Kerry Leigh was the 2023 reicipient of the George and Barbara Fell Award and stands next to the award, an original painting of a natural area.

We want to send Kerry off to retirement with this fond farewell, expression of gratitute, and recognition for her passion and dedication to preserving natural resources the past 10 years as Exectuive Director of Natural Land Institute.

Today is Kerry Leigh’s last day as Executive Director of Natural Land Institute and we want to take this opportunity to thank her and recognize her for her vision, leadership, commitment, and hard work during the past 10 years.

In April the NLI Board of Trustees presented Kerry with the George and Barbara Fell Award. This award recognizes individuals for outstanding leadership in land conservation and is named after NLI’s founder, George B. Fell, and his wife Barbara, who dedicated their lives to the preservation of natural habitats in Illinois.

Leigh has served as NLI Executive Director since April 2013. During the past ten years, she has dedicated her work to protecting and restoring the natural communities of northern Illinois, including working with rare and globally impaired ecosystems.

Kerry Leigh grew up in DeKalb in her early years and has lived in more than 30 residences, seven countries and two US States. She attended six high schools in four years and completed all her higher education in Great Britain where she raised her family for many years before returning to Illinois in 1990. She has an MA in Landscape Architecture.

Before coming to NLI, Leigh worked regionally doing watershed planning, facility planning and wastewater reviews for the IEPA, and she participated in Great Lakes restoration work with other regional planning agencies and local government.

Preserved under her leadership at NLI include the William and Gayle Keefer Nature Reserve, Richard Conklin Preserve, Lost Flora Fen, the Rumage addition to Lost Flora Fen, Townsend Glade, Silver Creek Woods addition, Lind-McGeachie addition, Kenney addition to Lind-McGeachie, Devil’s Backbone addition, White Wood Ridge, Schlo-Mar and Addison Foss Farms, and 5 conservation easements.

Her creative approach to funding has created new sources of ongoing grants, which have funded land acquisition, stewardship staff and special projects. Leigh just completed six years as a board member of the Prairie State Conservation Coalition and serves as a consultant to the Illinois

Nature Preserves Commission, the IDNR Advisory Council, and helped coordinate the efforts to Save Bell Bowl Prairie. She will most be remembered for her passionate commitment to creative and  enhanced partnerships; for creating a collaborative work approach for impactful land protection, healthy soil, water and air; and for making land stewardship a priority for NLI.

Kerry will assist with the transition for new Executive Director, Alan Branhagen, and continue being involved with NLI as a volunteer.

Both Kerry and Alan will be at NLI’s fundraiser, Wine & Brew at the Wetland, tomorrow, July 15 at Nygren Wetland Preserve. If you go, wish her well and say hello to Alan as he begins his new role.

Congratulations Kerry, on receiving recognition for your land and water conservation efforts as the recipient of the 2023 George and Barbara Fell Award!

We wish you the best in your retirement!   

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