Our Team

Meet the Staff

Kim Karn

Kim Karn

Executive Director
Justin Heslinga

Justin Heslinga

Conservation Director
Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson

Finance Director
Ruth Thornton

Ruth Thornton

Land Protection Director
Jill Bannink-Albrecht

Jill Bannink-Albrecht

Development Operations Specialist
Lucas Dykstra

Lucas Dykstra

Stewardship Manager
Anna Kornoelje

Anna Kornoelje

Land Protection Specialist
Chris Long

Chris Long

Conservation Easement Stewardship Specialist
Marie Orttenburger

Marie Orttenburger

Communications Manager
  • Kim Karn
  • Justin Heslinga
  • Jim Peterson
  • Ruth Thornton
  • Jill Bannink-Albrecht
  • Lucas Dykstra
  • Anna Kornoelje
  • Chris Long
  • Marie Orttenburger
  • Kim Karn

    Kimberly Karn is the executive director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. She moved to West Michigan in the fall of 2019 to join the Land Conservancy as its development director and stepped up to lead the organization in early 2021.

    Kim got her start in communications and fundraising at the University of Washington’s central advancement communications department. Being part of the team that raised over $2.4 billion for higher education gave her the foundation for working directly with donors in her next role at an archaeological research center in southwest Colorado. Kim led the center’s successful $19 million campaign as director of development, which established a world-class archaeological research institute for the study of ancient civilizations of the American Southwest.

    Kim was born and raised in Colorado but moved around throughout her adult life. She counts herself as fortunate to have lived in some of the most beautiful places in our great nation. Spending time outdoors is her passion, and she is thrilled to work in land protection and preserve our treasured natural lands and ensure the next generation has access to nature. In her free time, she can be found roaming canyons, beaches and forests with her family and friends.

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  • Justin Heslinga

    Growing up in West Michigan, Justin always enjoyed exploring the area's forests, prairies, and lakeshore. He joined the Land Conservancy in 2014. His position as Stewardship Director allows him to fulfill his strong commitment to protecting and caring for the rich diversity of West Michigan's natural landscapes.

    Justin's background includes working as a botanist, restoration ecologist, and environmental educator in the Midwest and in East Africa. Justin earned a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Calvin College and a Master's degree in Natural Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan. When not at work, you'll find him enjoying outdoor activities, fishing, gardening, or playing music.

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  • Jim Peterson

    Jim is a lifelong resident of West Michigan. His love of the outdoors and travel has led to cycle touring in the US, Canada and Europe, backpacking in the Tetons, canoeing in the Boundary Waters and hiking in the southwest US and the Virgin Islands. Closer to home, Jim and his wife Katie enjoy the natural beauty and many opportunities for year-round outdoor activities in western and northern lower Michigan. His interest in seeing these resources expanded, cared for and preserved for future generations led him to join the Land Conservancy in 2019 as part-time Finance Director.

    Jim has a bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University and master’s from Western Michigan University, and is a CPA. Prior to joining LCWM, he spent 28 years in financial management positions at both Muskegon and Grand Rapids Community Colleges. He has also been a volunteer with the National Ski Patrol for over 30 years.

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  • Ruth Thornton

    Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, Ruth moved to the U.S. to attend college and has worked for environmental nonprofits and state agencies for 22 years. Ruth holds an MS degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University and has worked for The Nature Conservancy’s West Virginia and Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota Chapters, The Conservation Fund in Michigan, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. A self-proclaimed "prairie nerd," Ruth's thesis and much of her work has been focused on prairies. She has extensive experience in land protection and grant management.

    During her chilhood, Ruth and her family would hike in the Alps. On summer vacations to the U.S., they hiked in national parks. Ruth suspects it was these memorable trips that piqued her interest in ecology and conservation. In her free time, she likes to hike, travel, take photos, garden, play violin, and bake sourdough bread.

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  • Jill Bannink-Albrecht

    Jill joined the Land Conservancy in 2021 and is proud to be part of the team protecting habitats and ecosystems for a variety of plants and wildlife. She has degrees in journalism and history from Grand Valley State University and is passionate about non-profit work. She previously worked for a local county department of public health, focusing on protecting public health and safety, with an emphasis on education. As a new resident to the lakeshore, Jill is exploring the many natural areas nearby and is excited to help people protect, enjoy, and care for natural land. She is a long-time animal advocate and created and operates a non-profit animal rescue in her spare time.

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  • Lucas Dykstra

    Born and raised on a West Michigan hobby farm, Lucas had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. From scooping up frogs in the backyard pond to blazing trails through the nearby forest, he always had knack for immersing himself in the natural world. Family camping trips to the mountain west and throughout the Great Lakes region only helped to amplify his desire for a future in conservation. Lucas graduated with an Environmental Science degree from Carthage College with a focus in Conservation and Ecology.

    Throughout his career he has worked on ecological restoration projects from the northwoods of Minnesota, to the prairies of Illinois, and throughout the state of Michigan. Lucas believes that having amazing natural areas so close is something not to be taken for granted, and he hopes to restore and preserve those same opportunities for future generations. In his spare time, you can catch him backpacking, gardening, and canoeing.

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  • Anna Kornoelje

    Mowing lawns for the City of Grand Rapids Parks department was Anna's first experience in a career in nature that has spanned two decades so far. A Bachelor's degree from Grand Valley State University provided a launching pad to 6 years of field work. Anna's work included cataloging caterpillars in Costa Rica, monitoring endangered birds in the UP and Arizona, and banding migrating songbirds in Oregon.

    After traveling and living in tents and trucks for these years, Anna returned to GVSU to earn a Master's degree in Biology.

    Most recently she worked at the Kalamazoo Nature Center directing stewardship activities like biological surveys, invasive species removal, and native species planting. Anna joined the Land Conservancy in 2020 as a Land Protection Specialist, a position that allows her to protect our incredible natural resources here in Michigan.

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  • Chris Long

    Growing up visiting the Upper Peninsula and northwest Michigan from his home in Detroit, Chris developed a passion for the outdoors and the value conservation early on. He followed that into local park positions and then a degree in wildlife and conservation biology at Michigan State University. Taking those skills on the road, Chris worked for universities, state, and federal agencies on a variety of projects, from bears in Yosemite to beavers in Acadia, and habitat research and education programs in Maryland and upstate New York. Chris returned to Michigan to help restore critically rare oak savanna habitat with the Manistee National Forest before joining the Land Conservancy of West Michigan in 2022 as the conservation easement stewardship specialist. Chris is excited to help landowners manage their LCWM easement properties to protect valuable ecosystems and resources across the region.

    When not in the field, Chris enjoys exploring the Upper Peninsula, community advocacy and mutual aid, playing music, and riding bicycles of all kinds.

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  • Marie Orttenburger

    Marie grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where gorgeous natural surroundings are difficult to escape. Naturally, she developed a deep appreciation for those surroundings, and along with it a desire to help preserve them.

    Marie relocated to the Grand Rapids area in 2010 and graduated from Grand Valley State University with a B.A. in English and Professional Writing in 2014. In 2015, she began reporting on Great Lakes environmental news for Great Lakes Echo and was later promoted to the website’s assistant editor. She wrote and podcasted about vernal pools, dark sky parks, wildlife disease, invasive species and more, and she realized the power of storytelling to inform the public and inspire environmental protection. She joined the Land Conservancy of West Michigan as the organization’s Communications Specialist in 2018. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to spread the word about the importance of keeping nature nearby.

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  • Kim Karn
  • Justin Heslinga
  • Jim Peterson
  • Ruth Thornton
  • Jill Bannink-Albrecht
  • Lucas Dykstra
  • Anna Kornoelje
  • Chris Long
  • Marie Orttenburger

Meet the Board of Directors

Cindy Angerer, Chair
John Scholtz, Vice Chair
Danielle Parmenter, Secretary
Tom Roe, Treasurer
Myron Erickson
John Fox
Barbara Griffin
Amy Kenny
Bill Lawrence
Jonathan Prins
Steven Rice
Elise Tripp

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