Tia Nelson

Last updated
Tia Nelson
Tia Nelson Outrider.jpg
Born (1956-06-21) June 21, 1956 (age 64)
Education University of Wisconsin-Madison (BS)
Political party Democratic
Parent(s) Gaylord Nelson
Carrie Dotson Nelson

Tia Lee Nelson (born June 21, 1956) is an American academic, environmental activist, and public servant from the state of Wisconsin. She has held several high-profile positions at The Nature Conservancy, served as Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, and is currently Managing Director of the Climate program at the Outrider Foundation. Nelson is the daughter of former United States Senator and Governor Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day.


Early life

Nelson was born on June 21, 1956 in the Crestwood neighborhood of Madison, Wisconsin. She was two years old when her father was elected Governor of Wisconsin. She lived in the Executive Residence (Governor's Mansion) in Maple Bluff, Wisconsin until the age of six, when her father was elected to United States Senate. She spent her upbringing in Washington, D.C. until graduating from high school and returning to Wisconsin to attend college. [1] Nelson often accompanied her father during campaign stops throughout his political career.


After graduating from UW–Madison's school of wildlife ecology and clerking for the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Nelson joined The Nature Conservancy as legislative liaison for government relations. She spent 17 years with the organization, also holding posts as a senior policy advisor for the Latin America and Caribbean Division and then, as the first director of the Conservancy's Global Climate Change Initiative. During her time with the group, Nelson worked in more than 25 countries, and was in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Earth Summit, the U.S. commitment to help fight global warming.

While at The Nature Conservancy, Nelson advocated for forest protection and restoration as a critical climate change mitigation strategy and an essential component of public policies to address global warming. She led the development of pilot carbon sequestration projects in Belize, Bolivia, and Brazil, where she helped create standards for the measurement and verification of the greenhouse gas benefits of conservation and improved timber management. The Rio Bravo project in Belize was the first one of its kind in the world to be certified by the U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation, and earned her the Climate Protection Award in 2000 from the Environmental Protection Agency. [2] [3]

In 2004, Nelson returned home to Wisconsin to serve as Executive Secretary to the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), which included an appointment in 2007 as co‐chair of Wisconsin's Task Force on Global Warming. In July 2005, Nelson spoke at her father's memorial service which was held at the Wisconsin Capitol Building. [3] Nelson introduced Michelle Obama during a rally before the 2008 presidential primary in Wisconsin. [4] In 2009, Nelson testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding the American Clean Energy and Security Act. [5] The legislation would have cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020 and by 83 percent by mid-century.

While serving as Executive Secretary to the BCPL, Nelson was ordered to never discuss climate change on state time by two of the three board members—the Attorney General and the State Treasurer. [6] The Attorney General later changed his position on the "gag" order and went on to express strong support for Nelson's job performance in a letter released to the press. [7] Nelson left her post at the state agency in 2015 and is currently the Managing Director of the Climate program at the Outrider Foundation, a Madison, Wisconsin group which works to end the threat of a nuclear war and reverse global climate change. [8] [9] Nelson introduced U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at an October 2016 Madison rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Nelson voiced her support for Clinton and U.S. Senate CandidateRuss Feingold based on their advocacy for clean energy policies. [10]

Other roles


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  1. "Tia's Time and Place". dnr.wi.gov. Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  2. 1 2 "Document Display | NEPIS | US EPA" . Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  3. 1 2 "Senator Gaylord Nelson Memorial Service". C-SPAN.org. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  4. "Obama Campaign Event". C-SPAN.org. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  5. "Climate Change Legislation, Panel 4". C-SPAN.org. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  6. Verburg, Steven (22 July 2015). "Tia Nelson hired by Outrider Foundation to direct national effort". The Chippewa Herald. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  7. Schimel, Brad (July 21, 2015). "Brad Schimel's Annual Review of Tia Nelson" (PDF). Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  8. "Our Team". Outrider. Retrieved 2018-07-25.
  9. Opoien, Jessie (21 July 2015). "Tia Nelson steps down from public lands board that banned climate change discussion". The Cap Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  10. "Sanders/Feingold Rally for Clinton in Madison | WSUM 91.7 FM Madison Student Radio". wsum.org. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  11. "Gathering Waters Conservancy | 2010 Annual Report" (PDF). Gathering Waters Conservancy. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  12. "Board of Directors | cool choices". blog.coolchoices.com. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  13. "Friends of The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore | 2017 Annual Report" (PDF). Friends of The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. December 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  14. "The Nelson Institute". nelson.wisc.edu. Retrieved 2018-07-25.
  15. "About ecoAmerica | Building Climate Leadership". ecoAmerica. Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  16. "The Nelson Institute". nelson.wisc.edu. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  17. "Past Award Winners". www.waee.org. Retrieved 2018-08-01.



Interviews, speeches, and statements

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