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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Seeking a Director and Other Staff

The Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves’ initial board and volunteers are seeking a director and other staff. 

We’ve learned that some good candidates hadn’t heard the news.

The application deadline has been extended to February 15th. 
Please spread the word! An important institution is being born. 


To: potential staff of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves


Where we stand as an emerging organization


We’re eager to start hiring staff. We have only barely enough money in the bank to get started  (about $55,000). But if we can find people with spirit and determination, we believe that we together can build the substantial organization that’s needed.


We, the current volunteer board and leadership of the Friends, are looking for a few good people. Might you be one of them? If not, might you know a candidate – and help us by sharing this note with her or him? 


We’ve defined the roles of “director,” “administrator,” and “field rep” (see below). But we’re also telling people we’ll eagerly listen to what they have to offer.  


One of our many recent inspirations was a (zoom) meeting with Dwayne Estes, the leader who pulled together the Southeast Grasslands Initiative (SGI). Dwayne’s a hard-core conservationist and fine botanist; he started SGI in 2017 with little but determination, persistence, and being “on the ball.” SGI now has a staff of twelve and a focus on 24 states, including southern Illinois. They’re one of many partners we’d like to work with.


For another example, some of us helped start Friends of the Forest Preserves. When its Director came on in 2004, we had $20,000 in the bank. It now has a staff of more than thirty, mostly consisting of on-the-ground ecological restoration crews. We work with them. 


These two organizations are very different from what Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves deserves to be. But they’re an example of the growth we’ll need. 


Our board and advisors are vigorous, dedicated, and well-connected. We need staff to pitch in fully, as needed, to protect and restore quality to the 594 Illinois Nature Preserves – in every part of this big state.  


These are our draft “Job Descriptions.” Read them carefully, if you want to apply, but don’t let them limit you. 


Prairie, sedge meadow and fen at Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve

Who we are and what we do

Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves conserve the biodiversity of the most ecologically important prairies, savannas, woodlands and wetlands in the state by empowering volunteers, securing resources, and conducting education and policy initiatives. The growing Illinois Nature Preserves System thus far protects over 100,000 acres across nearly 600 sites. We provide on-the-ground stewardship, conservation advocacy, and support local land trusts and volunteer communities. We train volunteers in ecological restoration, invasive species control, prescribed burning, and promote collaboration with professional staff.

The Friends are ready to hire initial staff as soon as we can, given emerging resources. Staff will work closely with the Board and volunteers to grow the program, expand resources, and develop relationships with key stakeholders. We are looking for candidates with vision and strategy to take initiative to achieve results statewide while also building local community support. This is an opportunity for people with passion for biodiversity to work for ecological conservation and positive cultural change. 


·      Build a dedicated and effective statewide board

·      With INPC and IDNR staff, identify key areas for Friends to provide support

·      With the Board, lead strategic planning and program development

·      Empower local and regional leaders and communities

·      Coordinate consultants on fundraising and communications


Administrator (or assistant director or something)

·      Promote site stewardship kick-offs, restoration workdays, and other Friends events

·      Provide sites/volunteer groups with materials necessary for effective preserve management  

·      Celebrate preserves, preserve owners, and committed volunteers through mass media, social media and blog outlets

·      Coordinate contract work as needed


Field Representatives

·      Coordinate planning, outreach, and workdays at various Illinois Nature Preserves

·      Connect with volunteer communities to share restoration skills, ecological knowledge, and empower leadership

·      Contribute to the development of a strategy and organizational structure for taking these efforts statewide (e.g. possible regional chapters, county committees, etc.)  


Preferred qualifications

·      A passion for biodiversity conservation and empowering others

·      Demonstrated leadership skills. 

·      Excellent organizational skills

·      Ability to manage multiple projects with collaborators, stakeholders, and volunteers of all experience levels

·      Strong communication skills and problem-solving acumen 

·      Ability to promote the vision, listen, and bring people together. 


Full time? Part time? Salary?

These are all negotiable, depending on the needs and histories of the candidates. One possibility is that all staff start small and increase (rapidly?) with success and resources. Another possibility is that a strong candidate agrees to spend a month or so shopping around among possible funders and agrees to come on full time with a professional salary on the basis of commitments made by the board and contacts. 


Ornate Box Turtle at (unnamed) Nature Preserve

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to the Friends at In your cover letter, please try to address the questions raised in “Where we stand as an emerging organization” – above.


Background research, if you’d like …




Initial announcement or who we are and what we hope to achieve:


Our first Annual Report: 

Sample media:

For Nature Preserve photos, thanks to Michael Jeffords and Susan Post

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