Van Buren Conservation District

What is a Conservation District?

Michigan’s Conservation Districts are “unique” local units of State Government, established to carry out programs for conservation.  Conservation Districts utilize county, state, federal and private sector resources to assist people with the wise use and protection of the natural resources on their lands.

Conservation Districts continually scan the needs of their local communities, work in partnership with others involved in conservation to set local priorities, and develop action plans to solve natural resource problems. The delivery of these efforts by Conservation Districts allows citizens to manage their private lands for a cleaner, healthier Michigan.

The Van Buren Conservation District is governed by a locally elected, five-member Board of Directors. The Directors make decisions regarding the District’s programs and activities and hire qualified staff. The staff provide information, technical assistance, workshops, public education, cost-share opportunities, as well as affordable trees/shrubs to enhance wildlife and reforestation.

For more information about Michigan Conservation Districts, please visit the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts.

A Video of Where It All Began: The Dust Bowl

Click to access VBCD Annual Reports.

Employment & Volunteering

Employment Opportunities

The Van Buren Conservation District (VBCD) is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer. VBCD programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, age, height, weight, disability, genetic information, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. The VBCD collectively acknowledges that its offices and gatherings occupy the ancestral, traditional and contemporary Lands of the Council of the Three Fires – the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi, ceded in multiple historic treaties. Through this acknowledgement, we recognize, support and advocate for the sovereignty of Michigan’s twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, and for historic Indigenous communities and individuals. The VBCD is committed to our obligations to those communities. The process of knowing and acknowledging the land we stand on is a way of honoring and expressing gratitude for the ancestral people who stewarded this land before us and their descendants who steward this land today.

For additional Natural Resources career opportunities, please also continue to visit Michigan Association of Conservation Districts to see about Districts across Michigan.

Volunteer Opportunities

For more information or to get on our general volunteer list, email Keep up to date with our Calendar to see currently posted dates and times as well. 

Tree Seedling Wrapping
Typically done in early April at a farm in Hamilton Township

Shifts and a variety of tasks are available. Volunteers are needed prior to Tree Seedling Sale to help separate and wrap tree seedlings and prepare pre-orders for day-of-sale pick up. Let us know you are planning on attending; we provide food!

Tree Seedling Sales
Typically held the second Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in April at two locations each day: 

  • VBCD Office | 1035 E Michigan Ave. | Paw Paw, MI 49079
  • Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum | 903 S Bailey Ave. | South Haven, MI 49090

Volunteers are needed to help set up/tear down tables, organize trees, talk to customers about tree species, and assist with handing out pre-orders. If you cannot be there for the whole time slot, join us for part of it!

Stream Monitoring/Insect Collections
First Sunday in May and First Sunday in October each year | 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM | Lawrence River Park off of Paw Paw St. in Lawrence on the Paw Paw River.

Volunteers are needed to help collect aquatic insects in local waterways. Volunteers have the opportunity to be:

  • a “Collector” and wear waders to go into the water to collect insects with nets
  • a “Runner” that stays bank side and take nets and buckets from the “Collectors”
  • or a “Picker” who picks out any insects that are found in the river/stream and places them into a jar for later identification.

Each role is important and volunteers have the option of what they would like to do at the collection site. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary, Team Leaders are available at each site to assist volunteers. All materials and equipment necessary are provided.

Household Recycling Collections

Join us at one of our three Recycle Roundup Collections – typically held one Saturday in June in Paw Paw, one Saturday in August in South Haven, and one Saturday in October in Lawrence. Details available on our Recycling Collections webpage.

Volunteers are needed for setting up, directing traffic, checking in customers, and cleaning up. Volunteers will not be working with hazardous materials. If you cannot be there for the whole event, join us for part of it! 

To sign-up, email or call 269-633-9314.

Trail & Water Cleanups
Dates and Times Yet to be Determined

Volunteers can help with fun, community-based clean-ups (non-organic materials, trash/debris) in and along local rivers, streams, and creeks and trails.

For additional opportunities to canoe/kayak local waterways and help clean up, please check out Two Rivers Coalition.

Report sites or let us know you’re interested in a cleanup by emailing

Prescribed Burns
Dates and Times Yet to be Determined

18 years or older. Experience recommended but not necessary. Volunteers will assist in conducting a prescribed burn on ~30 acres of VBCD-owned grassland in Glendale, MI.

Volunteers can sign up for an “ACTIVE” roll using hand tools, torches, and water bags to help manage the burn, or a “SUPPORT” role focused on resupplying team members and maintaining communications and safety protocols. Long pants, sleeves, bandannas, and flame-resistant boots (more leather, less nylon) required. All clothing should be natural fiber (e.g. cotton, wool, etc.).

Office Duties

Volunteers are needed throughout the year to help with mailings, phone calls, filing, updating informational binders, etc.

Let us know you’re interested in helping by emailing

Meet Our Staff

Emilly Hickmott, Executive Director

Operations, Outreach, Office and Events Administration

Kim Sinclair, Administrator

Financial Reporting, Accounts Payable/Receivable, Office and Events Administration

Erin Fuller, Water Quality Project Manager

Grant Management, River Management, Data Analysis, Natural Shoreline Specialist, Native Plant Specialist, Bird Specialist, Community Outreach and Education, Website Technical Resource

Kyle Mead, Senior MAEAP Specialist

Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), Conservation Cover Crop Equipment Rental Management, Irrigation Specialist, Small Fruit Specialist, Farmer/Grower Resource

Colleen Forestieri, Senior Conservation Specialist

Grant Management, Data Analysis, Cover Crop Specialist, Agricultural Communication and Education Specialist, Farmer/Grower Resource

Alex Florian, CISMA Coordinator

Coordinator for SWxSW Corner Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), covering Berrien, Cass, Van Buren Counties. Invasive Species Management, Outreach, Education, and Coordination, Native Plant Specialist

Lucas Hartman, Conservation Technician

NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) Landowner Resource, Butterfield Drain and Haydon Woods Property Management, Wildlife Specialist, Hunter Resource

Abbie Bristol, Strike Team Coordinator

SWxSW Corner CISMA Strike Team Coordinator, Invasive Species Treatment Specialist, Outreach, Education, and Coordination, Native Plant Specialist

Jacob Diljak, Outreach Coordinator

Outreach, Financial, Office, and Events Support, Resource Recovery Support

Lia Will, Administrative Associate

Financial, Office, and Events Administration, Volunteer Services

Kalli Marshall, Recycling & Materials Management Coordinator


Resource Recovery & Recycling Management, Outreach, Education, and Coordination

Carlie Southland, Conservation Associate

Water Quality Project Support, Event Support 

Gabriel Francisco, Conservation Technician


NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) Landowner and Farm Bill Resource

Jena Johnson, Invasive Species Technician


Invasive Species Treatment & Survey and Crew Leadership

Seasonal Strike Team Crew

Seasonal Invasive Species Treatment

Patrick Gordon, Produce Safety Technician, Berrien County Conservation District

Safe Food Growing & Harvesting Practices Specialist,

Grower Resource covering Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren Counties

Board of Directors

Bill VanTassel

Jan Petersen

Carl Druskovich

Paulette Rybarski

Ron Klein

If you are interested in becoming a Board Director for the Van Buren Conservation District and are a resident of Van Buren County, please call 269-657-4030 x5 or email for a Nomination Petition.

At least 60 days prior to the District’s Annual Meeting (usually a July meeting), interested residents must file the Nomination Petition to run for the Conservation District Board. Petitions need be completed and returned to the VBCD Office (1035 E. Michigan Ave. Paw Paw, MI 49079) before this time. Candidates are placed on a ballot and publicly elected at the Conservation District’s Annual Meeting. The standard term length for Board Directors is four (4) years. For more information on how a Board Director serves the community, please contact the VBCD.

If you are interested in getting involved but not as a VBCD Board of Director, please consider joining the Van Buren Conservation District Foundation Board. You can learn more about the Foundation using the link above.

Click to access VBCD Board Meeting Minutes and Agendas.

Click to access VBCD Staff Board Reports and Financial Documents.


The Van Buren Conservation District could not excel at what we do without strong, knowledgeable partners. We are ever-grateful for the willingness of so many organizations and individuals who help conserve Van Buren County and beyond. Click on the logos below for more information about some of our partners.

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS)

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Michigan Conservation District Association (MACD)

Van Buren County

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR)

Michigan Department Agricultural and Rural Development (MDARD)

Michigan/Van Buren County Farm Bureau

Michigan State University Extension (MSUE)

National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD)

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC)

Southwest Michigan Planning Commission (SWMPC)

The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Two Rivers Coalition (TRC)


The Van Buren Conservation District could not excel at what we do without strong, knowledgeable municipality partners. We are ever-grateful for the willingness of those who help conserve Van Buren County and beyond. Click on the logos below for more information about some of our municipality partners.

Van Buren County Government

Almena Township

Antwerp Township

Arlington Township

Bangor Township

Bloomingdale Township

City of Bangor

City of Gobles

City of Hartford

City of South Haven

Columbia Township

Covert Township

Decatur Township

Geneva Township

Hamilton Township

Hartford Township

Keeler Township

Lawrence Township

Paw Paw Township

Pine Grove Township

Porter Township

South Haven Charter Township

Village of Bloomingdale

Village of Breedsville

Village of Decatur

Village of Lawrence

Village of Lawton

Village of Mattawan

Village of Paw Paw

Waverly Township

VBCD Foundation

Founded: January 1992

Mission: The Van Buren Conservation District Foundation serves to support the Van Buren Conservation District and all people in the promotion of effective conservation practices to protect and preserve our natural resources, human health, and the environment.

Board of Directors:

  • Kevin Haight, Chair
  • PJ Chmiel, Vice Chair
  • Lisa Phillips, Treasurer
  • AJ Brucks, Secretary
  • Fred Garrod, Trustee
  • Bryan Cronenwett, VBCD Board Representative Trustee (shared)
  • Carl Druskovich, VBCD Board Representative Trustee (shared)

Board Meetings: Open to the public. Meetings are held at the VBCD Office (1035 E. Michigan Ave. Paw Paw, MI). Please contact the VBCD by emailing or calling 269-657-4030×5 for more information.