Vaughn Maatman, Executive Director
Vaughn became the Land Conservancy’s executive director in February 2012. This position has allowed him to meld his passion for conservation, experience leading others, and talents building relationships with the community. A West Michigan native, Vaughn believes being in nature is vital to our health and helps us gain a healthy perspective on our own lives. He enjoys adventure vacations including backpacking and kayaking and can often be found biking with his wife and their friends near Holland.
Prior to joining the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Vaughn worked through the process of creating a conservation easement to protect 750 acres in the northern Lower Peninsula with a similar Michigan land trust. His prior executive director experience as well as his familiarity with West Michigan will help the Land Conservancy continue to grow. We look forward to many land protection projects to come under Vaughn’s leadership.
April Scholtz, Land Protection Director
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.
Pete DeBoer, Land Protection Coordinator
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.
Nealy Molhoek, Conservation Easement Specialist
Nealy began her work with the Land Conservancy as a volunteer and became a seasonal staff member as a Stewardship Crew Member, eradicating invasive plants on the lakeshore. She was hired as a conservation easement specialist in December 2010.
A native of West Olive, Nealy had the privilege of growing up on Lake Michigan. With the lake and the beach as her back yard (or front, depending on who you ask), Nealy developed a deep appreciation for both dune and forest ecosystems. Nealy has a dual degree in Natural Resource Management and History from Grand Valley State University, where she was a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society as well as a Science Olympiad and Trillium Haven Organic Farm volunteer. She is passionate about conservation on all levels and has made it both a profession and a way of life.
Jacqueline Bilello, Stewardship Coordinator
Inspired by rewarding experiences volunteering with conservation organizations in northern Michigan, Jacqueline recently returned to college to complete a B.S. degree in Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University and a M.P.S. in Conservation Biology at SUNY-ESF in New York. Her master studies focused on ways to help restore relationships between people and the lands and waters that support them.
After serving an AmeriCorps year of service with the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy Jacqueline has returned to Michigan to work as stewardship coordinator here at the Land Conservancy, where she is eager to put her experiences to work for the communities of West Michigan. Her favorite pastimes include hiking, kayaking and gardening. Jacqueline and her husband are avid beekeepers and share their home with a menagerie of pets.
Brian Obits, Development Officer
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.
Diane Sampson, Membership Coordinator
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.
She has a master’s degree in hydrogeology from Washington State University. Work in the environmental consulting field brought her back to Michigan in 1993. Diane worked on and managed environmental cleanup projects at various gas stations and car repair facilities around the Midwest. After staying home with two children for a few years and volunteering, she realized her interests had turned from cleaning up after development to preserving land from being developed.
Keri Amlotte, Communications Coordinator
Keri joined the Land Conservancy in 2012 as Communications Coordinator. A native of “Up North” Michigan, Keri is originally from Alpena where she grew up enjoying Lake Huron, the Thunder Bay River, and the forests and inland lakes of northern Michigan. She moved to West Michigan in 2004 to attend Grand Valley State University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations. Prior to joining the Land Conservancy, Keri spent seven years working in the marketing department at a Grand Rapids law firm.
Keri’s interest in protecting West Michigan’s environment and resources dovetails with her volunteer work with West Michigan Cooperative, a nonprofit online farmers market which supports sustainable agriculture and the local food system. She is a past member of the organization’s Board of Directors and past chair of the Community Relations Committee.
Gretchen Mousel, Accountant & Office Manager
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.