Our Mission

The West Michigan Conservation Network (WMCN) is a partnership of environmental groups, educational institutions, governmental organizations, and private citizens working together to conserve and enhance our natural communities. The ultimate goal of the West Michigan Network is a sustainable, healthy natural habitat, benefiting both the native organisms and the people of West Michigan.

We have organized our strategies and work into the three primary categories noted below, with the following outcomes and indicators for each:

Restoration and Management

  • Maintain and improve the ecosystem quality, function and resilience of a targeted group of sites within the WMCN service community.
  • Maintain and/or enhance the ecosystem services and recreational opportunities for the benefit of citizens throughout the WMCN region.
  • Strengthen the long-term success and effectiveness of restoration projects through complementary strategies.

Learning and Engagement

  • Provide the public with access to cohesive, aligned and unbiased educational opportunities and materials on topics of greatest conservation concern.
  • Provide all WMCN Partners with the opportunity to increase their organizational capacity and expertise through Network-coordinated trainings and tools.
  • Provide additional conservation-themed presentations and events for the benefit of the WMCN and its Partners, as needed.

Structure and Function

  • Ensure each WMCN member understand its responsibilities as a partner, its role in the organization, and the opportunities for participation in Network projects.
  • Ensure the format of Network communication, interaction, and function is maximally-inclusive and implemented with the fewest possible logistical impediments.
  • Ensure the Network’s data, finances, and progress toward desired outcomes is clear and made easily available to partners, stakeholders, and the public.

Our Team

Jessie Schulte

Lead, Structure and Function Committee

Jessie Schulte has been the Kent Conservation District Manager since 2016. Jessie Schulte has a BS in Resource Ecology from University of Michigan-Flint’s Earth and Resource Science Department and over 18 years of conservation experience gained from working all over the US from City Public Works to three National Parks.

Melanie Manion

Lead, Learning and Engagement Committee

Melanie started working for Ottawa County Parks in 2011 and is responsible for coordinating the protection, stewardship and restoration of natural resources on park properties and for the development of a comprehensive parks volunteer program. Melanie has a B.S. in Biology and Environmental Science and a M.S. in Conservation Biology from Central Michigan University

Natalie Bekins

Lead, Restoration and Management Committee

Natalie graduated with her Bachelors in Wildlife Biology from Grand Valley State in 2016 and received her Masters in Biology from Eastern Kentucky University in 2020. Natalie is the West Michigan CISMA Coordinator and is responsible for managing the variety of programs the West Michigan CISMA has to offer.

Steering Committee

Megan Boos
Ottawa Conservation District

Natalie Bekins
Habitat, Restoration and Management Lead

Kenny McMahon

Jessie Schulte
Structure and Function Lead

Carlos Calderon

Melanie Manion
Learning and Engagement Lead

Sue Aagaard
Michigan Master Gardeners