Who We Are

 

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) is a nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization created by local residents in 1991 to preserve the natural, scenic, and historic landscapes in the nine counties of southwest Michigan.

Governed by a board of directors — representative of the nine-county region we serve — with a professional staff and many dedicated volunteers, SWMLC works with willing landowners to conserve their land.  Together, we protect endangered and threatened habitats and species, rural character and open space, agriculture and passive recreation, and the extraordinary vistas that give this region its distinctive character.

We are supported by members, foundations, governments, and organizations — all committed to conserving land.

For a list of our board of directors and staff, see below.


 

Board of Directors

2013-2014

George E. Burgoyne, Jr., President

Todd Sanford,  Vice-President

Mary Houser, Treasurer

Susan Houseman, Secretary

Jim Birkes

Brian Bosgraaf

Larry J. Case

Dave Coleman

W. Jack Keiser

Donna Perry Keller

Jennifer Lau

Robert L. O'Boyle

Betty Lee Ongley

Richard H. Shaw

Janice Varney

 



 
Staff

 

Executive Director - Peter D. Ter Louw, terlouw@swmlc.org
Peter has a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry from Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  He received a master of landscape architecture from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources, with an emphasis on ecological design and restoration.  After graduate school, Peter returned to his home in New Jersey and worked with the Passaic River Coalition, initiating and creating the land conservation and acquisition program.  Under his leadership as project manager and later as assistant executive director, this nonprofit watershed association secured over $2.5 million in government and foundation land acquisition grants.  Peter also worked with county and municipal governments to develop collaborative regional land protection and funding programs to protect fragile natural resources and open space.  Peter took over as executive director of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy in March 2002.  With the help of staff, a board of directors, and volunteers, he implements land conservation strategies in the nine counties of southwest Michigan.  Since coming on board in 2002, the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has protected over 12,000 acres through conservation easements and acquisitions that include wetlands, marshlands, prairies, and agriculture.

 

Director of Land Protection - Geoffrey D. Cripe, GCripe@swmlc.org

Geoff grew up in Goshen, Indiana, and is a 2004 graduate of Indiana University.  He holds a B.S. in Public Management from IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs with a focus in urban and regional planning.  Geoff worked in the Tidewater region of Virginia for three years as a land use planner but found his true calling while serving on a committee that administered a municipal agricultural and forestal preservation program.  His interest in land conservation prompted him to change careers and return to the Midwest to be closer to family. After initially volunteering for SWMLC, Geoff was hired in 2008, where he held the title of Land Protection Specialist through 2013.  Geoff loves to compose music (all genres) on his keyboard, explore Michigan on his road bike, and watch IU basketball.  He also serves on the City of Kalamazoo Planning Commission.  Geoff resides in Kalamazoo with his wife Sarah and son Lyndon.

 

Development Associate - C. Miko Dargitz, CMDargitz@swmlc.org
Miko grew up in Portage, Michigan, and after living in North Carolina, Washington, DC, and Hawaii, she returned to Michigan to raise her daughter in her hometown.  Miko has an undergraduate degree from Duke University and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a focus on Environmental and Land Use Planning.  Her work experience includes: Grants Writer and Midwest Program Associate at the Land Trust Alliance; Capital Improvement Program Specialist for the Hawaii State House of Representatives Finance Committee; and Legislative and Community Relations Coordinator for the Hawaii Community Development Authority.  Miko also has experience working with several Midwest consultants focused on conservation fundraising and community development and is in her 7th year on the City of Portage Planning Commission.  She loves, most of all, spending time with her daughter, Riley — playing in the garden, on the lake, or in the woods.  Miko and her daughter live in a cottage (with two dogs and one cat) on the same lake where she grew up.

 

Conservation and Stewardship Director - Nate Fuller, fuller@swmlc.org
Nate joined SWMLC as its first Stewardship Specialist in the summer of 2001.  He works with volunteers and seasonal staff to protect and enhance the diversity, stability, and beauty of SWMLC's preserves and other important natural areas in southwest Michigan.  Nate received his B.S. in biology from Northland College, an environmental liberal arts college in Ashland, Wisconsin.  He worked for several years as a naturalist and volunteer coordinator for Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor.  He has also worked in Chicago as an education program coordinator for The Nature Conservancy and as a volunteer for the North Branch Restoration Project.  Nate is a former board member of The Stewardship Network and current board member of the Natural Areas Association, Stewards of Kleinstuck, and Long Haul Productions.  He lives in Kalamazoo with his wife Erin and son Theo. They can often be found birding and botanizing at nearby natural areas.

 

Communications Director - Pamela Weaver Larson, PWLarson@swmlc.org
Born and raised in the Midwest, Pam moved to New Orleans after receiving her teaching degree in secondary education from Western Michigan University (French major, linguistics minor).  While she didn't pursue teaching in New Orleans, Pam put her writing, editing, and language skills to work for Kresge Hearing Research Laboratory scientific publications.  From there, she moved into advertising, marketing, public relations, public TV, and radio.  After 14 years in the Deep South, Pam returned to Kalamazoo and was hired in April 1997 as SWMLC's second full-time employee.  She creates the newsletter, Landscapes, and manages the website and social media.  Pam and her husband Lee are founding members of the Kalamazoo Area chapter of Wild Ones and are active in many local nature/environmental organizations as well as in their township of Oshtemo, where Lee serves as trustee .  They maintain their property as a Monarch Waystation and an NWF Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat and are restoring their four acres to native plants.  Pam is an Advanced Master Gardener through Michigan State University Extension and writes for national publications.

 

Stewardship Specialist - Mitch Lettow, lettow@swmlc.org
Mitch grew up on Pickerel Lake in Scotts, Michigan, where his time spent in the backyard and the water, with encouragement from his family, nurtured his fascination in nature. This fascination matured into a pursuit of a career in the field of ecology where he worked in both research and restoration for the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Michigan Wildflower Farm, Michigan State University, and the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.  At MSU Mitch received his B.S. in 2009 and his M.S. in 2013 in Environmental Biology/Zoology and Entomology, respectively. Being interested in diverse aspects of the natural world, like ornithology and botany, the emerging field of Restoration Ecology was an appealing way to roll all of these interests into one.  This allowed Mitch to get his hands dirty while making a satisfying and tangible difference for the natural communities he had come to love that face an increasing amount of environmental degradation.  He was thrilled to come back to SWMLC’s Stewardship Program in July 2013.  Mitch looks forward to restoring natural processes and biodiversity on the Conservancy’s many preserves, as well as learning from and working with many volunteers and community members who are critical to long-term stewardship and conservation. Mitch lives in Kalamazoo, where he can be found doing anything that gets him into the out-of-doors.

 

Conservation Easement Specialist - Cindy Mills, cmills@swmlc.org
A Portage native who grew up with what is now Celery Flats Interpretive Center as her ‘backyard playground,’ Cindy is delighted to be a part of SWMLC’s efforts to conserve the natural areas of Southwest Michigan. Her lifelong love of nature brought her to Western Michigan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology and agriculture, with an emphasis on environmental studies. Cindy returned to WMU to complete a master’s degree in biomedical science, and spent a number of years doing pharmaceutical research at Upjohn/Pharmacia/Pfizer. She is also currently working in a plant genetics/evolutionary biology lab at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station. Cindy has been actively involved with SWMLC for a number of years as a past member of the board of directors and as a member of the land protection team. She joined the staff in September of 2014 to manage the conservation easement monitoring program. Some of her responsibilities include planning and coordinating our annual monitoring of all easements, assisting with baseline documentation of easements, and supporting the land protection staff. Cindy lives on a few acres in Cooper Township with her husband Verne, who is a biology professor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Whenever Cindy isn’t out riding her horse, they spend free time gardening, hiking, fossil-hunting, and searching for agates and Petoskey stones along the shorelines of the Great Lakes.


Conservation Projects Manager - Emily E. Wilke, ewilke@swmlc.org 

Emily is a Michigan native and grew up on Grosse Ile.  She developed a passion for conservation while at Calvin College in Grand Rapids and through courses at AuSable Institute, majoring in biology with an environmental studies minor.  Emily worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in both Colorado and Michigan.  While working with the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, a project of the USFWS, she pursued a graduate degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment that focused on ecosystem management with an emphasis in conservation.  In August 2006, she received her master’s degree and shortly afterward was hired by SWMLC.  Emily and her husband Brook reside on a small farm in Barry County.  Brook has a Ph.D. in agroecology and works as the Farm Manager for the Kellogg Biological Station, while Emily runs the family farm and takes care of their two boys, Charlie and Wendell, and daughter Lily.