 and spent 6.5 years as a Conservation Biologist in Southwestern Ontario where she designed, implemented and managed field scale restoration of habitat in Norfolk County and on Pelee Island.
She grew up in Scotland, holds an Honours Ecology degree from the University of Stirling, and a PhD in Ecology from the University of Exeter in Cornwall. Her thesis was on the behavioural ecology of Cape Sugarbirds in South Africa. She moved to Ontario in 2006, and had short contracts with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada before joining the Nature Conservancy of Canada in March 2008. (Current term to 2025)
Ray Tallent, Conservation
Ray manages a university greenhouse and teaches botany courses in Iowa City, Iowa. He has canoe-tripped in the Boundary Waters and Quetico since he was a teenager. Since meeting “Uncle Phil” Cotton in 2011 he has served on twelve weeks of Wabakimi Project trips. In 2018, he was able to join Vern Fish on a farther north trip to Nueltin Lake and the Thlewiaza River. All these experiences have served to foster a love for Canada’s boreal country and, of course, always the desire to paddle new waters. (Current term to 2025)
Randy lives in London Ontario. He is a retired high school science teacher. His interest in the outdoors began during his ‘Scouting Days’ as a youth. This interest was rekindled when he became a parent. He is proud to say that annual family canoe trips encouraged his children to appreciate our pristine landscapes. Mike, who lives in Calgary, spends his weekends hiking and fly fishing in the alpine valleys of the Rockies. Niki has been involved with a variety of polar experiences, and is currently guiding adventure cruises in Antarctica. Now, I share their outdoor activities!
He completed a trip along the West Coast Trail with Niki and recently hiked the Chilkoot Trail with Mike. His other interest - cycling - has more recently taken precedence. In his retirement, he has cycled Southern Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, B.C., and Oregon. His most memorable tours were a Cross Canada Ride in 2010 and a ride from Whitehorse, Yukon to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT in 2018. "It was amazing pitching my tent beside the Arctic Ocean."
He spent three consecutive summers working with the Wabakimi Project crews. He is excited to join 'The Friends of Wabakimi' team. Wabakimi Provincial Park is not well known in Southwestern Ontario. "Serving on the FOW board will give me the opportunity to make Ontarians more aware of this Natural Heritage gem." (Current term to 2023)
Maurice Poulin, Conservation
Maurice is originally from Hamilton, Ontario where at an early age he became intrigued by the forest, rivers and wild places. He soon outgrew his home community. At the age of 16 began traveling and working throughout Canada with an emphasis on adventure through whitewater kayaking and canoe tripping. He eventually settled into Thunder Bay, NW Ontario. He returned to school and earned degrees in Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism, History, Political Science and Education at Lakehead University.
Maurice has been a lifelong advocate for social justice, the protection of waterways, wetlands, farmlands, parks, sustainable forestry & mining practices, public access to crown land and paddlers access to rivers and lakes. As a lifelong canoeist, no other place has left him with such a lasting impression as the Wabakimi area. He looks forward to working collectively with others to make this an exceptional destination for wilderness recreation activities for the benefit of all visitors. This work is important and necessary. There is a balance to be taken between conservation, sustainability, protection of habitat and species along with the marketing and promoting of this vast wilderness with others to enjoy safely and responsibly. (Current term to 2023)
Trevor is a US/UK citizen, living in Hayward, WI, and Driggs, ID. Trained as a biochemist, now retired, his career was in biotechnology. He was CFO and CEO of several UK and US private and public companies.
Trevor with Patti, his wife, discovered Wabakimi late in their 55+ years of self-directed/self-contained adventuring. You opened our eyes, thank you, Phil! They have enjoyed innumerable BWCAW canoe camping trips (how it has changed since 1971), mountaineered in the Bugaboo Range in BC, and the Pyrenees, bike-packed and hiked on the Continental Divide Trails, and more. The wild places draw us back.
“The Wabakimi Area is uniquely the greatest wild area for canoeists to take their trips and expeditions to the next level of challenge, excitement and enjoyment, a level beyond that offered by the current more established wilderness areas.”
As a board member, I will support FOW’s programs to keep the Wabakimi Area historic canoe trails forever wild for future generations to enjoy as we have, while helping the area to thrive economically for all those who call it home.