Luke Weingarten, Chairman
Luke Weingarten lives in Raleigh. Every day, he wonders how he got so lucky to be raising two incredible boys and a dazzlingly brilliant girl with his amazing wife and partner, Kerin. He works as an independent insurance agent with a growing local agency focused on building lasting relationships with a wide variety of personal and commercial clients. He has a BFA from East Carolina University and a MBA from DePaul University. Prior to the insurance industry, Luke was a teacher. He taught graduate and undergraduate courses as an adjunct professor of management at DePaul’s business school in downtown Chicago. Simultaneously, he was an on-site and online test prep and professional development instructor with Kaplan. His initiation into the classroom, however, was as a certified ESL teacher in Nagasaki, Japan. Before all of that, you could find him grinding it out in various studios and workshops from North Carolina to Alaska honing skills as a studio artist and craftsman.
Luke grew up in and around the water but did not really start hunting until moving to Wisconsin where he convinced some friends to take him into the marsh chasing ducks. From that moment on, actively participating in the outdoors and procuring for his family the sustainable resources found there has all but consumed him. When something becomes so crucial to your way of life and impactful to your worldview, it is not hard to find a passion for both sharing and conserving what drives you. BHA and the individuals that generate its organizational power are easy allies that effortlessly align with Luke’s ethos. He sees it as nothing less than an honor to supply a little more ink onto the indelible mark BHA is making on America’s public lands and the fabric of the nation.
Tyler Ross, Vice-Chair & Mountain Regional Director
Tyler lives in Leicester with his wife Britney and two sons, Jameson and Brennon. Tyler received his bachelor's degree in natural resource conservation and management from Western Carolina University. Tyler is an avid bowhunter and conservationist who spends a lot of his free time scouting public lands, hiking with his family or flinging arrows. Tyler works as a director for a local soil and water conservation district where he works with landowners and land managers to put sound conservation practices on the ground. A few years ago, at the behest of some of his friends and trends he was noticing locally, Tyler started a website, trueconservationist.com, as a platform for heeding the call of our conservation heritage. Tyler is also very involved with other conservation groups in the area, especially those working to address habitat issues on public lands.
Aaron Townes, Secretary
Aaron Towns lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laura, and their two kids. While growing up in Memphis, TN, he was not exposed to hunting. After relocating to Charlotte in 2008, a couple of friends introduced him to the hunting lifestyle, and he never looked back. After becoming completely obsessed with hunting and conservation, he wanted to find a way to give back to the outdoors while impacting others’ lives. In 2017, he founded Mission Outside, an organization that hosts camps to introduce kids to hunting, fishing and conservation who otherwise wouldn't have exposure to this great lifestyle.
When he is not spending time with his family, working, hunting in the Carolinas or talking about hunting, he can be found planning his next Western public lands trip. After going on his first public lands Colorado elk hunt in the Flat Tops Wilderness, he made it his mission to protect public lands, water, and the wildlife that call them home. His goal is to be a voice for the public lands while increasing, or at a minimum, helping ensure the same amount of public land opportunities exists for many generations.
John Smith, Treasurer
John lives outside of Raleigh with his wife, daughter, and Labrador retriever. In 2012, John graduated from NC State University with a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. Currently, he works for a software company that provides solutions and services for investment advisors. John grew up in Gastonia, and was active in a local Boy Scout troop where he established his love for the out-of-doors. Today he enjoys fishing and hunting and spending time with his family and friends.
since then. I returned to live along that creek after spending 5 years at the coast in Wilmington. At some point in time I got lucky and found a gal that wanted to backpack through the mountains more than go shopping so I made her my wife. She has put up with a lot and continues to do so. She did all the heavy lifting while I finished up my education and I am sure she has convinced herself that the outdoors is a mistress that she is in constant competition with.
I am an outdoor generalist where my time is spent hunting whitetail, chasing small game, trolling for crappie, longing for spring gobblers, and down-rigging for stripers. This list is not all encompassing but you get the idea. I was fortunate enough to have a grandfather that introduced me to Cape Lookout National Seashore when I was 14. That place and dragging finger mullet in front of flounder have been embedded in my soul ever since. My fledgling conservation pursuits are the culmination of an oblivious journey to an obvious epiphany. I was raised by a quail hunter who talks of the good ol' days while his shotguns draw dust. I have spent days casting baits to marine resources that are on a sharp decline. I have laid down to sleep on various pieces of ground and thought "Man, it'd really be shame if anything ever happened to this" without realizing that was a potential outcome. My goal now is to try to give back as much as I have taken and encourage others to do the same. Maybe it'll make a difference, maybe it won't but I feel a sincere obligation to just send it.
Mike Prorock, At-large
Mike Prorock spent his childhood outdoors, growing up on the banks of Reedy Creek in Cabarrus County, camping and fishing on public lands as soon as he could walk, thanks to his father. Early hiking adventures occurred everywhere from Morrow Mountain and the Uwharries to Mount Mitchell and other stretches across the Appalachians. Mike graduated from NCSU, studying English, Marine Sciences, and other odds and ends. Marine biology field work in college triggered what became a lifelong passion for tracking animals and environmental conditions to better understand human impact on our planet. A passionate hunter and avid fisherman, Mike can often be found in the Nantahala National Forest both on and off the job. Mike currently resides on a small farm outside Chapel Hill and runs a company dedicated to enabling organic farmers to grow sustainably and increase yield, all while using collected data to aid in the conservation of natural resources and wild places.
Mike Neiduski, At-large
Mike Neiduski grew up on a family farm in northern Connecticut where he fell in love with deer hunting, fishing and exploring the outdoors. He grew up and moved away, first to Wisconsin, then to South Carolina, then to Missouri, back to Wisconsin, and finally to North Carolina. Through the course of it, he found that without access to wild places, something didn't seem right. A sense of obligation to an 8-week-old GWP puppy lit a new flame of curiosity and exploration. Living in an apartment with a rambunctious fur ball forced him to find the spaces he missed from childhood, and he fell in love all over again, this time on public land.
Mike currently lives near Burlington with his very hobby tolerant wife and their two German Shorthairs and German Wirehaired Pointer where he is avidly involved in a local NAVHDA chapter. He still finds time for the tree stand between the duck blind and trips across the country chasing wild birds in wild places. Otherwise, you can find him dog training, fly fishing, or writing about bird dogs.
In moving away from the family farm, Mike learned the value of quality public lands access. He believes in BHA and in keeping public lands public. As Aldo Leopold said, "To those devoid of imagination, a blank space on a map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part."
Kirk Port, At-large
Kirk Port was born at the edge of Catskill Mountains Park in New York’s mid-Hudson River Valley. Many after-school hours were spent traipsing through hills right outside his front. With his Boy Scout troop, he backpacked and canoed his way through the Catskills, Adirondacks, and the interconnected lakes of Maine. His love of the outdoors and exploring has never faded. In the last seven years, he has backpacked a section of the John Muir Trail, ascended the summit of Mount Whitney, explored the Sawtooth Wilderness, and trekked through Switzerland and Bhutan.
A family move brought Kirk to Raleigh at the start of high school. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he has had a long career in finance in the clinical research industry. He is an avid mountain biker and was a competitive amateur road cyclist for 30 years. Kirk considers himself an adult onset hunter. Having never fired a shotgun until a friend asked if his chocolate Labrador retriever puppy was gun shy, he soon acquired his first shotgun, took the North Carolina hunting safety course, and at age 40 purchased his first hunting license. Not too long after, a Gordon Setter joined the party. Without access to private lands, he quickly learned how important public lands are to spending days afield. He is now planning his first elk hunting trip on public lands in the Gunnison basin with his Colorado cousins.
Kirk discovered BHA several years ago and found its ethos congruent with his long-held environmental and conservation values. He wants to do everything in his power to make sure that current and future generations of Americans continue to have access to public lands. As Woody Guthrie sang, “This land was made for you and me.”
T. Edward Nickens, At-large & BHA North American Board of Directors
For more than three decades, T. Edward Nickens has reported on conservation, the outdoors, and Southern culture for some of the world’s most respected publications. He reports across North and Central America, with more than 1,000 bylines from the Arctic Circle to the Honduran rainforests. He is editor-at-large and columnist for Field & Stream, a contributing editor for Audubon, a contributing editor and design judge for Garden & Gun and a columnist for Our State. His work has appeared in Smithsonian, National Geographic Adventure, Men’s Journal and many others and they have been collected in numerous “best of” anthologies. His books for Field & Stream have sold more than 300,000 copies. He splits time between Raleigh and Morehead City with one wife, two dogs, a part-time cat, the occasional sightings of two grown children in college, 11 fly rods, three canoes, two powerboats, and an indeterminate number of duck and goose decoys.