MNA Staff

Garret Johnson, Executive Director

Prior to joining MNA, Garret worked in Washington, DC, where, as director of federal affairs for the Pacific Forest Trust, he led a national coalition advocating for land protection incentives in federal climate and energy legislation. Garret has also held a number of positions with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). He served as senior business adviser for TNC’s global conservation strategies division, and as assistant state director for the Michigan chapter of TNC. In addition to his work in conservation, Garret is a past vice president of The Economic Alliance for Michigan and a former policy adviser for the Michigan House of Representatives.

Contact Garret by emailing gjohnson@michigannature.org.

Paul Steiner, Operations Director

With a Master’s degree in agricultural economics, and a specialization in environmental and natural resource economics, Paul is a real asset to MNA. He not only manages daily operations (including expenditures and accounts), but also recruits and manages the MNA team, thereby helping to ensure the highest quality protection of the environment.

A generalist when it comes to nature, he sees the bigger picture and prefers to focus his attention on overall health of ecosystems. When Paul goes out to a sanctuary, he is not usually thinking about a single species or habitat, but how they fit into the broader landscape.

When he’s not working with MNA, Paul is a former coach of the MSU fencing team and enjoys playing sports like basketball and volleyball. Paul and his wife, Aggie, live in Lansing with their daughter, Kate, and cat Sabre.

Contact Paul by emailing psteiner@michigannature.org.

Julie Stoneman, Director of Outreach and Education

Julie is our newest staff member with responsbilites in outreach, fundraising and education programming. She brings a wealth of experience to MNA as a conservationist and land trust professional, including eight years as the Executive Director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. Most recently, Julie was the Associate Director of Heart of the Lakes, Michigan's state association of land conservancies and their partners. Prior positions include senior staff positions in land use policy for both the Michigan Environmental Council and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Her life-long passion for conservation stems from exploring woods and waters as a kid and now whenever she can as an adult. She and her partner, Paul, live in Grand Ledge where they garden, watch backyard birds, hike nature preserves and plan their travels to remarkable places to learn more about the natural world.

Contact Julie by emailing jstoneman@michigannature.org.

Andrew Bacon, Director of Conservation

As the head of stewardship, Andy has a vitally important position at MNA: to ensure that all land entrusted to the organization is managed to promote ecological health and reflect our mission and goals. And he has the knowledge and experience to do the job, from a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife management to previous work as the director of stewardship programs at two other environmental organizations.

Passionate in his desire to conserve wildlife diversity and protect non-game wildlife, Andy always knew he would be involved in environmental work. From his days as a Boy Scout and time spent camping and fishing with his family, he discovered early in life where his interests lay.

Andy is delighted to be both living and working near Lansing, where it is easy to enjoy lunch with his wife and two young children and head home after work to watch sports. When not working on MNA stewardship projects, you will still find him outside.

Contact Andy by emailing abacon@michigannature.org.

Rachel Maranto, Stewardship Coordinator (Lower Peninsula)

Rachel is responsible for overseeing stewardship activities, volunteers, and staff at MNA's sanctuaries in the Lower Peninsula. She has been working for volunteer-focused conservation organizations in various capacities for her entire professional career, which has led her from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest and back again. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Rachel attended college at Indiana University, earning a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Biology. She fell in love with Michigan and the Great Lakes growing up spending summers on the beach in her dad's hometown of Harbert. Rachel currently lives in Grass Lake with her wife Ashley and their two cats, Zebu and Gil. Though she still considers herself a Hoosier at heart, she's happy to call Michigan home.

Contact Rachel by emailing rmaranto@michigannature.org.

Samantha Brodley, Regional Stewardship Organizer (Western Lower Peninsula)

Sam joins MNA with an eclectic background, pulling from experiences in natural resources management, environmental education, and volunteer management. After graduating from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor of science in natural resources management, she worked seasonally in Alaska and Alabama, eventually making her way back to Michigan during the summer of 2016. Most recently, she served as the 4-H Program Coordinator with MSU Extension in Oceana County. Sam is delighted to serve in the RSO (Western Lower Peninsula) position, where the skills she's acquired have the opportunity to converge and contribute to land stewardship and MNA's mission, at large.

Sam grew up in Mason, Michigan, and currently resides in Grand Rapids. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, adventures in the great outdoors, and the occasional hot yoga class.

Contact Sam by emailing sbrodley@michigannature.org.

Jack Flakne, Land Protection Specialist

Jack works diligently to ensure MNA complies with Land Trust Alliance standards by ensuring sound real estate transactions. He oversees the organization's continuing evolution of a sound land transaction process.

Jack brings over 13 years as a land professional to MNA.  His experience includes working as a title examiner, title abstractor, land agent, and senior landman on projects in 61 Michigan counties and six other states. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University’s School of Journalism.  He has studied Mandarin Chinese for ten years, written articles for various publications, hosted radio shows, and traveled the country attending sporting events.

A native of Minnesota, Jack makes his home in Laingsburg with his wife, their young daughter, and his American Staffordshire Terrier. His favorite things include hiking, old movies, and anything having to do with the National Football League.

Contact Jack by emailing jflakne@michigannature.org.

Natalie Kent-Norkowski, Land Protection Technician

In a new role after years of stewardship work, Natalie now works to update and manage the organization’s sanctuary and legal files. She is also responsible for the GIS mapping used in sanctuary management, acquisition, and communications projects. She has a bachelor's degree in zoology, which (together with her knowledge of MNA sanctuaries) has proven invaluable in her new role.

Monarch butterflies, pink lady’s slipper orchids, and tadpoles first captured Natalie’s interests as a child growing up in Grayling. A trip to study ecology in Kenya cemented her love of nature. These experiences provided Natalie with a new perspective on the importance of protecting the world’s natural places, and the need for public understanding of conservation.

Living near Lansing with her husband Travis, Natalie enjoys hiking, gardening, beekeeping, and working on various hobby farm projects in her downtime; her small flock of chickens continues to provide eggs for friends, family, and the local food bank.

Contact Natalie by emailing nkent@michigannature.org.

Jess Foxen, Outreach & Communications Coordinator

Jess promotes interest in MNA by maintaining and developing MNA's print and social media platforms. She holds a B.A. in Advertising and a B.A. in Communication from Michigan State University. Her project management and organizational skills combined with her experience working for advertising agencies and marketing companies develop MNA's fresh perspective.

Jess' interest in conservation stems from studying science and volunteering at various conservancies. She spends her free time hiking, traveling, and playing soccer.

Contact Jess by emailing jfoxen@michigannature.org.

Sherry Stewart, Member Services Coordinator

Sherry joined MNA to provide administrative and membership support on a daily basis. She has an associate degree in Business and possesses many years of experience providing executive support in the engineering and healthcare fields.

A native of Michigan, she has also lived in Arizona, North Carolina, and Alaska. Sherry lives in Bath with her husband, James, and enjoys traveling, long walks, and reading.

Contact Sherry by emailing sstewart@michigannature.org