December 21, 2020|By The Conservation Fund| Support our Efforts

Celebrating a Legendary Conservation Pioneer

Peg Kohring, Senior Associate for The Conservation Fund’s Conservation Services Program, has focused the last 44 years on implementing conservation solutions that balance the environment and economic development. To kick-off our collective celebration of Peg’s accomplishments and inspirational spirit, we asked Clint Miller, the Fund's Midwest Project Director, to share his thoughts:

“In 1986 when I was just beginning my career in conservation, I took time off from school to work on a prescribed burn crew in western Minnesota. As we prepared one of the native prairie burns, a young woman with hair sticking out under her trucker cap, came rolling across the prairie on a tractor with the biggest grin I have ever seen. Peg Kohring was in her element!

I will never forget that first meeting with Peg. She was bursting with enthusiasm and encouragement, exuding her passion for conservation. She revved up our crew for the most complicated prescribed burn we had done to date. Not only did she dispense her burn expertise, she expertly described the benefits of using fire as a native prairie management tool.

Twenty years later, Peg and I reunited to work together again at The Conservation Fund. We had both grown in our careers, but I continued to learn from one of the Midwest’s most knowledgeable and successful conservationists. For the past decade I consistently run into agency and non-profit partners, landowners, and funders who fondly speak of Peg and her impressive work.

Peg helped change the map in the Midwest. Like the indelible image Peg left me back on that western Minnesota prairie, Peg has made her mark for thousands of Americans.”


Peg’s impressive conservation successes are legendary. Here are just a few of them:


Fighting Flooding and Climate Change in Milwaukee

In 2001, The Conservation Fund and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) launched a pioneering flood management program, Greenseams. Greenseams purchases land and conservation easements from willing landowners in the Milwaukee, Menomonee, Oak Creek and Root River watersheds, where major suburban growth is expected to occur. Photos taken in September 2019 by Ivan LaBianca. Photo by Ivan LaBianca.

For years, Milwaukee has dealt with chronic flooding events and diminished drinking water quality from agricultural run-off. Peg worked closely with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District, upstream farmers, agribusinesses, and many other partners on an innovative project to enhance water quality through land conservation. To date, this work has protected over 2,100 acres of open space and critical soils that serve as ‘natural sponges’ to prevent flooding events and improve water quality. This nature-based solution is more effective and less expensive than infrastructure that would require constant maintenance, with the added benefit of keeping agricultural lands in production.


Protecting Migratory Bird Habitat from Colorado to Ohio

12 21 20 34996528386 33c4af9f9b cPhoto by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr.

When the builders of a 639-mile section of a pipeline known as REX East realized their construction would impact vulnerable migratory bird habitats, Peg was put in charge of a major compensation fund. Her leadership led to the protection and restoration of over 17,300 acres of forest habitat and riparian corridors, giving countless Cerulean Warblers, Hooded Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers, Kentucky Warblers, Bewick’s Wrens and other forest-dwelling avian species permanent space to rest their wings.


Stopping Agricultural Fragmentation in Michigan

12 21 20 AnnArborGreenbelt StrategicConservationPlanning IvanLaBianca108Photo by Ivan LaBianca.

In 2003, the city of Ann Arbor was dealing with increasing fragmentation of agricultural land and open space as a result of development and sprawl. Ann Arbor residents overwhelmingly voted for a decades-long ‘Greenbelt’ property tax to acquire, manage and protect land inside and outside the city.

Peg led on individual property transactions and overall strategy for the Fund, leading to the protection of over 5,060 acres of farmland and open space and leveraging over $24 million through grants, donations, and other local programs since 2003.

For nearly two decades this project has helped conserve the scenic rural vistas of the area and support the local agricultural economy within the Huron River watershed.


Preventing Sewage Run-off with Rescued Pups

12 21 20 EcoliDogs Michigan ScottReynolds 003Photo by Scott Reynolds.

In 2016, 25 public beaches on Lake Michigan were closed to the public due to high bacteria levels. The popular white-sand beaches in southwest Michigan had unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria that had seeped into the watershed from public sewer systems and nearby homes with failing or no septic systems. Shutting down the beaches deprived residents of access to the beaches and deprived communities of valuable tourism revenue.

With Peg’s leadership, the Fund teamed with Southwest Michigan Planning Commission to systematically identify the E. coli problems with the help of specially trained dogs from Environmental Canine Services LLC. Capable of sniffing out the sources of E. coli faster and more accurately than traditional water testing methods, the furry, four-legged sleuths located 17 sources of sewage within two miles of popular beaches, leading to their re-opening.


Transporting Fresh Food in West Virginia

CSX Project provides increased access and funding for healthy foods for hundreds of children and families living below the poverty line in five of the West Virginia's lowest income counties: Calhoun, McDowell, Mingo, Roane and Wirt.Photo by Ezra Gregg.

Tens of millions of Americans have limited or no access to fresh produce, dairy, meats and seafood, due to limited financial resources, lack of transportation and other factors. Peg led an effort to address this challenge in West Virginia, where one in five children do not have reliable access to sufficient and healthy food. Teaming up with CSX, a leading supplier of rail-based freight transportation, the Fund helped improve food security for hundreds of children and families living below the poverty line in five of the state’s lowest income counties.

The partnership provided fresh food vouchers to children for redemption at local farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables and gave grants for food distributors to transport their food to markets and communities in need of fresh food.