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Reader Spotlight 

Zachary with his wife, Moira, and son, Leo, on vacation in Moab, Utah

Every month we'll highlight a reader in the Great Lakes Bay region and learn more about them, their work, and their reading life. We'll also promote books and share a conversation related to a theme. This month we're highlighting Parks and Recreation Month. We're talking with Zach Branigan, executive director of the Saginaw Land Basin Conservancy (SLBC). He's an avid outdoorsman with a love of the region. Read on to learn about the SLBC and ways you can make a difference in your backyard.

Since July is Parks & Recreation month, what is your favorite outdoor activity? Favorite park (in GLB region or Michigan) Why? 

Hiking and taking photographs go hand in hand and are certainly my favorite way to spend time outdoors. It is a low-impact, high-benefit activity and sometimes you get a great shot for your wall! My favorite place to hike in our area is Midland City Forest. We have very few areas with natural trails in our region, but the City Forest in Midland has a huge network with miles of wonderful trails. My favorite place in Michigan to put some miles under my boots is Arcadia Dunes, an incredible property on Lake Michigan protected by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

Where did you get your love/passion for nature conservation? I have always enjoyed the outdoors, and I am certain I get a lot of that from my family, especially my dad. As far as my professional dedication to conservation, it grew over time in  my former career as an urban planner. Many of my client communities had been hiring me to help them enhance local regulations to protect the environment. This provided a great way to learn on the job and grow into a professional conservationist over time. 


Tell us about your role as executive director and intent of the organization. The job is one of many parts. You are a coach, manager, fundraiser, think-tank, helper, accountant, and consensus builder. I manage human resources, create online content for the organization, form partnerships, manage our board of directors, and serve as the final decision on many matters of operations and mission-related work. Mostly, I try to inspire the team as best I can. They are the real specialists and dedicated people that make the work happen. I believe the director’s job is to create a situation for them to be successful!

What do you wish people knew about SLBC? I wish they knew all about our 6,000 acres under protection, and that we have about a dozen nature preserves open to the public 365 days a year all across the Saginaw Bay Watershed. They can learn more at You’ll often have the place to yourself, and you’ll experience nature in our region in a whole new way. 

What is your big dream for the organization? My dream is that we can incubate a deep understanding and appreciation for the natural world, for active outdoor recreation, for the protection of wildlife, and more. We want to inspire others to venture out and enjoy all the benefits spending time in nature can bestow! 


Zachary in California

What is your proudest moment as executive director? The final completion of the Janet Nash Riverfront Preserve in Saginaw is hard to beat! (The preserve is located near Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy on Genessee Avenue, where Nash was principal for seven years.) It was a huge struggle with a huge reward at the end, and it solidified our reputation as a capable and trustworthy organization. 


What's your favorite book about nature? favorite book in general? My favorite nature book is definitely Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, but my favorite book of all time is a bit basic…it's The Hobbit by Tolkien for sure! 


If there was one thing individuals in the GLB region could do to help the environment, what would you recommend? Get outside and explore! If you learn and love the resource, you will help us protect it. The more we appreciate what we have, the more willingness we all would have to make sure it is here for our children and their children. 

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