Steve Barg, Executive Director
Before coming to JDCF in 2013, Steve lived and worked in northeastern Illinois nearly his entire life. Steve began his career in conservation in 1986 at the Heller Nature Center, serving first as a teaching naturalist, later as the center’s director. From 1998 to 2003, Steve served as the Director of Education for Lake Forest Open Lands Association, where he grew their environmental education program and helped open the Lockhart Family Nature Center. It was there that Steve became interested in the public benefits of private land conservation, and this led him to pursue work in non-profit land conservation and restoration.
Steve and his wife Susan have been married for 30 years. Susan is a licensed massage therapist and triathlete. They have a daughter, Hannah, and together they enjoy camping, canoeing, bicycling, and spending time with their golden retriever, Glenna.
Christie Trifone Millhouse, Associate Director
Christie Trifone Millhouse joined JDCF in 2007, coming to the Foundation with a flavored background and experience base, having offered service to Iowa DNR (Parks and Fisheries), Army Corp of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a Soil and Water Conservation District in Minnesota, and the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.
For JDCF, Christie develops and administers a plan that interacts and builds relationships with donors. She works to increase the assets of the Foundation by conducting special events, securing business partnerships, and acquiring in-kind gifts that meet the needs of the Foundation. Christie enjoys spending her spare time with her family and loves to hike, bike, camp, fish, garden, and bake goodies!
Jim Johannsen, Director of Land Conservation
In the summer of 2012, Jim Johannsen joined the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation as its new Land Protection Specialist and is now the Director of Land Preservation. Jim works with JDCF staff, volunteers, and local landowners to establish new protected natural areas and ensure that the natural and scenic treasures of Jo Daviess County are here to enjoy for generations to come. Jim graduated from Augustana College in 2011 with degrees in English and religion. Before coming to JDCF, Jim spent five years as an environmental educator at the Atwood Environmental Center. He later worked as Assistant to the Director at the Natural Land Institute in Rockford, Illinois, where he worked on conservation easements and other land protection projects. He is a founding board member and the first president of Friends of the Kishwaukee River, a citizens’ group dedicated to the preservation and safe use of the Kishwaukee River in Winnebago County. He enjoys reading, canoeing, writing, gardening, and spending time with his wife, Shea, and their dog, Peanut.
Deb Kelly, Director of Communications
Deb Kelly joined JDCF in early 2008 following many years with the Equine Land Conservation Resource as the Director of Equestrian Partnership. She oversees the production of all printed and electronic communications—newsletters, press releases, informational brochures, and specialized reports. She is also the administrator of this website. A graduate of Macalester College, Deb has lived in Jo Daviess County for 30 years. When not in the office, she teaches riding lessons for a variety of clients. She lives at home with her husband Mike, Patches the cat, basset hounds Rudy and Marilyn, and three horses. She also has a rescue donkey, Nacho.
Shauna McLane, Assistant Development Director
Shauna McLane, born and raised in Elizabeth, Illinois, joined the staff in the fall of 2012. After going to school and working in Wisconsin, she moved back to Elizabeth with her husband, Dustin, who is also originally from Elizabeth. She has worked for a wide range of businesses—from a small, family-owned general contractor to a nationwide food distributor. She started her career as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to finance manager of a government contractor. Shauna enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with her husband, their two children, and dog, Remi.
Jessica Carryer, Education & Outreach Manager
Jess came to JDCF in August of 2018 as the Outreach and Education Manager where she facilitates opportunities for people to grow an appreciation for their natural resources and the mission of JDCF. Prior to JDCF, she managed a team on a large CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in Minnesota, a career endeavor which was piqued by her experiences as an environmental educator. With a B.S. in Forestry, she has worked as an environmental educator for various government and non-profit organizations coast to coast. She is an avid kayaker and has moved to the area to be closer to her family in Iowa and favorite kayaking spots in the driftless region. Jess also enjoys watercolor painting, gardening, and exploring new areas.
Khushali Desai, Land Preservation Intern
Khushali Desai joined JDCF in January as our 2020 Land Preservation Intern. She will be primarily working with our land stewardship manager and the Invasive Species Strike Team on invasive plant management. She was born in India and has always been curious about conservation and today’s changing environment. Coming from a family of nature-enthusiasts, she wanted to pursue a career in finding innovative ways to conserve native lands. She did her M.S in Environmental Biology from University of Houston, TX. Khushali loves to read, hike, camp, and explore nature during her free time.
Aaron Hogate, Restoration Specialist
Aaron Hogate joined JDCF as a member of the Northwest Illinois Invasive Species Strike Team in June, 2020. “I am originally from New Jersey where I got to watch many natural areas I grew up become degraded or destroyed by mismanagement. After earning my degree in biology I worked with the Delaware Bay Shorebird project, protecting ecosystems that migratory shorebirds rely on. Following that, I worked with mosquito control before working with The Nature Conservancy in Indiana and South Dakota. ”
Tyler Hesselbacher, Park Maintenance Staff
Tyler was born and raised in Apple River on small family beef farm. He graduated from Warren High School in 2011 then went on to Highland Community College for 2 years and Northeast Iowa Community College for 1 year, both for engine repair. Tyler married Mallory, a small town girl from Stockton, in the fall of 2016. “I have always enjoyed being outside and working with my hands. The small family farm is a place I love to go even if its just to hangout with family or helping with chores. My hobbies include playing video games, doodling, spending time with my wife, and of course being at the farm.”
Colton Johnson, Restoration Specialist
Before joining JDCF in August 2018, Colton worked on several habitat restoration preserves throughout Illinois. He graduated from Eureka College with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and was born and raised in rural, central Illinois. During this time, Colton worked for The Nature Conservancy and developed his interest to work in the conservation field. As a member of the Invasive Species Strike Team, Colton will be working to manage plant species that are non-native and harmful to the habitat within Jo Daviess County. Colton enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting, reading, and playing sports in his free time.
Debbie Larys, Bookkeeper/Executive Assistant
Debbie Larys joined JDCF in 2020 as its Bookkeeper/Executive Assistant to the Director. Born and raised in Chicago, she moved to Jo Daviess County with her family in 2014. She has over a decade of previous experience working at a boutique law firm as an Office Manager/Legal Assistant. A lifelong student of history, and appreciator of nature and wide open spaces; Jo Daviess County has become her idyllic home. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family, upcycling, gardening, cooking, and tending to her backyard chickens.
Jake Pulfer, Land Stewardship Manager
In late 2018 Jake joined JDCF as its new Land Stewardship Manager. Jake works with JDCF staff and volunteers to oversee the management and restoration of our natural areas.
Jake graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a degree in Environmental Science, minor in ARCGIS, and technical emphasis in Land Resources. Before coming to JDCF Jake spent a summer with The Nature Conservancy working on invasive species within the Michigan sand dunes. He also spent a year working with the Institute for Regional Conservation in the Florida Keys and Guantanamo Bay Cuba. He also has a combined four years of working in Wisconsin with experienced gained from working with Integrated Restorations LLC and Quercus Land Stewardship Services LLC. Those four years have given Jake the experience necessary to confront the stewardship intricacies presented by the Driftless region.
He spends his free time camping, backpacking, hiking, fishing, and exploring with his partner, Bridget and their dog, Malcolm.
Ben Steffes, Valley of Eden Site Steward
Ben is proud to be a Jo Daviess county local. He has lived in the Elizabeth community his entire life. Ben’s has always had a love agriculture and nature, as a result being raised on the family centennial farm. He has experience managing and caring for both wildlife and domestic animals alike. Ben and his wife Danyel are raising their three children on the family farm which he was raised on. When he does have free time, you will find him spending it with his family. His favorite activates involve enjoying the outdoors with them.