Aspiring Conservationists Sought

Barbara Szul

The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC) currently seeks applications for a summer internship program that will give aspiring conservationists a hand-up to a career in the field.

Conservation Leader Internship Program or CLIP will run from June 1 through Aug. 12. It is a paid internship now in its second year. It targets populations who are “underrepresented in the conservation field,” according to TLC Executive Director Lisa Haderlein.

High school seniors and recent high school graduates, college freshmen and sophomores and college students taking a sabbatical from study can apply by emailing a resume and a letter of interest to TLC through Feb. 18. (More on this below.)

Kim Elsenbroek, CLIP’s co-director and a land conservation specialist, said her goal is for interns to walk away from the program “comfortable navigating the conservation field as a professional.”

“If you enjoy being outdoors and enjoy nature, working in the conservation field is a really good way to contribute to something you love,” Elsenbroek said.

Elsenbroek herself was drawn to the field after reporting on Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which was written in the 1960s about the negative effects of DDT and other pesticides on nature.

“It spoke of the forest being silenced by DDT, how (DDT) has a negative effect on insects all the way up to humans,” Elsenbroek said. “It tugged at my heartstrings, and I decided I wanted to do something for organisms that couldn’t talk for themselves.”

It’s that kind of passion that TLC reviewers will be looking for in applications.

Kristi Robinson, a CLIP graduate, said that “the program is really good for getting hands-on experience.” As an intern, she used a chainsaw to clear invasive brush, collected then spread native plant seeds, identified plants and used GIS, a geographic information system that helps conservationists map data such as species occurrences and ecosystem conditions.
Graduates from CLIP's debut year.Courtesy of The Land Conservancy of McHenry County

This year’s successful applicants can expect similar experiences. They also will learn about rare plant monitoring, prescribed fire techniques and sustainable farming methods. Insights about field safety and career development also will be offered.

TLC has the organizational background to cover such topics thoroughly.

For more than three decades, it has restored or protected oak savannas, prairies, farmland and water recharge areas.

According to Haderlein, TLC has preserved about 2,000 acres through private conservation easements (a legal tool that helps keep private property from being developed) and currently owns 18 conservation sites totaling more than 600 acres, some open to the public. It holds native plant sales in spring and fall, classes on chainsaw safety and oak-tree care annually and volunteer workdays that focus on restoration throughout the year.

As for CLIP, it is funded by donations from individuals and a grant from the Community Foundation of McHenry County. Robinson calls it “a non-traditional learning experience” and recalls visiting a multitude of sites, being outdoors most of the time, pulling a deer skull out of one bog and falling into another.

Elsenbroek said up to five internship spots will be available in 2022. Here’s more of what CLIP applicants need to know:

Top requirement: A love for the outdoors and the natural world.

Transportation: Reliable transportation is a must.

Housing: TLC prefers that interns have housing a drivable distance to its headquarters in Hennen Conservation Area, 4622 Dean St., Woodstock, IL. If needed, candidates can inquire about TLC’s limited housing options.

Successful CLIP candidates can expect: To work 40 hours per week sometimes in adverse weather and other times on rough terrain.

Experience: None necessary.

Pay: $14 per hour (or college credit).

How to apply: Email letters of interest and resumes to CLIP co-directors Kim Elsenbroek ( and Megan Oropeza (

CLIP webpage:

TLC website:

Questions: Email Kim Elsenbroek (


▪ To donate to The Land Conservancy and CLIP go to and look for the donation button at the bottom of the page.

▪ Not-For-Profit Resources, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping other nonprofits grow stronger, lists several ways you can volunteer for The Land Conservancy on its website. Just go to, click the tab for the “Volunteer Portal,” then click on “Agencies” to the left and search for The Land Conservancy by name.

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McHenry County, IL

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