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Love of nature remains strong through staffing changes

By Sarah Benal

In addition to critical ecosystem services, the HOP is a key connector for more than 60 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails along the Blue River. Photo by Magali Rojas.

In October Jill Erickson stepped down as Heartland Conservation Alliance's Executive Director. During her ten years with HCA Jill led the development of vital partnerships and projects to increase the health of the Blue River. Her accomplishments include the Blue River Report Card and Action Plan, the Midwest Regional Emmy Award-winning Blue River Documentary, and saving The HOP - 40 acres of oak hickory forest nestled on the bluffs overlooking the Blue River in south Kansas City.

Jill will continue her work in conservation in the Portland, Oregon area as the Division Manager for the Natural Systems Enhancement & Stewardship Division at Clean Water Services.

Sam Bennett has stepped in as HCA's interim director. Sam has a long history of serving on our Board and as an officer for the past two years. He has a Masters degree in Public Administration and 17 years working with the William T. Kemper Foundation which will provide him the expertise and leadership skills to ensure HCA is meeting its mission and fulfilling our commitments to funders and partners in the upcoming months. It was year of love for the Blue River and all the ways it connects us. We look forward to the future and conserving more critical natural areas like the Heartland Overlook Preserve, Municipal Farm, Blue Valley Park, Alex George Wetland and the Blue River Parkway.

Heartland Conservation Alliance purchased the Heartland Overlook Preserve at a public auction with help of a loan from The Conservation Fund. For the Partnership Summit this year, we set a tall goal of $22,000 – funds needed to meet our first major milestone in the capital campaign to save the Heartland Overlook Preserve. We are so excited to share that we soared past that goal because of generous donors and raised $23,500. We are in the home stretch to meet our goal to raise $250,000 for the HOP. This fall we invite you to join our efforts to reach our next milestone to save this very important forest. We need to raise $15,000 to establish a stewardship fund for the land. There are many demands – now more than ever – of your generosity, and we do not ask lightly. Please consider a gift of $50 to make your community a beautiful and bountiful landscape. Your gift will help us save the HOP and allow us to continue providing high quality, nature focused programs. Humans need nature, and we never realize how much we value these places until they are gone. Please consider a donation to ensure our work preserving and restoring natural areas may continue. Nature needs you just as much as you need nature. Nature keeps us healthy and whole. Nature is essential.

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