Dan Dineen, president of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT), said today that a nationwide search had been launched to hire a replacement for Shawn Graff, OWLT executive director, who has resigned to take a position as Great Lakes Regional director of the American Bird Conservancy.
Graff was executive director for 13 years and developed the two-county non-profit organization into one of the leading land trusts in the country.
Dineen said the trust had retained the services of Sara Wilson of Mayes Wilson Associates of Milwaukee to conduct the search.
He added that John Capelle, an OWLT board member and former community development director for the City of West Bend, had agreed to serve as interim executive director after Graff’s departure April 25 and until a permanent replacement is hired.
“We have a very effective staff in place at OWLT, so we expect our operations to continue in the interim in a sound manner,” he added. “Further, we have a strong board that will lend a hand and provide continuing oversight.”
During Graff’s tenure, the land trust grew from a two and half-person shop to a staff of six. It is accredited by the Land Trust Alliance and audited annually. More than 300 volunteers provide help for the fast growing trust.
It has protected 6000 acres in the two counties, including parcels that preserve sponge areas along the banks of the Milwaukee River and its tributaries and along the shore of Lake Michigan where its tracts serve as resting places for migratory birds.
Under Graff, the trust launched the initiative that created the Mequon Nature Preserve and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve north of Port Washington.
He served on the board of Gathering Waters, the umbrella organization for land trusts in Wisconsin.
“Shawn led us to major accomplishments, and we will always appreciate the leadership he provided. We wish him well in his new endeavor. Shawn leaves the organization in a great position to meet the challenges and opportunities that we have before us,” said Dineen.
Graff will continue to reside in Slinger as he takes on responsibilities in eight states for the bird conservancy. He has offered to provide counsel and volunteer support to OWLT whenever needed. When Graff began his stint as executive director in 2003 the land trust had protected just over 1900 acres including 8 owned properties and 19 conservation easements. Today OWLT protects nearly 6200 acres including 30 owned properties and 51 conservation easements.
The trust started in 1992 as the Ozaukee Land Trust and merged into Washington County to become the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust in 1998. It was honored as land trust of the year in Wisconsin by Gathering Waters in 2011.