Area land conservancy seeks new leader, current executive director to retire in spring

By Larry Kodosky
Special to the Clarkston News
Blue Heron Headwaters Conservancy (BHHC) seeks a new Executive Director. The BHHC originated in 1972 as the nonprofit Independence Township Land Trust, one of the first land conservancies in Michigan. As the organization’s scope and service area expanded, it changed names to the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy in 1998 and the current Blue Heron Headwaters Conservancy in 2022.
Today the BHHC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that preserves 60 properties totaling over 1,550 acres.
According to BHHC Executive Director Sue Julian, “Our mission is to protect the land, water, and wildlife in the headwaters region of the Clinton, Shiawassee, Huron, and Flint rivers through preservation, stewardship, and education.”
The conservancy owns 20 of the properties it preserves, the other 40 properties are managed through conservation easements that protect the property from land development in collaboration with the private land owner. Some preserves contain nature trails and host guided tours. With five dedicated professional staff and more than 120 enthusiastic volunteers, the BHHC promotes community engagement to protect and care for natural areas.
One of the BHHC’s 2023 highlights included completing a capital campaign to purchase two properties near Davisburg with the appropriate habitat for the critically endangered Poweshiek Skipperling Butterfly. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that native populations of this once-widespread species are currently found in only a few locations in Michigan, Manitoba, Canada, and perhaps one in Wisconsin. BHHC is part of the International Powershiek Collaborative which is studying and breeding the butterflies in zoos. The BHHC hopes to release zoo-reared Powershiek skipperling butterflies at the Davisburg site to promote its recovery. The Oakland County Economic Planning and Development Services awarded its 2023 Oak Land Award to the BHHC for its dedication to preserving natural landscapes and promoting green infrastructure.
Sue Julian began her association with the BHHC as a volunteer in 2001 and has more than 50 years of experience in the nonprofit field. She has voluntarily served as the BHHC’s executive director since 2017 and plans to retire from that role this spring.
“We are committed to maintaining our current level of operations with likely additional growth”, said Julian. “This commitment and the recent expansion of our service area now require a full-time paid executive director.”
Although she’ll be stepping down as the BHHC’s executive director, Julian plans to remain with the group as a volunteer.
“I want to continue working on my primary passion, land acquisition and conservation easements, especially the potential to link multiple properties into conservation corridors. I love being outside and want future generations to enjoy the blue skies, green forests, and amazing wildlife”, she said.
The BHHC is hiring its next executive director this spring.
BHCC Board President Emily DuThinh said, “We seek a creative, organized, and collaborative team leader who enthusiastically promotes our land protection, stewardship, education, and outreach programs.” The BHHC executive director job description, employment responsibilities, and application process can be found on the organization’s website beginning March 1. Position applications will be accepted from March 1 for 60 days or until the position is filled.
The BHHC actively seeks public and private partners to help fulfill its mission.
“We are very grateful for donations of money and land and the time devoted by our volunteers, which enables us to provide public access and nature education,” said DuThinh. “We hope to expand our public and private partnerships further to protect more of our region’s natural landscapes so current and future generations can enjoy these undeveloped lands and learn about the many benefits of preserving natural habitats.”
More information about the BHHC and how to contribute to its mission can be found on its website.

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