The TLC wants to help protect all natural areas in the Thumb. Because of the many variations of landscapes, soils, moisture, microclimate, influence of the Great Lakes, the Thumb has many different plant communities and species that depend on them. Of the many landscapes and plant communities, we are particularly interested in those areas most at-risk of loss, rare, or unique to the Thumb.

TLC Staff

William Collins - Executive Director

Bill Collins of the Brown City - Marlette area is a naturalist and botanist who grew up in the Port Huron area. He was a nature instructor at Silver Trails Scout Reservation summer camps from 1978 through 1986. He has an Associate of Science degree from Saint Clair County Community College and graduated from Michigan State University in 1987 with a dual Bachelors of Science degree in Botany and Natural Resources Development while also following the engineering program. From 1984 through 1986 he was a Program Assistant with the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in East Lansing, and later worked on various contract projects for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division. He is a Life Member of the Michigan Nature Association and explored natural areas for MNA in 1988 through 1990. Bill has worked as a professional wetland consultant and ecologist since 1990, employed 8 years as a botanist and project manager with SSOE, Inc., a large architectural and engineering firm in Troy, Michigan, and since 1998 with his own consulting firm, Huron Ecologic, LLC. In his capacity as a private consultant, he has encouraged and helped local governments and individuals preserve high quality natural areas. Bill and his wife, Cheryl, have been very active in promoting the protection of natural areas and rare species throughout the region, including Michigan Endangered Painted Trillium, a rare woodland wildflower that is now known only from Saint Clair County in all of Michigan.

TLC Executive Board

Cheryl Collins, President

Cheryl Collins of the Brown City - Marlette area formed the Thumb Land Conservancy in 2008. She has been at the forefront of natural area protection efforts in the region for nearly 20 years. Cheryl was on the board of directors of the Michigan Nature Association from 2003 through 2008, and co-founded the Macomb Land Conservancy in 2000 which has since merged with Oakland Land Conservancy to become Six Rivers Land Conservancy. In 2001 and 2002, she conducted a fundraising campaign as a volunteer on behalf of the Michigan Nature Association to purchase the Sharon Rose Leonatti Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Kimball Township, Saint Clair County, a 9-acre preserve with one of Michigan’s largest remaining populations of State Endangered Painted Trillium. Through a combination of grants and individual donations, she raised $57,000 in less than two years in her spare time. While on the board of the Michigan Nature Association, she developed funding sources that resulted in grant awards of nearly $500,000 for a statewide land acquisition campaign. Cheryl and her husband, Bill Collins, have worked together on many projects for Huron Ecologic , LLC since 1998. Cheryl served as Project Coordinator, providing assistance to several community groups trying to protect local natural areas across Michigan. She prepared, organized, and presented exhibits and testimony for three Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Contested Case Hearings and two Michigan Environmental Protection Act suits involving State and federally regulated wetland and other natural features. She provided information regarding the Michigan wetland regulatory program and wetland violation files to the Michigan Environmental Council and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. From 1996 through 1998, Cheryl was Assistant Drain Commissioner for Saint Clair County, working along side Drain Commissioner Fred Fuller, who promoted natural watershed management and river restoration. In 2006, she was a Project Assistant for the Sanilac County Economic Development Corporation. She obtained a grant to construct a rain garden in Lexington and worked with the Huron County Economic Development Corporation on a Michigan Department of Transportation plan to identify significant heritage highway features along M-25. From 2006 through 2009, she was the Chairperson of the Sanilac County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. She ran for Sanilac County Drain Commissioner in 2008. As a candidate of the Democratic Party, she received 38% of the vote in a solidly Republican county. Cheryl currently works as a drain inspector and assists with drain maintenance projects for the Saint Clair County Drain Commissioner.

Terry Gill - Treasurer and Secretary

Terry Gill of Greenwood has been Supervisor of Greenwood Township in Saint Clair County since 2004. Terry is a strong advocate for land preservation with over 20 years of volunteer experience in non-profit organizations. She is currently a member of the Saint Clair County Water Quality Board, Saint Clair County Farm Land Preservation Board, and Tri-Hospital EMS Board of Directors. For over 10 years, Terry has coordinated the Mill Creek Volunteer Monitoring Project, an aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling program to assess and monitor the water quality of the Mill Creek, a major tributary of the Black River. She obtained multiple grants to produce and submit an annual Mill Creek monitoring report to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Terry served as President of the Blue Water League of Women Voters and was the Natural Resources Chair for the Michigan League of Women Voters based in Lansing. As Natural Resources Chair, she represented the Michigan League of Women Voters on the board of the Michigan Environmental Council and obtained a grant from the Frey Foundation to produce and distribute a brochure entitled, “Keeping This Land Ours”, a citizen guide to protecting natural areas.

Traci Brown - Director

Traci Brown of Port Huron is a parent and works as a Secretary II for the Department of Exceptional Children in the Port Huron School District. She previously worked as a paralegal for an established legal firm in Port Huron. Traci serves as the Safety Coordinator and Fundraising Chair for Port Huron Little League. She has volunteered with several organizations such as Lakeshore Legal Aid based in Clinton Township, Macomb County, a not-for-profit law firm providing free civil legal services to low income people and seniors in the region. She served as President of the Parent Teacher Association at Crull Elementary School and was active in local educational programs for kindergarten through sixth grade children. She continues to volunteer her time to fundraise for several local programs. Traci and her family have long enjoyed the Thumb shoreline and are concerned about protecting recreational areas and other natural settings.

Daniel Rhein - Director

Dan Rhein of Port Huron grew up in China Township in Saint Clair County. He is a naturalist, wildlife expert, and a self-taught botanist possessing thorough knowledge of many obscure plant species, especially grasses and shrubs. Dan graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. For years, Dan has volunteered his time to provide nature education programs for the Blue Water Council Boy Scouts of America and local school children. Dan has long worked to promote natural areas in the Thumb, especially lakeplain prairie, wetlands, and aquatic habitats. He was a member of the Thumb Bioregional Alliance in the early 1990’s, which advocated for the protection of land along the Black River near the Port Huron State Game Area, and the Minden Bog in Sanilac County. He has led several tours through the Minden Bog, being quite familiar with the unique bog vegetation. Dan teaches an edible plants course for Willow Winds school of traditional skills and crafts near Mikado, Michigan. He has been active with the Saint Clair County Parks and Recreation Committee, advising them on park development plans. Dan works as a drain inspector for the Saint Clair County Drain Commissioner.

Kay Cumbow - Director

Kay Cumbow of the Brown City area is a long-time environmental advocate. For several years, she was a board member and Chair for Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, a statewide organization working to protect the health of our communities and the Great Lakes. She is now a member of their Education Committee. Kay also works with Blue Water Sierra Club in Saint Clair County, a Conservation Committee of the Southeast Michigan Group of the Sierra Club covering Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Saint Clair Counties. Since its inception in 1999, Kay has worked for the Mill Creek Volunteer Monitoring Project, an aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling program to assess and monitor the water quality of the Mill Creek. She volunteers with the Stream Leaders Program of Saint Clair County, which also monitors aquatic macroinvertebrates in streams, including the Black River watershed. Kay has an Associate of Arts degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College and an Associate of Science degree from Mott Community College. She is a certified respiratory technician.

Scott Ferguson - Director

Doctor Scott Ferguson grew up near the TLC Dead End Woods Sanctuary in Fort Gratiot Township and joined the TLC board in 2010. Doctor Ferguson has been in full-time dental practice since 1988, the year he earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Detroit. He is a member of the Thumb District Dental Society, the Michigan Dental Association, the American Dental Association, and the Port Huron Study Club, part of a nationwide network of affiliates under the Seattle Study Club. Doctor Ferguson has completed advanced training through the Misch Institute for Implant Training and is a Fellow in the International Congress of Oral Implantology. A Port Huron native and active supporter of many local associations, Scott lives in North Street with his wife Syeda and their son, Gabriel and daughter, Maya.

Dorothy Craig - Director

Dorothy Craig lives near the TLC Dead End Woods Sanctuary in Fort Gratiot Township and joined the TLC board in 2013. Dorothy has cared for animals her whole life and loves nature. Dorothy has encouraged and supported the work of the TLC since its formation in 2008.

Chris Walker - Director

Chris Walker grew up on a small farm near Croswell, where his parents instilled in him a near-reverent appreciation for the land and its natural inhabitants. Chris is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Communications and Journalism at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema and Photography from Southern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism from Central Michigan University. As a photography professor, he has fulfilled full-time teaching and research appointments at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama; Southern Indiana University, Evansville; and Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore. He has worked for several newspapers, including the Toledo Blade, where he and two coworkers earned a finalist spot in the Pulitzers, and has been published worldwide in numerous magazines, books, and journals. For 7 years, he was the Photography Columnist for Camping Life magazine. Chris is a naturalist and has a life-long interest in ecology, particularly through bird biology and stock nature photography. He was a Neotropical Migratory Research Technician for 2 years at Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Chris is an artist and journalist with deep concerns for social anthropology and our ever-changing environment.

TLC Committees

A variety of volunteer committees assist the TLC in fulfilling its mission. Committees are directed by the executive board, but meet and coordinate independently. Committee representatives meet with and report to the executive board as needed. TLC committees include:

Education Committee

– Directs program development and material production promoting nature and ecology education centered on TLC preserves and the Thumb in general.

Stewardship Committee

– Directs stewardship activities on TLC preserves and other lands.

Land Protection Committee

– Directs new TLC land protection efforts, including acquisitions, conservation easements, natural area registry, protection assistance, and other efforts.

Fundraising Committee

– Directs TLC fundraising efforts, including private donations, business donations, foundation grants, and promotional sales.

Promotions Committee

– Directs TLC promotional events and programs.

Youth Outreach Committee

– Directs TLC youth outreach efforts to encourage youth participation in land protection efforts and to provide youth-focused educational and activity opportunities

Donation Thank You