“Outreach. Education. Partnership. That’s GARNA.”   – Mike Conlin, 2020 GARNA Environmental Hero Award for Stewardship

“The reason I dedicate so much time to GARNA is our commonality of purpose. What we’ve accomplished is important, but the reality is that if it doesn’t extend into the next generation, everything we’ve done could be lost,” says Mike Conlin, Coordinator for Lake County Open Space Initiative (LCOSI) since its inception 23 years ago. “One of the most impressive things about GARNA is their effective work passing on our conservation ethic to young people so they can take our work and perpetuate it.”

Known for demonstrating incredible leadership in land acquisition and conservation easement projects and for working closely with land trusts to secure funding for priority projects that provide long term protection of critical landscapes, habitats and the river corridor in the Upper Arkansas Valley, Mike has also played pivotal roles in the establishment of the Mineral Belt Trail, the successful nomination of the Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway, and the restoration of the Arkansas River, once considered an industrial sewer but now classified as a gold medal fishery.

His unwavering dedication to bettering the Upper Arkansas Valley, an incredible ability to build partnerships, this series of legacy accomplishments and his direct work with GARNA leading high school students through activities including site clean-ups, willow plantings, and bird and bat boxes make him the ideal recipient for GARNA’s 2020 Stewardship Award.

“There have been a number of awards that I have garnered over the years. All are important, but this one comes from an organization that exudes the basic values, the pillars of conservation that have formed my career, and that direct my life. It means a lot coming from this organization full of peers and people I respect for the conservation efforts that they have made over the years.”