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Life Cycles

Goodbye, Emily Wilke!

Glass Creek on the 355-acre Schoneboom property, one of the lands protected by the Barry State Game Area Conservation Plan that Emily worked to create and implement. Photo, Peter Ter Louw.

Emily Wilke and I shared an office at SWMLC. We made it homey by filling its sunny windows with plants and putting pictures of nature and loved ones on the walls.

One wall was dominated by an enormous map, studded with colorful push pins representing protected properties in SWMLC’s 9-county service area. There were parts of Barry County that were so densely marked that not another pin could be crammed into the space! These were Emily’s areas of focus, and each of those pins represented the skill and passion that she brought to land protection.

I’m speaking in the past tense because, after 15 years of protecting habitat and helping families conserve the land they love, Emily is leaving SWMLC. Hired fresh out of graduate school in 2007, she has been with the organization for most of her adult life – and half of SWMLC’s existence. She is the main person that many people associate with SWMLC. Her patience, intelligence, and ability to talk with nearly anyone has earned well-deserved respect for her and for the organization. And she has accomplished a lot.

It’s an incredible body of work.

Emily Wilke

In the 15 years that Emily has been with SWMLC, she has conserved more than 7,000 acres (nearly 5,294 football fields!) of pristine headwaters, prime wildlife habitat, and beloved family legacies – which includes helping other organizations to conserve land, a testament to her commitment to nature above glory. She has also helped to bring over $6 million in grant funding to SWMLC!

And, she’s been a magnet for bringing conservation partners – government bodies, private organizations, landowners, and volunteer groups – together on projects. Emily has led collaborative conservation planning efforts for Prairieville Creek at the north end of Gull Lake, and brought together University of Michigan graduate students and over 40 conservation partners on the Kalamazoo River Watershed Land Conservation Plan. One of the most notable projects is the Barry State Game Area Conservation Plan, which, back in 2009, set the ambitious goal to protect 2,000 acres in and around the game area. Through Emily’s hard work and perseverance (and of course, our partners’ efforts, too), that goal is now within sight.

Though her passion for conservation remains strong, she also wants to spend more time with her family while her kids are still young, and pursue other interests that she just hasn’t had time to explore.

We’re really going to miss Emily’s expertise and experience – and her calm presence and hearty laugh. But we understand: just like one of those plants in our shared office, Emily has deepened her roots and grown new branches.

All the best to you, Emily!

Story, Amelia Hansen, SWMLC Communications Specialist

Story, Amelia Hansen, SWMLC Communications Specialist

Story, Amelia Hansen, SWMLC Communications Specialist