Bloomington, MN, and not unlike the pair of golden zig-zag wings gracing the Emmy statuette, lightning struck twice for a pair of Midwestern documentary filmmakers who earned their second Emmy Award at the 22nd Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Awards Gala at the Radisson Blu Mall of America.

This did not happen in a vacuum; it wasn’t easy, and it took years, the support of a number of prime philanthropists, the launching of Sustainable Driftless as a non-profit, and the dedication and the vision of Tim Jacobson and George Howe from La Crosse, Wis. and La Crescent, Minn. area. These leaders in environmental education earned the coveted television award as producers of the nature documentary, Decoding the Driftless. The award also names fellow producer and previous Emmy winner Rob Nelson along with first-time winner Jonas Stenstrom for his directorial role.

Decoding the Driftless had its commercial television premiere last year in La Crosse, Wis. Since then, PBS stations in no less than 28 states, including as far away as California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Alaska, have aired the film, and its broadcast reach continues to grow. The documentary has also notably earned a place in PBS station fundraising stats as the best fundraiser to date.

The latest Emmy Award is part of a long line of accolades for Decoding the Driftless coming from international and national film competitions, including in London, UK; Florence, Italy; New York, NY; Las Vegas, NV; and Los Angeles, California.

The documentary has been honored as either “Best Picture” or “Best Documentary” by Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in Hollywood, Gold Movie Awards in London, UK, Festigious International Film Festival in Los Angeles, Filmmakers Connect Awards, Los Angeles Cinematography AWARDS, Beloit International Film Festival, Iowa Independent Film Festival, and Red Cedar Film Festival. Both the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards and the New York Film Awards selected it for “Best Cinematography.” IndieFEST Film Awards in La Jolla, California, conferred a “Humanitarian Award of Distinction,” and WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival issued a Silver Remi Award to Decoding the Driftless. Also, the film was honored for “Outstanding Excellence” by the Docs Without Borders Film Festival, received the Titletown Jury Award and Audience Choice in the Green Bay Film Festival, was named a Finalist by the Florence (Italy) Film Awards, reached the Final List of Semi-Finalists at the jellyFEST Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA), was an official selection in the Accolade Global Film Competition (La Jolla, CA), and was recognized at the 2019 Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Wisconsin Dells.

Decoding the Driftless was produced through collaboration between two nonprofit organizations, Sustainable Driftless, Inc. and Untamed Science, Inc., with an outpouring of community support and a wide range of sponsoring organizations.



SDM: George, you have worked tirelessly as a board member, currently VP, and as the Sustainable Driftless organizations day to day operations and outreach director. I know personally the effort and dedication this has meant to get this far, and it must be surreal to be recognized not once, but twice, as a producer and advocate for the Driftless Region.

Walking the red carpet in both Hollywood and London for our film, and now receiving an Emmy Award, have been tremendous opportunities to draw positive attention to critically important landscape conservation issues This is what we only dreamed of accomplishing.

SDM: Tim–same question!

It’s not just the number of awards that’s significant (Tim worked as film producer, cinematographer and Sustainable Driftless, Inc. president.) It’s the varied types of awards, too. We’ve been recognized for top-notch content, an engaging story, the artistry of the cinematography, and for the positive humanitarian impact in promoting care for our precious earth.

SDM: Jonas? You are from Sweden, and have traveled the world. Why the Driftless Region? (Jonas Strenstrom, from Untamed Science, Inc. served as the film’s director.)

The first time I traveled from Sweden to visit the Driftless Area, I knew it was a special, magical place, and capturing the scenic beauty and mysteries of the landscape on film has been a true joy. We’re thrilled that our cinematographic efforts to encourage conservation in the ruggedly beautiful and precious Driftless Region landscape are being recognized with an Emmy Award.

SDM: In the feature-length documentary Decoding the Driftless, viewers are taken on a wild ride of adventure above, on, and below the Driftless Region through this film of exploration. Soar over ancient, rugged bluffs, skim the surface of primordial rivers, venture deep underground to secret worlds, marvel at sacred archeological treasures, hang perilously over massive rock cliffs, and travel across time itself to explore and decipher ancient clues of the unglaciated Driftless Region landscape, with its captivating scenic beauty.

Rob Nelson, please weigh in! (Rob is president of Untamed Science and one of the film’s producers)

From day one I predicted that this film would blow people’s socks off based upon the enthusiastic reception from thousands of audience members, the huge TV broadcast distribution, numerous film festival awards, and now an Emmy Award– that has proven to be true.

SDM: This Emmy Award comes seven years after Rob Nelson, George Howe, and Tim Jacobson received an Emmy in 2014 for the similarly-themed documentary short, Mysteries of the Driftless. This has been a huge, and very successful project. It involved this talented team, and also others that contributed as well. Lots of coordination and lots of vision. So what is next for Sustainable Driftless, Inc., after this effort?

(George) Continued educational outreach in various formats and to schools, more community showings of the film, and we are very excited to be able to develop platforms such as this Magazine, and the ability to now stream the film, which keeps us ABLE to do this outreach. We need and appreciate our members, volunteers, and board members as well, which without them, none of this would have happened for the benefit of the Driftless Region. My hope is these efforts will go beyond this award, and positively impact our shared environment for generations to come.


How can newcomers to the film and to Sustainable Driftless, Incl, find more information about the Emmys?

The list of Upper Midwest Emmy recipients can be found at with more information available at

Links to more information about the documentary can be found below:

Website and film trailer:



DVDs and Blu-ray discs of the film along with other merchandise can be purchased online at and in various retail outlets around the Driftless Region. In 2021, Sustainable Driftless released a streaming version of the film for rent, which can be found at

Streaming the Emmy Award winning documentary, Decoding the Driftless is now available.

Click on the link below and you can stream the film. Shown nationwide, Sustainable Driftless, Inc (the non profit bringing you Sustainable Driftless Magazine) was the most popular PBS fundraising show nationwide! We feel great about this–helping public television, AND introducing the Driftless to so many people in doing so!


Now you can help Sustainable Driftless AND enjoy the film easily!

Your support of Sustainable Driftless, Inc. allows us to continue our outreach and educational activities near and far.

Thanks and Enjoy!


About Sustainable Driftless, Inc.

Sustainable Driftless, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring resource conservation, vibrant communities, and sustainable growth in the Driftless Region. The group believes that the region is an epic natural, cultural and historic treasure. While it is well known among some circles, it is widely unknown to most people outside the area despite having resources that could stand up to very-well-known assets such as Yellowstone National Park and the Smoky Mountains. By promoting its value to the local public, Sustainable Driftless believes it can help strengthen conservation efforts and serve as a catalyst to better ensure that local communities are vibrant and sustainable. And by promoting the Driftless Region’s value to the larger (global) public as a premier international geo-tourism destination, we can help ensure the landscape’s conservation by demonstrating its value as an economic engine for its rural communities and its thoughtful, sustainable use.


About Untamed Science, Inc.

Untamed Science is a group of passionate scientists, educators, and filmmakers who have come to the conclusion that learning about science should be fun and easy. They have a diverse collection of working professionals, including a production team of award winning science-filmmakers, a team of on-camera talent, and a collection of science content writers who are dedicated to helping expand the outreach portals. Information about Untamed Science can be found at