Commissioner Biographies

Louise Klarr

Louise Klarr of Jackson was appointed to the Natural Resources Commission by Governor Snyder in January 2013 and reappointed in December, 2016.

She is a team member of the Kinship Conservation Fellows, a groundbreaking environmental leadership program that embraces market-based solutions to environmental problems. The organization concentrates on connecting with alumni, collaborating on projects, and impacting with environmental solutions. Kinship fellows hail from around the world. Klarr also is chairman of the Maggie Creek Ranch LP, located in Elko, Nevada. Maggie Creek is an Angus-based cow/calf operation that spans 400,000 acres in arid high desert in northeastern Nevada. Maggie Creek is very involved with local ranching outreach events and collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to continually improve the land. Maggie Creek Ranch has received several certificates of merit for their management of their riparian areas.

Klarr has taken whitetail with bow, muzzleloader and gun. She is happy to catch a bluegill on #14 dry fly or through the ice with a mousey worm. She attended the University of New Hampshire and has a degree in animal science. She and her husband have five children who also love to hunt and fish.

Christopher Tracy

Chris Tracy was raised in Clare (the Gateway to the North).  He learned to love Michigan’s natural resources through the example set by his parents.  Chris lives on Gull Lake with his wife, Michelle, who works for the Kalamazoo County Land Bank and their sons.  The Tracys spend a lot of time enjoying Michigan’s outdoors – a fair amount of that time is spent at soccer fields throughout Michigan and the Midwest region as his sons are soccer players.  They also spend time on, in and around Gull Lake and southwest Michigan enjoying Michigan’s abundant natural resources through biking, hiking, hunting, fishing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, swimming, kayaking and a number of other outdoor activities.  The Tracys love to spend time at their cabin and property near Cheboygan.  The property is protected by a conservation easement through the Little Traverse Conservancy.  They have a forest management plan in place and have worked with a number of conservation organizations and state and federal agencies to improve the habitat, including with Ducks Unlimited, Ruffed Grouse Society, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, MDNR and others.  The Tracy family celebrates every Thanksgiving at the cabin.  Chris formerly served on the Ducks Unlimited national board as the senior volunteer for Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Chris also is serving or has served on a number of other boards for conservation organizations, including:  Kalamazoo Nature Center; MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Advisory Board; Parks Foundation of Kalamazoo; Kalamazoo River Valley Trail; Alliance for the Great Lakes; and the Gull Lake Quality Organization.

Chris is an attorney with the Honigman law firm and part of his practice involves land use and related environmental matters.  Chris formerly was a federal prosecutor in Chicago where his duties included handling matters for the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.  Chris is a graduate of James Madison College of Michigan State University and of Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Vicki J. Pontz, Chair

Vicki J. Pontz was appointed to the Natural Resources Commission by Governor Rick Snyder on December 31, 2013. On December 21, 2017, she was appointed Chair of the Commission by Governor Snyder.

Ms. Pontz was appointed Director of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) October 1, 2008.  THE GLLA is a program of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University offering two leadership development programs targeting agricultural, natural resource, environmental, business, manufacturing, and community development professionals.  The GLLA empowers facilitative leaders who will propel Michigan forward toward economic and environmental vitality.  The GLLA brings together leaders from various backgrounds and exposes them to critical issues associated with sustainability of Great Lakes communities along with innovative, equitable and inclusive approaches for addressing those issues.  Vicki was responsible for curriculum development and delivery, staffing the GLLA Board of Governors, participant recruitment and selection, managing the budget and staff and fundraising.  She embarked on an effort to permanently endow the program so that all future generations may benefit.

Prior to her involvement with GLLA, Ms. Pontz was the Director of the Environmental Stewardship Division at the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) for five years.  The Environmental Stewardship Division (ESD) seeks to support production agriculture activities in Michigan, while protecting the environment and public health. Vicki had responsibility for several programs including Right to Farm, Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program, Farmland Preservation, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Migrant Labor Housing, County Drains, Conservation Districts and the Groundwater and Freshwater Protection Program.  Under Vicki's leadership, ESD forged several opportunities to partner at the local, state, and federal level to deliver conservation programs and included non-governmental stakeholder groups in the planning and implementation of these programs.

Vicki also served as MDA's Legislative Liaison for five years, overseeing legislative and regulatory activities for all MDA divisions; working directly with members of the Michigan Legislature on issues ranging from food safety, bovine tuberculosis, horse racing, pesticide regulation and water use.

Prior to joining MDA, Vicki was employed by the Michigan Farm Bureau as a regional representative, Legislative Research and Communications Specialist, and finally as Legislative Counsel.  Her areas of expertise include natural resources and the environment and K-12 education.  Ms. Pontz was intricately involved in the creation of the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program and the Groundwater and Freshwater Protection Act.  She also piloted significant revisions to the Michigan Right to Farm Act, the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Act, Rails to Trails legislation, and several policies relative to wildlife management.

Ms. Pontz graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor of science degree and is a graduate of the Natural Resource and Environmental Leadership Institute.   Vicki was chair of the Board of Deacons for the First Congregational Church in Portland and has served as a director for the Downtown Development Authority for the City of Portland.  Ms. Pontz is a member of the Michigan Farm Bureau and an avid hunter, hiker, and cyclist.  She has cycled the entire Michigan Great Lakes shoreline and has plans in place to bicycle the entire shoreline of all five Great Lakes. 

JR Richardson

JR Richardson, of Ontonagon, was appointed to the Natural Resources Commission by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm in 2007 and reappointed by Governor Rick Snyder in 2011. He was appointed chairman of the commission in 2013.

He is a life-long resident of the Upper Peninsula. His 31-year career in the paper industry ended in December 2007. He began as a union coal handler, paper machine laborer and recovery boiler operator in 1976 with Champion International Corporation. Throughout his career, Richardson worked as a process engineer, engineering supervisor, production supervisor and quality and environmental manager. Richardson ended his paper industry career as an operations and technical manager for Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation. Since December 2007, he has worked for the New York-based TRAXYS Corporation, which creates renewable energy alternatives for producing power in the U.P. A graduate of Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Richardson holds a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and has completed course work toward a business engineering administration degree.

While working in the forest products industry, Richardson has been a leader in developing safe, profitable, environmentally friendly processes and procedures. He directed the development of an environmental management system that led the way to the state of Michigan's Clean Corporate Citizen designation for the Ontonagon paper mill. The Ontonagon facility became the first paper mill in the state and only the fourth industry overall to receive this designation. Under Richardson's leadership, the mill also attained a longevity award from the Clean Corporate Citizen program in 2004 and three Neighborhood Environmental Partnership designations. Richardson chairs the Michigan Timber Advisory Council. Richardson also received the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Partner in Conservation Award in 1993 based on his work with local sportsmen's groups on habitat rehabilitation and fish plants, along with managing an award-winning wastewater treatment plant in Michigan. He was honored by the Michigan Manufacturer's Association as a finalist for the John G. Thodis Award in 2006 and has received numerous awards from Champion International for team excellence and selected for the Chairman's Award of Excellence in 1996, celebrated at the corporate headquarters in Chicago. His community involvement includes service on the Ontonagon Village Council and EDC from 1996 to 2004 and serving as a member of the volunteer fire department, Marina Commission, and as a hazardous materials certified technician. Richardson also is a member of the Rotary Club, Whitetails Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Ontonagon Valley Sportsmen's Club, and the Lake Superior Special Designation Task Force, president of the Upper Peninsula Sports Fishermen's Association, and chair of the Solid Waste Planning Committee. For the timber industry, he has served on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Task Force for Best Management Practices, is a certified storm water inspector and a C-3a certified wastewater treatment plant operator in the state. Commissioner Richardson resides in Ontonagon and is an avid fly fisherman, annual backpacker in the Porkies, hunter, stamp and antique collector, and outdoorsman. He says "come on up to the U.P. and we can go fishing, eh?

Rex E. Schlaybaugh, Jr.

Rex E. Schlaybaugh, Jr. of Birmingham was appointed to the Natural Resources Commission by Governor Rick Snyder in January 2012. Schlaybaugh is chairman emeritus of Dykema Gossett, a national law firm, having served as chairman and chief executive officer from 2002 through December 2011. His professional practice involves extensive work in the mergers and acquisitions area, counseling boards of directors on corporate law matters and related securities law matters. He has received a number of recognitions with respect to his professional achievements.

Schlaybaugh earned a bachelor's of arts degree from Albion College in 1971 and a law degree from the University of Detroit School of Law in 1973.

Throughout his career, Schlaybaugh has served on many civic boards, including 15 years on the Board of Trustees of Oakland University, where he served a term as chair, and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, where he also served as chair. He currently is a member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Economic Club, the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Board of Directors of The John Hancock Life Insurance Company, and is vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition.

Schlaybaugh is an avid fly fisherman, hunter and sailor. He resides in Birmingham with his wife of 40 years, Jan, and has one daughter, Casey, who works in advertising in New York City.

John W. Walters

John W. Walters of Vanderbilt was appointed to the Natural Resources Commission by Governor Rick Snyder, with his term beginning January 1, 2018.


John works for Roseburg Forest Products, based in Eugene, Oregon. The company manufactures softwood and hardwood plywood, particle board, and engineered wood products (I-Joist and LVL for residential construction). John works from his home office as the Territory Sales Manager, Engineered Wood Products (EWP), selling and traveling EWP in four states. John has been in the residential building materials industry since 1988.

As John was growing up, his parents, Bill and Irene Walters, and his Boy Scout Master Bill Lee, taught him about the outdoors and respecting the state’s natural resources. They emphasized, “Leave it better than how you found it.”  He was raised hunting, fishing, and appreciating the great outdoors. John is an Eagle Scout with a Bronze Palm.


John earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Northern Michigan University in 1987.


John loves to fly fish all year for trout, which is what invigorated his passionate involvement in conservation.  He has served as the state chairman of Michigan Trout Unlimited and president of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  He also served as a board member of Anglers of the Au Sable and was most recently vice-president. He served as a member of the Pigeon River Country State Forest – Advisory Council and as chairman since 2010. John has also served on the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s – Rural Development Fund Board

John and his wife reside in Vanderbilt along with their closest hunting and fishing partner, Sue.  Married since 1992, the couple has two German Short-hair Pointers, George and Winston. They spend much of their time on the river chasing trout, in the woods hunting upland birds and deer, or snowshoeing throughout the winter in northern Michigan,