Friday, January 11, 2013

Save the Wild UP hires new director, adopts online focus

MARQUETTE -- Save The Wild UP (SWUP) kicked off 2013 with a bang, announcing that they’ll move their operations -- online! -- and hire Alexandra Thebert as Executive Director.

Alexandra Thebert, new Executive Director of Save the Wild UP. (Photo courtesy Alexandra Thebert)

Save the Wild UP has eliminated their Marquette office, citing a nationwide trend for streamlined, adaptive, grassroots organizations.

"The website is a key part of our identity," says SWUP Board Member Kristi Mills. " receives a high volume of traffic, and is a clearing house for information about sulfide mining and diverse issues impacting natural resources in the Upper Peninsula."

Kristi Mills (front, center), former executive director of Save the Wild UP and present board member, speaks against the proposed CR 595 during the Oct. 7, 2010, Road Commission hearing. The Department of Environmental Quality recently denied the permit for building this haul road for the Rio Tinto Mine -- a wilderness road which would have impacted many wetlands and streams. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Save the Wild UP is grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Upper Peninsula’s unique cultural and natural resources.

"We're thrilled to be taking this step," says SWUP Board Member Kathleen Heideman. "It aligns really well with our base -- concerned citizens who are widely dispersed across the Upper Peninsula, but easily reached via social networking. Nonprofits are always being challenged to stretch their resources. The decision to 'go virtual' means we'll have more to work with; we're allocating resources to fund our ideas."

Board Member Jon Saari applauds the change.

"I will miss the sign on Third Street, but the change really makes sense at this time." He notes that some other UP environmental organizations already thrive without a central office. "In the era of Facebook, the brick-and-mortar office model has become less advantageous and efficient," says Saari.

Following board retreats, Save the Wild UP has hired Alexandra Thebert as Executive Director. Thebert is uniquely qualified to drive SWUP at this transformational moment.

"We are poised to expand our efforts across the UP to educate and engage new people," says Thebert, who previously worked in Chicago for a national health care nonprofit, but longed to "move back home to the beautiful UP."

A former organizational and communications consultant, Thebert also brings to SWUP her experience working with political campaigns.

Save the Wild UP's recent activities included meeting with EPA Region 5 Director Susan Hedman and MDEQ Director Dan Wyant to share concerns regarding the now-defunct CR 595, sponsoring the 2012 "Water is Life" educational tour throughout central and western UP, and providing testimony at hearings for the proposed Copperwood Mine in Gogebic County.

During a break between the question-answer session and the formal Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) hearing on the Orvana Copperwood Mine on June 28, 2012, Margaret Comfort, Save the Wild UP president, and Richard Sloat, center, of Iron County, Mich., speak about environmental concerns with Steve Casey, MDEQ Water Resources Division district supervisor of the Upper Peninsula District Office. Save the Wild UP members and officers have spoken at several public hearings concerning mining issues. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

In 2013, Save the Wild UP's "Keeping It Wild!" campaign will focus on environmental issue awareness, expanded educational forums, UP-wide community outreach, and a special projects integrating the arts with environmental concerns.

Save the Wild UP is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Upper Peninsula’s unique cultural and natural resources. For more information, visit their updated Web site at or contact them at (906) 228-4444 or email

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