Board of Directors

Jackie Armstrong

From a sharecropper’s granddaughter to a landowner, from in-house legal counsel in the fossil fuel industry to a climate activist, from the streets of Detroit to the banks of the Cedar River in Iowa, Jackie Armstrong traveled a circuitous route to her work as an impassioned advocate for the environment. She practiced corporate law with Schlumberger Ltd. at multiple Schlumberger companies and employment law in Mason City, Iowa, with Brown, Kinsey, Funkhouser & Lander. Following retirement in 2015 from her legal career, she obtained a biology degree with an ecology emphasis. She was elected a Soil and Water Commissioner in Mitchell County, Iowa, in 2020. Jackie lives with her husband, Gary Levinson, on the Cedar River, restores prairies, manages woodlands and agricultural land, kayaks and plays with grandchildren.

Ben Lilliston

Ben is the Director of Rural Strategies and Climate Change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, based in Minneapolis. He works with Midwest, national and international partners to build a policy framework for a just transition for farmers and rural communities in responding to the climate crisis. Ben was a contributor to the U.N. Committee on Trade and Development’s Trade and Environmental Review 2013, and the book Mandate for Change and co-author of the book Genetically Engineered Foods: A Guide for Consumers. He previously worked as a researcher, writer and editor at the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Corporate Crime Reporter and other organizations. Ben participates with Climate Land Leaders in a Midwest-based coalition called Rural Regeneration Through Climate Action. He and his wife live on a small farm in Central Minnesota.


Michelle Montgomery, PhD

Michelle is a Haliwa Saponi (enrolled)/Eastern Band Cherokee (descendant). At the University of Washington, Tacoma, she is: Associate Professor of Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies; Chair, Division of Social and Historical Studies; Interim Cohort Director for Muckleshoot Programs; Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Education; Interim Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Bioethics and Humanities; Adjunct Associate Professor School of Medicine; and Assistant Director, Office of Undergraduate Education. She serves as the External Indigenous Advisor for the Sustainable Leadership Program for the University of Minnesota, Morris, and founded the Indigenous Speakers Series. Michelle lives in what is now Washington State and participates with Climate Land Leaders in a Midwest-based coalition called Rural Regeneration Through Climate Action.

Kate Moos, Treasurer

Kate Moos grew up in central Minnesota and began her career in journalism covering the farm crisis of the 1980s and the emerging AIDS epidemic for Minnesota Public Radio. She helped build the MPR Newsroom as a Managing Editor and later helped create Speaking of Faith/On Being with Krista Tippett. As an Executive Producer, Kate worked to uplift new voices for the public media audience by partnering with the Fond du Lac Band and food and environmental groups in North Minneapolis. She was instrumental in the 2019 founding and launch of Sahan Journal and served as its first Managing Director. Sahan Journal is a nationally acclaimed new digital news organization that centers the experiences of Minnesotans who are immigrants, Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Kate recently retired and lives on a farm in Central Iowa with her spouse, Valerie Arganbright, and a yellow dog named Raven.

Meg Nielsen, President

Even before Meg started school, her grandmother taught her to weed her beautiful flower beds on the family farm in Southern Minnesota. Ever since she has felt a strong spiritual connection with the Earth, the trees and all living creatures – human and otherwise. A founding member of Climate Land Leaders, she is a lover of words, a gardener and a woman of faith. She has worked as the editor of a weekly community newspaper, mothered three children, been partner in a small public relations company, and serves as a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Her experience includes membership on many church councils/committees, village committees, historical society boards and ELCA synod teams. Her farm has always held a special place in her heart, even though she and her band director husband, Glenn, have lived for 51 years in McFarland, WI.

Jane Shey

Jane Shey is a Senior Policy Consultant for World Food Program USA. Before working for the World Food Program USA, she worked closely with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees to maintain or create new programs and obtain funding for these programs. She has also run for the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa, served as a congressional legislative aide, and worked as the staff director of the Subcommittee on Foreign Agriculture and Hunger at the House Committee on Agriculture. Jane has served on federal government advisory committees such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program. She stewards family farmland in Northern Iowa.

Sylvia Spalding

Sylvia has managed her family’s farmland near Oskaloosa, Iowa, since 2006. A resident of Honolulu, Sylvia retired in 2021 from a career as the Communications Officer for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. She is co-author of the 2022 book U.S. Pacific Islanders and the Sea: A History of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. Sylvia chaired the Traditional Knowledge Committee of the National Marine Educators for 15 years and was a member of the NOAA Fisheries Climate and Marine Resources Task Force. She has served as a board member of Hawai’i Interfaith Power and Light and has been active fighting various pipeline projects that impact her family farmland.

Thank you to Carol Bouska and Julie Ristau, members of the initial governing committee of Climate Land Leaders.

Thank you to Naima Dhore, Wendy Johnson, Dr. Michelle Montgomery, Kate Moos and Sylvia Spalding and Paula Westmoreland, who serve on the Belonging Committee (Justice, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion).

Thank you to Sally McCoy and Paula Westmoreland who co-lead the Equity Subgroup.