MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter says strength of the organization lies in its membership; giving them a voice is her No. 1 goal
Sometimes in life, small moments can hold big meaning.
For Amy Trotter, showing someone a picture of her 9-year-old daughter next to the 8-point buck she killed was one of those moments.
Years before the picture was taken, Michigan United Conservation Clubs member Rob Miller told Trotter and other MUCC staffers about his idea to start a mentored youth hunt in Michigan.
At the time, Trotter was resource policy manager for MUCC, on her way to becoming deputy director and then executive director.
Trotter and other staffers worked with Miller to refine his idea and to pitch it to club members during the next MUCC convention.
The youth hunt proposal didn’t gain much traction at the first convention, but they continued working with Miller and eventually brought it back to the convention a second time. The proposal was stronger on the second go-round and was approved at the convention. From there, MUCC legislative staff successfully lobbied for the hunt to be passed into law by the Michigan legislature and then-Gov. Rick Snyder.
In celebration of the achievement, Trotter purchased some mentored youth hunt licenses and placed them next to her infant daughter for a photo op in 2012. Several years later, her daughter shot her first squirrel and in 2021, her first buck — the 8-pointer that she wouldn’t have been able to harvest if not for the mentored youth hunt.
The moment she was able to show Miller the picture of her daughter with the buck meant a lot to Trotter, who believes the most important part of her job at MUCC is to give voice to the club’s diverse membership.
Trotter, 42, grew up in a Northern Michigan family of predominantly male hunters. She occupied her time with athletics, cheerleading, socializing, and other compelling activities for teenagers through high school.
A genuine interest in the outdoors didn’t come about until later in Trotter’s life, but she recalls that a few random hunting and fishing trips with a high school boyfriend lit the initial, slow-burning fuse that eventually would ignite into a lifelong passion and a career.
After graduating from high school, Trotter enrolled at Michigan State University. She liked science and thought chemistry would be a good fit, but after an incident involving a nitric acid spill on her fingertips, Trotter began to rethink that line of study.
“Do I really want to spend the next four years inside, in a lab?” Trotter remembers asking herself.
Ultimately, Trotter concluded that chemistry wasn’t the right career choice and switched her major to environmental science.
While attending MSU’s Lyman Briggs College, Trotter interned with the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, where she worked as a soil conservationist trainee. Her duties included consulting farmers to help them reduce erosion and improve environmental conditions in their fields.
“I learned a ton of stuff in the field,” Trotter said. “And I had the best farmer’s tan in my life.”
When it came time for Trotter to decide if she wanted to work full-time for NRCS, one thing held her back — the distinct possibility of being assigned to a field office hundreds of miles from her family and friends.
Not relishing the thought of working so far away from everyone she knew, Trotter decided not to take a position with NRCS and instead began working in 2003 for a company called Public Sector Consultants.
At PSC, Trotter helped develop policy solutions for clients dealing with various challenges, including environmental concerns, land use issues, recycling and urban sprawl. PSC clients include government-affiliated working groups and private philanthropic entities like the Kellogg Foundation.
During this time, Trotter enrolled in the Great Lakes Leadership Academy, where she met Erin McDonough, who worked at MUCC and would eventually become executive director of the organization.
Through McDonough, Trotter learned about an open position at MUCC and was hired in 2007 as a resource policy specialist.
McDonough recalls thinking that Trotter would be perfect for the position since she was already accustomed to working on “sticky” policy issues and building a consensus among multiple parties, sometimes with divergent interests.
Trotter was part of an MUCC-led advocacy group that focused on wildlife species with the most significant conservation-related challenges in her new role. This coalition — dubbed Teaming With Wildlife — worked to prevent at-risk species from becoming endangered. While the group no longer exists, one of the pieces of legislation it fought for — the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act — recently was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is on its way to the Senate. The act would pump millions of dollars into states annually to conserve or restore wildlife and plant species if signed into law. Trotter said this would be akin to another Pittman–Robertson Act in scope.
In 2009, Trotter was promoted to senior resource policy manager and became manager of Michigan Out-of-Doors University, a think tank for adult education programming and outreach efforts.
After eight years of learning the ins and outs of the organization, Trotter in 2015 was selected as deputy director. In 2019, outgoing executive director Dan Eichinger, who left the post to head the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, recommended to the MUCC board that she be appointed in his stead. The board agreed, and Trotter has served in that capacity since.
In addition to all her other responsibilities at MUCC, Trotter said she has attended at least 150 Natural Resources Commission meetings during her tenure. At these meetings, Trotter represents MUCC and acts as the voice of its membership — a function she sees as fundamental to the organization’s mission and purpose.
When Trotter first started working for MUCC, she wasn’t privy to the organization’s financial challenges. As the years went by, Trotter witnessed whole sections of MUCC cleaved off to bring the budget out of the red.
“MUCC was in survival mode at that time,” said Trotter, who will never forget going through that painful period. The lessons it taught her about eschewing the flashy, expensive things in exchange for a firm fiscal foundation were vital to leading MUCC now and into the future.”The organization’s sustainability is fundamental to me,” Trotter said. “Grants don’t always provide stability because you have to reapply and you don’t always get them every year. We had to focus on refining our fundraising and helping donors understand that the organization is part of the conservation infrastructure of our state — no one else was representing conservation groups, sportsmen, and sportswomen in Lansing. We’re a grassroots organization, and I think that’s where we draw our strength.”
Looking to the future, Trotter believes that MUCC will continue to narrow its focus in order to directly and effectively address issues that its hunting, fishing and trapping members care about, rather than attempting to tackle big, amorphous topics.
“Filling niches no one else is working on,” Trotter summed up. “Reducing the scope of our advocacy.”
Trotter predicted that part of that evolution will entail reaching out to more individuals — those who aren’t necessarily affiliated with an organization — to get their feedback and find out what they care about.
McDonough said Trotter’s ability to forge a unified goal out of a mishmash of conflicting opinions and objectives is one of the many skills that make her a good fit for the executive director role.
McDonough added that Trotter exudes a “joie de vivre,” or delight in simply living life that incidentally makes her a natural, charismatic leader.
“A lot of people don’t have that,” McDonough said. “It makes her really compelling to be around. It’s inspiring.”
For her part, Trotter said the only reason she’s been successful in her career is her extremely supportive husband, Marc, who is an avid outdoorsman she can bounce ideas off of and who can offer carefully-considered perspectives on many issues.
“If there was a spousal award, he would get it,” Trotter said. “All the long nights and weekends, and days away. It’s a family effort, the grandparents, too. Because working for a nonprofit is all-consuming — it has to be, with all the volunteers involved. You have to be driven by passion.”