Contact staff in the office at: 815/964-6666

Alan Branhagen

Executive Director

Alan's Bio

Alan Branhagen is the new (since July 15, 2023) Executive Director of the Natural Land Institute in Rockford, Illinois: one of the nation’s first land trusts and organization whose founder, George Fell, started the legally protected concept of nature preserves beginning with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission 60 years ago.  NLI has been responsible for protecting over 18,000 acres of natural land, mainly in Northern Illinois.

Alan was Director of Operations at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul (America’s 15th largest public botanical garden) from 2017-2023 where he managed Horticulture, Plant Curation, and Natural Resource Management of the 1,200-acre site as well as its over 200,000 square feet of Facilities.

From 1996-2017 Alan was Director of Horticulture at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden where he was in charge of all horticulture and site planning as well as resource management of the 915-acre site.

Alan’s career began at the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County in Rockford, Illinois where for almost a decade he was in charge of all forest preserves’ planning, development and management. He was part of the beginning of the Klehm Arboretum which launched his public horticulture career.  Alan’s career has come full circle back to Rockford.

Alan has a Bachelors of Landscape Architecture from Iowa State University and a Masters of Landscape Architecture from Louisiana State University.  He is an all-around plantsman and naturalist specializing in Birds, Butterflies, Botany, and planning and design with Nature.  He is the author of 3 books: The Gardeners Butterfly Book, Native Plants of the Midwest and The Midwest Native Plant Primer.

Jill Kennay

Assistant Director

Kim Johnsen

Director of Marketing and Membership

Zach Grycan

Director of Stewardship

Jessica Formea

Administrative Assistant

Laura Helmich

Laura Helmich

Field Biologist

Kent Wolfe

Facilities Maintenance Coordinator

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