MNCF is a conservation organization made up of anglers, hikers, hunters, paddlers & others who are dedicated to the enjoyment & ethical use of our natural resources.

Since 1936 the Minnesota Conservation Federation (MNCF) has been an advocate for the natural resources of our great state. Minnesota Conservation Federation has federally recognized 501C3 tax-exempt status.

We have been the Minnesota affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation since our founding. Our affiliation is mutually beneficial as we work to develop national and global conservation policy.

Our Mission:

MNCF is a coalition of individuals, groups, and communities dedicated to outdoor recreation and the conservation and ethical use of Minnesota’s natural resources by all, for all, with all.

Meet the MNCF Board

Brad Gausman- Executive Director 

Brad has been the Executive Director of MNCF since June of 2020. Prior to this role he served as treasurer for MNCF and program coordinator for the Conservation Leadership Corps program. He holds a degree in Environmental Studies and Sociology from Hamline University in St. Paul MN. Prior to working with MNCF he spent time flipping pancakes at Al’s Breakfast in Minneapolis and worked several years in retail specializing in stereo and turntable sales. 

Brad lives in Hermantown Minnesota with his wife Amelia, son Harvey, daughter Tallulah, and dog Lena.  He enjoys visiting his family’s cabin in central Minnesota and exploring the rivers and lakes near home and points statewide. Deer hunting and ice fishing are tow of his favorite reasons to be outside.

Craig Engwall- President

Craig brings years of experience to the MNCF board from work both within state agencies and the private sector. Most recently he served for over 7 years as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. Craig’s professional career included stints serving as a legislative aide in Washington DC, a judicial clerk in Anchorage, AK, and has included time working at or in support of an alphabet soup of MN state agencies (DNR, BWSR, MDA, MN AG’s office, etc.). During his time as Special Assistant to the DNR Commissioner, he acted as DNR’s Tribal Liaison to Minnesota’s 11 Tribal Nations. 

Looking back over his career, Engwall is especially proud of his role negotiating the Upper Mississippi-UPM Forestry Legacy Project, a conservation easement with Blandin Forestry, one of the largest private forest owners in Minnesota. Today, Craig continues his conservation work as Senior Legal and Program Advisor for the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources. He also serves on the MN Forest Resources Council and the DNR Deer Advisory Committee.

He can often be found hunting, fishing, or doing just about any outdoor activity in the Chippewa National Forest near his hunting land in Itasca County.


Diedre Hayden- Treasurer

Originally a Texan, Diedre Hayden couldn’t be happier to live in Minnesota. Diedre works as a CPA and has a master’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M University. Diedre lives with her husband, 2 kids, and dog in Woodbury, but on weekends you can usually find them out hiking and exploring Minnesota’s state parks.

Diedre’s love of the outdoors began as a child with her father taking her on camping trips and she wants to continue that tradition with her children. She is passionate about making the outdoors accessible to everyone in the most sustainable way possible. She hopes to use her professional experience to further the goals of the Minnesota Conservation Federation and preserve the natural resources of this beautiful state for future generations.

Karl Greeden-Secretary 

Karl grew up on a farm in east central Minnesota and has had a lifetime passion for hiking, camping, and bird hunting. His educational background in Chemical and Environmental Engineering has led to a professional career in sustainability focused organizations. As a founding partner in two startup companies, he hopes to bring his experience in growing organizations to help MNCF grow so that it may better help the people of Minnesota to connect with the land, water and air that we all share. Karl currently resides in Minneapolis with his partner Danielle and their Italian Greyhound, Gamay.

Mercedes Akinseye

Hailing from the south metro but recreating at points across Minnesota Mercedes bring her enthusiasm for the outdoors to the MNCF board. A local fishing pier acted as a gateway to all things outdoors but especially waterfowl and upland hunting. Mercedes is a mentor and volunteer for the MNCF Conservation Leadership Corps program.

Theo Byrnes

Theo Byrnes is the founder and owner of Paddle Bridge Guide Collective.  The company’s mission is to be more than just a local outfitter, but to educate and share experiences in order to create an active and sustainable river community. 

Theo’s love for the outdoors was ever-present but really blossomed as a young man.  At the YMCA’s Camp Menogyn, he participated in a progression that culminated in a 40 day Hommes Du Nord canoe trip.  He then went on to guide for both Camp Menogyn and Camp Icaghowan.  

These days, Theo enjoys time exploring the outdoor spaces in his hometown of Minneapolis with his two dogs Blu and Barry.  As a new hunter, he’s developed a passion for both bow & rifle hunting in the past three years.  Through hiking, hunting and foraging, he feels most at peace while exploring the vast and beautiful public lands of Minnesota. 

Aaron Hebeisen
Aaron grew up in Mora, MN hunting, playing hockey, and loving anything to do with wildlife. This passion led him to a B.S. Degree in Animal Ecology/Wildlife from Iowa State. He has worked for USDA on disease research projects such as Bovine Tuberculosis and CWD. He has also conducted angler surveys for the Minnesota DNR on the St. Croix River, and mentored new adult hunters in the DNR Learn-To-Hunt Program.
He currently works as a Chapter Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a conservation organization that advocates for public land and water access, overseeing chapters in MN, WI, IA, IL, and MO. He resides in Red Wing, MN with his wife Olivia and enjoys deer, elk, and waterfowl hunting in the fall, and chasing turkeys around in the spring. 

Lance Ness- Past President

Although born in North Dakota Lance has called Minnesota home for most of his life.He grew up in North Minneapolis during the 1960’s and found a home fishing Bassett Creek and lakes surrounding the metro area. Family ice fishing trips on Medicine lake were an annual tradition. Not coming from a hunting family, Lance found an outlet for his hunting interests by joining with friends and experiencing hunting opportunities in the Lake Winnibigoshish area of northern Minnesota. 

Lance has been involved in and held leadership positions with a vast array of conservation groups in Minnesota. An incomplete list includes the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, The Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance, Anglers for Habitat, National Wild Turkey Foundation Twin Cities Chapter and many more. Highlights from his time in conservation include the formation of the youth waterfowl program with the MN Waterfowl Association, passage of the Outdoor Heritage Amendment, and being awarded Outdoor News Person of the Year in 2007.

Lance makes his home in Golden Valley and enjoys spending his quieter moments at his cabin near Grand Rapids.

Julia Schrenkler

Julia grew up in a family that loved to fish together and celebrated the Minnesota walleye opener as a holiday. As an adult-onset hunter, she followed her bird dog to a new passion, which resulted in a new sense of identity and investment in the outdoors. Her background includes digital communication work, managing small businesses, and supporting start up businesses. As a Senior Digital Producer for Minnesota Public Radio since 2002 she has passionately followed the stories and changes within our state. She believes that humans need nature, and wants to do her part in making it accessible and available to all. She hopes to use those values to support the Minnesota Conservation Federation. Julia lives in the metro area with her wife and two bird dogs, but can be found camping nearly anywhere around the state in the family campervan.


Keng Yang

Keng is an avid outdoorsman and adult onset hunter with a passion for conservation. He grew up in the metro area and as a kid he loved the outdoors, especially bird watching. He started pheasant hunting with his dog Kaiya 6 years ago and now chase pheasant, waterfowl and turkey in SW Minnesota every fall. Hunting is what led him to start his own blog Minnesota-Hunter to help others learn and start hunting on their own. He works in IT and uses his technical skills to bring technology and hunting together. On his free time, he enjoys volunteering for many non profits. He currently serves as a member of the DNR NHAC and R3 committees. The rest of his time is spending time outdoors with his dog and mentoring new hunters.