MNA to recognize volunteers and conservationists at October 17 ceremony

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Don’t miss out on MNA’s annual Volunteer and Donor Recognition Dinner on Oct. 17 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.

Guests will enjoy a delicious meal, jazz music and the presentation of awards to hard-working, dedicated individuals who do so much to protect Michigan’s natural heritage.

Tickets are $30. You can purchase tickets online through the MNA website or by contacting Danielle Cooke at or 866-223-2231.

The following awards will be presented during the celebration:

Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award

John Porter

John has been involved with MNA since 2003. As the steward for Green River and Cedar River nature sanctuaries in Antrim County, he went above and beyond on several projects, including purchasing the lumber for, and installing, two large sanctuary entrance signs, establishing trail markers, and leading field trips.

At Green River Nature Sanctuary, he assisted with invasive plant control efforts and management plan writing. He also embraced the challenge to locate the sanctuary’s boundaries, a complex project that included reaching out to neighbors and county officials, deciphering old survey maps, and employing a variety of measuring and navigational devices.

After he moved to Presque Isle, John continued to volunteer at both sanctuaries, but made sure there were new stewards established to take his place. Now, he assists with boundary and trail work at Peter Memorial Nature Sanctuary and volunteer days at Mystery Valley. He also stepped forward to become the first steward of the new Morris Bay Nature Sanctuary, and has already been out to map the sanctuary and mark boundaries.

Edward G. Voss Conservation Science Award

Dr. Dennis Albert

Dr. Dennis (Denny) Albert is a landscape and wetland ecologist and an assistant professor at Oregon State University in the Department of Horticulture. Throughout his career, Denny has helped educate the public on the importance of protecting Michigan’s natural heritage through his books and articles written for a general audience.

Denny has made outstanding contributions to conservation in Michigan and the Great Lakes region through field surveys, natural features inventories, ecoregional mapping, plant community classifications, and research into wetland ecology. His work has been instrumental in the identification and protection of more than 30 miles of Great Lakes shoreline as well as other environmentally sensitive areas.

Denny’s research focus began with the development of a statewide ecoregional classification for Michigan, and then expanded to multi-state collaboration with state and federal agencies in Minnesota and Wisconsin. As part of the ecoregional mapping of Michigan, he investigated original land survey notes and created a set of digital and paper maps of Michigan’s original vegetation, which provide the basis for conducting broad-scale land-use and vegetation change analyses.

As lead ecologist for the Michigan Heritage program, he developed state-wide plant community classifications and conducted state-wide inventories of the state’s plant communities, including savannas, wet prairies, old-growth forests, dunes, Great Lakes bedrock shorelines, and Great Lakes wetlands. The information from these studies was used for conservation, restoration, and acquisition purposes.

Volunteers of the Year

John Behnke

John is the steward at Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County and a very active volunteer. Since 2010, he has volunteered more than 130 hours. In addition to his work at Lakeville Swamp, John can often be found helping out at Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary in Macomb County and he is active leading hikes in the northern Lower Peninsula. He’s a great ambassador for MNA throughout the state of Michigan and his enthusiasm is outstanding.

Eugene Lidster

Eugene has been an MNA volunteer for over a decade. He is a member of MNA’s burn crew, helping with prescribed fires at sanctuaries throughout southern Michigan.  He is an active participant at MNA workdays, especially at Lefglen and Goose Creek nature sanctuaries in southeast Michigan. Eugene can be found out in the field even on some of the coldest days of the year. MNA’s stewardship team isn’t sure what we’d do without him!

Youth Volunteers of the Year

Tyler Grenzicki

Tyler completed a new boardwalk along the trail at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Fenton as part of his Eagle Scout project.

Emmet Harris

Emmet helped to re-route the trail and rebuild the boardwalk at Red Cedar River Plant Preserve in Ingham County.

Get your tickets today to celebrate with us! Purchase online or ontact the MNA office a 866-223-2231 or email 


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