A native of Muskegon, Joe spent much of his youth exploring the dunes and shoreline just over the hill from his back dunes home. His love of nature–and a like-minded family–led to fishing, camping, and hiking throughout both peninsulas and ultimately fostered a lifelong love of the outdoors that has taken him to all 50 states. Having seen Mt. Denali on a clear day in Alaska, and soaked his feet in the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Joe will tell you it’s still tough to match the beauty of a brown trout rising through the morning mist on the Pere Marquette River.
An attorney by training and vocation, Joe has been involved in numerous environmental and conservation organizations throughout his life. He has been a supporter of the Land Conservancy for the past decade, and more recently has served on its board and executive committee. Joe joined the Land Conservancy in 2016.
April has been working for the Land Conservancy since 1993 – back when it was known as “NACOWMI” (Natural Areas Conservancy of West Michigan).
Her work in land protection began even earlier, though, when in 1985 she began working with the State of Michigan’s Wilderness and Natural Areas Program for the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. One of her first projects was to coordinate the natural areas designation of the Saugatuck Dunes Natural Area. April soon added experience and skills in private land protection throughout Michigan – from snake habitats in southern Hillsdale County to rocky outcroppings on the Keweenaw Peninsula.
She has a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, with graduate studies in both biology and natural resource management and policy, advanced training in land protection techniques and their tax implications, and a (never activated) realtor’s license. Twenty years after she began her career in land protection, April is still working, happily, on the preservation of important natural areas throughout West Michigan.
Growing up in West Michigan, Justin enjoyed exploring the area’s forests, prairies, and lakeshore. In 2014, he joined the Land Conservancy as Stewardship Coordinator – a position that 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 stewardship technician. He has also worked on environmental education and community organization projects in rural Tanzania with the U.S. Peace Corps. 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.
Justin is an active member of the West Michigan Cluster of The Stewardship Network. In his spare time, Justin enjoys outdoor activities, fishing, gardening, and playing music.
Gretchen joined the staff of the Land Conservancy in November 2010 as the Accountant/Office Manager. She was previously the Controller of LifeHOUSE Management Services in Grand Rapids and has done accounting and tax consulting work for many years. Gretchen earned her accounting degree from Western Michigan University and her CPA license from the State of Michigan, both in the early 1990s.
Having been born and raised in Grand Rapids, Gretchen is very excited to have a more formal role in conservation in West Michigan. After eleven years as a full-time mother, she remains passionate about leaving our children with a better, more viable environment. Gretchen lives in a lake community in Rockford with her husband and two teenage daughters.
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. There, 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.
Nick grew up in Laingsburg, MI on a steady diet of nature documentaries and family time outdoors camping and fishing. He graduated in 2013 from Michigan State University with a Bachelors of Science in Forestry with a concentration in Forest Resource Management.
Nick was first exposed to restoration of the natural world through an extra credit project to identify and map black swallow-wort on MSU’s campus. In 2010, Nick worked as a stewardship coordinator with Ingham County Park. He was later hired by Meridian Township Parks to work with volunteers and staff to implement invasive species removals, park maintenance, tree plantings and a deer management program. In 2015, Nick was hired as a Conservation District Forester working with private forest owners and community partners to deliver forestry assistance to the public in a three-county service area. Nick was hired by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan in May 2019 and is excited to broaden his horizons and strengthen his new ties to the community and natural world of West Michigan.
Growing up in Ottawa County, Emily spent many summers and weekends at beaches and parks and, from an early age, developed a passion for taking care of the environment. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Community Leadership and Communication from Aquinas College, which furthered her commitment to sustainability.
Emily joined the Land Conservancy in 2019 as the Development and Events Specialist—in her words, “the perfect combination of data and people.” Her professional experience includes event planning, database management, administration, and also grantmaking, having most recently worked at Grand Rapids Community Foundation. In her current role, Emily handles the Land Conservancy’s events, manages the database system, and processes all donations. Additionally, she collaborates with the Development Director to create and implement fundraising strategies to grow supporters and increase organizational capacity.
When Emily is not working, you can find her reading at the beach, teaching dance classes, or chatting with friends at local restaurants.