Peg Kohring, Midwest Director, Conservation Fund
March 3, 2010
A bulldozer pushed Peg Kohring into conservation. Nearly 40 years ago, when Kohring was a teenager in southern Michigan, she worked for a botanic garden. Collecting plant seeds along the train tracks one summer afternoon, she came nose-to-nose with a bulldozer chewing up the dirt. “What are you doing, bulldozing my plants?” she scowled at the operator. His response: “What are you doing, trespassing?”
Kohring knew she had lost. But that brief exchange sparked a determined career of wins for conservation.
As The Conservation Fund’s Midwest director, Kohring works across the region, from farm to forest, open prairie to buzzing city. She and her colleagues help community leaders “sustainably protect the environment,” as she puts it, with conservation strategies that work both economically and environmentally. In Michigan alone, these efforts have saved 15,000 acres of farmland—a source of cherries, grapes, beans, blueberries, corn and tradition.
Kohring describes the Fund’s work as community-driven: “We don’t come with a conservation agenda, like many environmental groups. Instead, we sit down with the community leaders, civic leaders, and listen to what that community wants. It could be a free trail, a public park, a way to prevent flooding or a way to protect water quality. We’re the tools in the hands of communities, helping to make conservation happen.”
As an example, Kohring points to the Fund’s efforts to restore Michigan’s Galien River, which flows through farmland, a city park and neighborhoods before winding its way to Lake Michigan. Agricultural run-off and failing septic systems have polluted the Galien. Together, the Fund and our partners work with regional leaders to refine and a carry out a management plan to improve the river’s water quality.
“This project supports tourism in the area known as New Buffalo because people visit its beach and marina to enjoy the Galien," Kohring says. "Our work to restore the river keeps sediment out of the marina, offering cleaner water for recreation. So we gain environmentally and economically.”