Gaylord Nelson’s humble roots, planted in Clear Lake, Wisconsin, grew into an environmental movement that has carried on for 51 years. Tia Nelson picked up where her father left off and uses her passion for nature as a force that drives her to protect the environment.
Tia believes Clear Lake made her father the man he became. “Papa always said that his interest in nature and the environment came to him by osmosis. He was a little boy growing up in the small town of Clear Lake and nature was his playground. It was a part of him from a very early age.”
Tia shared a story about her father and his best friend as a boy in Clear Lake, Sherman Benson. “Come fall, the turtles in the village migrate over to Mud Lake, which is their winter habitat. Papa and Sherman picked up the turtles, spun them around and hid them in the grass. They tucked them behind trees and attempted to get the turtles lost. The turtles still found their way over to Mud Lake and the boys were fascinated by the turtle’s migratory instincts. “Papa was simply marveled by the ways of nature,” Tia said.
She said for her the experience has been quite similar. “I have always loved nature, animals and the outdoors. Obviously it was a passion of my father’s, so it trickled down to me.”
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Wildlife Ecology, Tia spent almost 20 years at The Nature Conservatory in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area. “I loved my years working there, but I grew weary of the international travel and I felt drawn back home to Wisconsin.” Next, she took a gig at Wisconsin’s Public Plans Commission. She said that job enabled her to manage the Northern Forest, which she loved. “I felt like I made a big impact during those years,” she said.
Nelson works with the Outrider Foundation and has developed a program on climate change. Tia said, “It has been a chance for me to continue to make a difference. Whether it is working being dedicated to public service or working for a nonprofit, both of those callings are honorable. Certainly my father’s life was similar. I always saw him more as a public servant than a politician, although he was a great politician. He felt an honorable calling to public service and I have felt that too.”
Tia is exited for the upcoming anniversary of Earth Day. “My very first Earth Day I was barely 13-years-old. I spent the day picking up trash with my Junior High. This year for the 50th anniversary, I have produced a film to honor my father’s legacy and inspire the youth of today to become involved in making a brighter future,” she said.
Nelson feels honored and grateful to keep her Papa’s legacy going.