Our Team

Meet the Staff

Joe Engel

Joe Engel

Executive Director
April Scholtz

April Scholtz

Land Protection Director
Pete DeBoer

Pete DeBoer

Land Protection Coordinator
Justin Heslinga

Justin Heslinga

Stewardship Director
Brian Obits

Brian Obits

Development Director
Colin Hoogerwerf

Colin Hoogerwerf

Communications Specialist
Diane Sampson

Diane Sampson

Database Administrator
Gretchen Mousel

Gretchen Mousel

Finance Director
Andre Otte

Andre Otte

Stewardship Specialist
  • Joe Engel
  • April Scholtz
  • Pete DeBoer
  • Justin Heslinga
  • Brian Obits
  • Colin Hoogerwerf
  • Diane Sampson
  • Gretchen Mousel
  • Andre Otte
  • Joe Engel

    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.

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  • April Scholtz

    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.

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  • Pete DeBoer

    Pete was born and grew up in Spring Lake with the lakeshore in his backyard. He realized at an early age that he would seek a career that combined his love of the outdoors with his interest in environmental issues. He received a B.S. in 2002 from Western Michigan University, completing a double major in Biology and Environmental Studies.

    During his schooling at WMU Pete began volunteering for the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy to “learn the business.” He then worked with the seasonal stewardship crew trying to eradicate invasive species from the landscapes of southwest Michigan. In the fall of 2004 he was hired as a land protection specialist for Southwest to assist landowners in protecting their own landscapes. In the summer of 2007 he was hired by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to help landowners near his hometown protect the lands he grew up with.

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  • Justin Heslinga

    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.

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  • Brian Obits

    Brian has been a member of the Land Conservancy since supporting the North Ottawa Dunes project in 2005 and became a staff member in November 2010. Brian earned a BA in advertising from Michigan State University and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from GVSU. He has served with a variety of nonprofits including Big Brothers Big Sisters, the West Michigan Symphony, BoarsHead Theater, and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

    Brian is a resident and native of Spring Lake, where he enjoys fishing, hiking the dune trails, and kayaking on the Grand River bayous, and is an active musician.

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  • Colin Hoogerwerf

    Colin joined the Land Conservancy in December 2015 as the Communication Specialist where he uses his passion for writing and design to tell the story of conservation in West Michigan. Originally from Holland, he grew up with the sound of Lake Michigan waves nearby and an often visited woodlot next door.

    Colin studied English and Environmental Studies at Hope College and received his master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Prior to working at the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, he was the Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters focusing on clean energy issues. Outside of the office, Colin is often found reading, sailing or working in the basement woodshop.

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  • Diane Sampson

    Diane has been working for the Land Conservancy since January 2007. However, she has been volunteering with the organization since 2003, both in the office and in the field. She also participated in the seasonal work crew in 2004 and 2005 battling buckthorn in the Lamberton Lake Fen.

    Diane earned a master’s degree in hydrogeology from Washington State University in 1992. Working for environmental consulting firms brought her back to Michigan in 1993. After staying home with her kids for a few years and volunteering, she realized her interests had changed to a passion for land preservation and stewardship. She and her family live in the Rockford area and enjoy hiking, camping, and kayaking.

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  • Gretchen Mousel

    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.

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  • Andre Otte

    Andre grew up in West Michigan where he enjoyed hiking, camping, and relaxing in the many natural spaces nearby. In April 2017, he joined the Land Conservancy as Stewardship Specialist, allowing him to work to protect and promote the health of West Michigan’s natural areas that he enjoys.

    Andre completed a B.S. in Biology at Calvin College in 2016. While at Calvin, he worked with a local watershed group, which helped guide him to pursue a career in conservation. He originally worked with the Land Conservancy as a Stewardship Intern in the summer of 2016, eradicating invasive species and learning the ecology of West Michigan’s natural communities. In his free time, Andre is often found biking, fishing, or working on various projects around the house.

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  • Joe Engel
  • April Scholtz
  • Pete DeBoer
  • Justin Heslinga
  • Brian Obits
  • Colin Hoogerwerf
  • Diane Sampson
  • Gretchen Mousel
  • Andre Otte

Meet the Board of Directors

Frank Dunten, President
Suzanne DeVries-Zimmerman, Vice President
Bob Van Stright, Treasurer
Trish Taylor, Secretary
Cindy Ackerman
John Byl
Carl Erickson
Claire Guisfredi
Steve Heacock
Margaret Idema
Mike Julien
Dave Rinard
Clay Stauffer

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