New leader will guide Wilderness Inquiry through a strategic planning process and further the organization’s mission and commitment to ensuring that everyone belongs in the outdoors.
Wilderness Inquiry is excited to announce the selection of a new executive director! Erika Rivers will begin serving in this leadership position on November 30, 2021. With nearly two decades of experience in the field of conservation and outdoor recreation, Rivers will focus on strategically advancing the organization’s mission to connect people to one another and the natural world through outdoor adventure. Rivers most recently served as Director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
After 42 years of building Wilderness Inquiry into a global leader in inclusive outdoor adventure, our founder, Greg Lais, stepped back from day-to-day operations in early 2020. Kim Keprios, who had served as interim executive director, was unanimously selected to serve as executive director in May 2020 to guide the organization through the challenges that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying the executive search. Over the past four months, our Board of Directors launched an Executive Search Committee with the support of the firm CohenTaylor.
“Erika’s passion, energy, and expertise is clear,” said Ed Spencer, Wilderness Inquiry’s Board Chair. “She also brings a collaborative leadership style that is a perfect fit with the current team at Wilderness Inquiry.”
Understanding inclusion and lifting up our mission – to connect people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to each other and the natural world through shared outdoor adventures – are crucial parts of the executive director’s job description. Rivers’ past experience positions her strongly to do this. Throughout Rivers’ career, she has also held a number of positions connecting people to the natural world, where she was a catalyst for several initiatives to increase multicultural customer service and to include more underserved populations in the health and wellness benefits of outdoor recreation. When asked about taking on the role at Wilderness Inquiry, Rivers said, “Wilderness Inquiry has an outstanding team and a national reputation for ensuring all people feel welcome in America’s outdoor spaces, regardless of ability or background. The organization is poised to enrich even more lives through innovative expansion of its life-changing programs to new audiences in the coming years, and I am thrilled to be part of that journey forward.”
According to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2021 Participation Trends Report, 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2020 than in the year prior – the highest participation rate ever recorded. “Ensuring accessible, inclusive outdoor experiences is more important than ever,” said Rivers. “I look forward to leveraging strategic partnerships and using my skills to carry forward Wilderness Inquiry’s work in this area.”
RT Rybak says
Great news. Excited to learn more about where she wants to take this very important organization
Elizabeth Benn says
Congrats, welcome, best wishes! Sorry to see Greg step away but certainly understandable.
Rodger Schmitt says
Welcome to a truly great organization that has provided positive experiences and education to a diverse clientele.
Having worked with Greg and WI in my career and post-career, I know he will be missed. But it’s a strong organization that welcomes you.
Nate Clark says
Congratulations. Glad that you are welcome to wildernesses Inqury. Look forward to see what you have to offer
Ann Bancroft says
Excited to see where WI goes in the future. Congrats all!
Sharon Sayles Belton says
Wilderness Inquiry’s commitment to inclusion and access to the natural environment for all is inspiring. Looking forward to the organization’s continued success.
Randy Thoreson says
Congrats Erika! You are a perfect fit! Excited about where you will be taking WI!
Mary Ann Devine says
Congratulations and Welcome! The faculty and students at Kent State University look forward to working with you!
Megan Welty says
Congratulations Erika! Welcome to Wilderness Inquiry. It’ll be exciting to see where you lead WI!
Mikaela Swanlund says
Congratulations Erika and WI! What an amazing leader to help shape the future of this incredible organization.
Sarah Milligan-Toffler says
Congrats Erika and WI! Excited to see the next chapter.
Michael Woolsey says
as WI volunteer and Trip Assistant over the past decade, I look forward to meeting you.
Deb Ryun says
Congratulations Erika! Your partners at the St. Croix look forward to working with you.
Kim Keprios says
Congratulations and welcome Erika! WI is a wonderful organization-great mission, staff, Board and community that stretches across the globe! My extended interim with WI has been a joyful and rewarding adventure and I know you will experience the same tenfold! I wish you the very best as you take the helm at this exciting juncture for the Wilderness Inquiry—Cheers!
Congratulations to WI and to Erika. Looks like a great match for a great organization. I still hope to travel with you one day!
Ben von Haaren says
Congratulations and welcome to Wilderness Inquiry
fran mainella says
congratulations to Erika and wilderness Inquiry. She has served as a great state park director and a leader among her peers. The state parks will miss her.
Greg Lais says
So thrilled to have Erika lead WI into the future!!! Her passion for WI’s mission will inspire everyone! Congrats to Erika and everyone at Wilderness Inquiry.
Andy Walz says
Congrats Erika! Best of luck to you and everyone at WI.
Congratulation Erika wish you a best of luck in a new position !
Teri Heyer says
Best wishes on your new role and I look forward to having a “lets make connections conservation” about how WI and the US Forest Service can continue to be great partners together. Also I am forwading to this our new Eastern Region, community engagement team leader Sonja Lin.
john frawley says
Congratulation Erika……from the MN Zoo team!
Larry Peterson says
Wilderness Inquiry is gaining a great leader who is passionate about connecting people to the outdoors and is just plain fun to be around… Well done, WI!
Brad Strootman says
It literally made my head spin! What an exciting opportunity for you. Congratulation!
Jenny Smith says
Congratulations Erika! This is such exciting news. Your passion and experience make you perfect for the job. I’m excited to see where you will take this already amazing organization!
Gloria Perez says
Congratulations, Erika! I am excited to see the impact of your leadership. What a wonderful opportunity for us all.