Meet the Staff: Anna Kornoelje, Land Protection Specialist

Meet the Staff: Anna Kornoelje, Land Protection Specialist

When it comes to helping people protect, enjoy and care for nature in West Michigan, LCWM’s staff make it all happen. This post is part of a series of interviews to help you get to know our team members!

Introduce yourself! Share three fun facts about you. 

  1. One of my first jobs was mowing lawns for Grand Rapids Parks. I loved working outside and learning about nature so much that I eventually got my master’s degree in biology from GVSU. 
  2. I grew up in the suburbs of Grand Rapids with four brothers and sisters. Although there was not a lot of wilderness, there was a little swamp nearby that we all fell in, and my parents often took us to Aman Park or Blandford Nature Center to tire us out.
  3. When I was just starting out in conservation, my dream job was working for researchers to catch and band migratory birds. We would wake up at 4 a.m. to set our nets before sunrise and the stars in the wee hours were stunning. Our crews would camp for a couple of weeks at a time and come into town for a weekend to clean up and buy groceries. I worked all over the country and I lived in a tent or a truck for 5 years. I loved (almost) every minute of it! 

Anna Kornoelje

Describe your role at the Land Conservancy. 

I’ve been working as the Land Protection Specialist since July 2020, and my days can look very different depending on what I’m working on. Some days I’m knee deep in a wetland and some days I’m wrangling spreadsheets or drafting a conservation easement.  

I’ve kept an eye on what the Land Conservancy has accomplished over the years, and friends and colleagues always had glowing things to say about the LCWM. When a job opened up, right in my own hometown, I jumped at the chance to work with the LCWM. Land protection is a new challenge for me, I enjoy the larger scope of my work now, and being able to protect land for wildlife and people is so gratifying. 

One of my favorite parts of the job is working with Stewardship staff to monitor conservation easements and update our baseline reports. These are in-depth reports of the conditions of a property and include all kinds of cool information – soils, plants, wildlife. I appreciate learning about a family’s connection to the land and I love to put that together with the stories the land tells. I really enjoy drafting conservation easements too. It’s meticulous work and I like documenting all the reasons why we are partnering with a landowner to protect their property. Describing the natural features of the land in a legal document in order to protect that land is very rewarding. 

Why is conservation important to you?  

When I was young, my favorite place to be was up a tree. I spent a lot of time hiking around natural areas in West Michigan as a teenager and as I learned the names of plants and animals, they began to seem like friends and family. Now when I’m out and about, I’m always glad to see familiar faces of the plants and animals I encounter. I couldn’t imagine doing anything besides conservation work and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to care for and protect our extended family here in Michigan. 

What is your favorite part about working with LCWM?  

It is a pleasure to visit lands that are still healthy and whole. There are lots of pockets of wild land left and visiting a property with the intent of protecting it forever – now that is a really good feeling!  

What is your favorite natural area or habitat type?  

Wetlands of any kind are always interesting to me, but my favorites are the wetlands you find in the low spots between sand dunes. Great Lakes interdunal wetlands seem so magical and the interaction between quick draining sand and wetland plants is so interesting. 

What is your favorite West Michigan critter or plant?  

It’s awfully hard to choose, but I did spend three gorgeous summers on the beach in the U.P. monitoring piping plovers, an endangered shorebird. The beaches I walked were very quiet, especially in April and May, and I’d hardly ever see other people. When I did, I probably talked their ears off about plovers! Most days I would just sit quietly and watch the plovers go about their business of nesting and raising chicks. We spent a lot of time together, so I’d say I feel a pretty good connection with those cute little birds! 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?  

No but thanks for asking! 😊 

Land Conservancy
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