Hansi Johnson

Advocate & Adventurer


Winona, Minnesota


Thomson, Minnesota

Hansi is a dad, an advocate, and an adventurer. Prior to his current position as the Director of Recreational Lands for the Minnesota Land Trust, Hansi was the regional director for the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and spent time working with communities and volunteers to create quality, sustainable trail experiences for Midwestern mountain bikers. He spent his early years hunting, paddling and fishing which has since developed into a career and a personal devotion to outdoor recreation and open space conservation in his home state of Minnesota.

What are your three favorite places to play in the midwest?
  • Copper Harbor, Michigan
  • Duluth, Minnesota
  • Winona, Minnesota
How has outdoor recreation evolved in the Midwest since you started working with IMBA and more recently the Land Trust?

The Midwest has always had an unbelievable wealth of Outdoor Recreation Opportunities.  What it did not have however was the ability to truly own the uniqueness of those experiences.  My biggest challenge is and thus my biggest goal in Outdoor Rec Advocacy was to get Midwesterners to believe in the truly amazing outdoor experiences they have and to then get them to promote it and celebrate it for what it is.  

Not all things are comparable in an apples to apples sense, nor should they be.  There are a myriad types of beers, there are a myriad types of chocolates, they all taste good and they generally are all recognized for their nuances.  To me that is what is now new in Midwestern outdoor community, people are celebrating what they have literally out their front doors and instead of apologizing for not being something else.

What are a few ways you enjoy getting outside year-round?

As a Midwesterner I have found that its best to be good at a variety of activities.  Conditions can change here in a matter of hours.  So instead of being locked into one or two sports, I have become proficient at many of them.  Fly Fishing has been my main sport in the warmer months.  That said, I make it a point to get on my mountain bike almost every day, which here in Duluth is easy as we have single track trails interconnected through the whole City (something I worked hard to help create).  

In the winter I tend to XC ski when the snow is good, but when its slim I love to Fat Bike on studded tires.  My son is 12 and is on a Freestyle ski team so I am often found at our little local hill throwing out some good OG tele turns to keep some decent downhill skills as well. On the weekends, when the trails are busy I tend to sneak out and ice fish, generally sight fishing for trout either on Lake Superior or any of the myriad of lakes around here.

How can others make a positive impact in their outdoor communities?

One thought I have on how others can make a difference is by volunteering their time and their skills to an organization or cause that promotes Outdoor Recreation in their community.  By and large most communities Outdoor Recreation opportunities are stewarded by a non-profit organization of some type.  It might be a Mountain Bike Club, or a Climbing Club.  It might be a Land Trust or a Friends of Group.  All of them need help and they need people to donate their time, their money and their skills.  I think if you are a person who truly cares for your community in general then you should be intentional about giving time to it.  

It does not have to be the rest of your life, it does not have to be 10 years, it just has to be a season.  A month, a weekend, whatever you have to give.  When we started to truly work around harnessing the power of Outdoor Recreation and what it could do for Duluth as a community we had a relatively small outdoor community, yet we had high volunteerism.  Since things are now more successful we have a large contingent of “Outdoorsy” people in the City.  However, we are not seeing the as many of them volunteering. We need them and their skills.  Imagine the help it is when a Lawyer volunteers to help with legal work for an MTB Non Profit, or a forester helps write a grant for a new trail….. you get the picture.