Who We Are

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.

Current Board of Directors, 2023

Bruce Grubb, Chair
Thomas Groos, Vice-Chair
Thomas Georgoff, Treasurer
TJ Wilkinson, Secretary

Robert Burr
Sharon Gill
Keto Gyekis
Jennifer Haywood
Natalie Jackson
John Lewandowski
Dathan Lumpkins
Brian Napp
Michael Nave
Amy O’Boyle
Earl Werner

Staff

Michael Larson

Michael Larson

President & Executive Director

mlarson@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 307

Deeply rooted in southwest Michigan, Mike has fond childhood memories of camping, hunting, and fishing at his grandparents’ cottages on Gun and Payne Lakes. He looks forward to blending his passion for nature with the experience and practical wisdom he gained while serving for more than two decades as President and CEO of United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region and Michigan Association of United Ways. “We tend to take advantage of Michigan’s beautiful natural resources while also taking them for granted. SWMLC’s mission to protect and care for nature so that it will be here for others in the future is so needed. I’m excited to be part of this organization and working with this great team!” Mike lives in Battle Creek with his wife Heather, two daughters Devon and Ava, and three lively German shorthairs – and may still be found pursuing outdoor interests with family and friends!

Dave Brown

Dave Brown

Stewardship Specialist

dbrown@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 303

Dave grew up in Parchment, north of Kalamazoo, and has been working and playing outside ever since! Many people will know him as Program Manager for Youth at Open Roads Bike Program, or from his years at the Kalamazoo Nature Center as a Naturalist and Facilities Manager. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management from Western Michigan University. Dave brings a ton of practical experience to his new job as Stewardship Specialist here at Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. The varied requirements of the job fit him just fine; in his own words, “I’ve led a program for toddlers, fixed a pond pump and conducted a prescribed fire all in the same day.” We will definitely find ways to utilize Dave of all trades here at SWMLC!

Emily Brown

Emily Brown

Land Protection Specialist

ebrown@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 301

Emily grew up in rural Allegan County and was drawn back to West Michigan after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a focus of conservation from the University of Michigan. Emily previously worked at the Allegan Conservation District where she helped farmers and landowners increase their soil health. Emily lives in Otsego now, where she enjoys gardening, hiking with her dog, Zora, and spending time outside and on the water as much as possible.

C. Miko Dargitz

C. Miko Dargitz

Development Director

CMDargitz@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 302

What crazy person spends 10 years in Hawaii and comes back to live in Michigan?! Miko does!! While she did love hiking Oahu’s lush, green nature trails, surfing daily in Waikiki, and eating all that incredible Asian-fusion food, the comfortable beauty of southwest Michigan called her home. Since returning to Michigan, Miko has been working to further the cause of conservation, first at the Land Trust Alliance, and now at Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. She is responsible for coordinating SWMLC’s outreach and fundraising efforts, and is thrilled to be implementing programs that help to introduce kids and families to SWMLC’s preserves, and begin to engage the next generation of nature-lovers and conservationists. Today, Miko enjoys taking daily nature walks at Chipman Preserve – experiencing firsthand the snowy peacefulness of winter, the promising buds of springtime, the lively buzz of birds and bugs in the summer, and the blazing colors of autumn. Most of all, Miko loves spending time with her own little budding conservationist  – her daughter, Riley, who has become one of SWMLC’s most prolific event photographers, and whose photos you can often see in SWMLC’s newsletter and website.

Amelia Hansen

Amelia Hansen

Media/Communications Specialist

alhansen@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 304

The daughter of a potter, Kalamazoo native Amelia Hansen wanted to be an artist (or a zookeeper) while growing up – and she got her wish, at least the artist part! She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Western Michigan University and worked for more than 25 years as an independent professional illustrator and designer, focusing on science and nature subjects. She also worked for many years as a Visual Scribe, literally drawing on the walls of Borgess Health’s Navigation Center. As a freelance illustrator, she collaborated with SWMLC on several creative projects before being hired as Media/Communications Specialist in 2015. Joining SWMLC’s staff has provided Amelia with a great opportunity for effective creative outreach within the conservation field. She and her husband live in an old farmhouse in rural Kalamazoo County where she continues her long quest to create decent paintings that communicate something meaningful.

Mitch Lettow

Mitch Lettow

Stewardship Director

lettow@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 305

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.

Cindy Mills

Cindy Mills

Conservation Easement Specialist

cmills@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 306

A Portage native who grew up with what is now Celery Flats Interpretive Center as her ‘backyard playground,’ Cindy has been a member of SWMLC since its inception and is delighted to be a part of SWMLC’s efforts to conserve the natural areas of Southwest Michigan. She has been actively involved with SWMLC for a number of years as a past board member and as a member of the land protection team, and 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 easement owners with questions and concerns, and updating of land protection documentation for federal requirements and Land Trust Alliance accreditation. Cindy enjoys dressage riding, hiking, WERQ, barre and yoga classes at the gym, and searching for agates and Petoskey stones along the shorelines of the Great Lakes.

Kaleigh Winkler

Kaleigh Winkler

Land Protection Director

kdwinkler@swmlc.org
269-324-1600, Ext. 311

Kaleigh grew up in northern Indiana as part of an outdoorsy family. The daughter of an environmental scientist, it’s not surprising that she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Hanover College, a private liberal arts college in southern Indiana. After graduating from college, Kaleigh conducted mist-net bat surveys for an environmental consulting company – then later surveyed breeding birds for Purdue University. She also worked for the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection where she managed Superfund cleanup and brownfield remediation projects that required outreach and working alongside landowners. Kaleigh enjoys running, backpacking, and kayaking and likes to spend down time hanging out with her husband and their teenage golden-lab mix, Quinn.