Nels grew up in small towns in the northwest where he developed a sense of adventure and exploration, the importance and power of community, and value of being connected to the land. He headed east for college and was exposed to the best thinkers in the country who deepened his appreciation for the life of the mind. He graduated from Harvard with a fierce commitment to lifelong learning.

He combines an active urban life with extended time on his family’s timber farm in the Tillamook Forest and regular visits to the high country of eastern Oregon.

He started as an entrepreneur early, raising and selling rabbits at the age of 14.  More recently, he has played key management roles in start-up and restart companies in a wide range of industries, including real estate, renewable energy, internet (b to b) and design.  In addition, he has developed distinctive multi-use infill buildings that incorporate the latest standards of sustainability and resource conservation. The One North project in Portland, Oregon, is a stunning example.

Nels has made a major commitment to wrestling with the ecological and socio-economic issues that face the communities of rural Oregon. He has been privileged to work with Wallowa Resources and the Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust. He is also a leading member of a coalition committed to connecting the Willamette Valley with the Oregon Coast by way of an 86-mile trail along the Salmonberry corridor.