Longtime environmentalist takes lead of conservation district

With a decade’s worth of experience in government administration — and nearly a lifetime’s worth in protecting the environment — the new director of the Cass County Conservation District appears to be well qualified for the position.

Korie Blyveis

Korie Blyveis

Late last month, Newberg Township Clerk and Cass County Parks board member Korie Blyveis took over leadership of the county environmental conservation agency, taking over the mantle from former director Justin Miller, who recently resigned in order to move out west with his family. Blyveis has worked alongside Miller to get up to speed on her new position, and begins her first full week of duty with the district this week.

Blyveis, who has served as clerk of the Cass County township since 2006, will work part time at the district. A longtime supporter of local environmental improvement efforts, Blyveis spent the past year volunteering with the agency before deciding to pursue the leadership position following the announcement of Miller’s depature, she said.

“It’s funny, because when I told people I was applying for the directorship everyone said, ‘hey, that’s right up your alley,” Blyveis said.

A self-proclaimed “tomboy” and native of Portage, Michigan, Blyveis grew up loving the outdoors, later developing a passion for science in middle school, she said. While attending school at Western Michigan University, she combined those two interests during her pursuit of environmental studies, which she later received her degree in, Blyveis said.

“I continue to be a studier of the environment, to do my best to contribute to the betterment of the Earth, because we all can make an impact,” Blyveis said.

Her passion for protecting the environment eventually led her to start her own business in downtown Kalamazoo, Whole Earth Products, which was one of the first stores in the city to sell recycled paper products, she said.

Shortly after closing the store in 1992, Blyveis began working for the Michigan State Extension Office, first as master composter at the Van Buren County branch and later as the resource recovery agent with the St. Joseph County office.

In more recent years, Blyveis has performed a lot of volunteer work with the county parks department, all while serving as clerk of Newberg Township. She is the founder and organizer of the annual Earth Day festivities at Lawless Park, and has also put together hikes and trail cleanup efforts at the Vandalia park grounds as well.

“All that background is coming together with this position [with the district],” Blyveis said. “Because of my depth of background, I should bring quite a lot to the district and will hopefully be able to meet my goal of making the district more active in the community.”

The new director plans to work out of the conservation district office Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, she said.

While still learning the ropes of the position, Blyveis has a lot on her plate, including overseeing the ongoing tree fundraiser, working on expanding the recently introduced stream monitoring program and resuming administration of the county’s Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control program, which has been handled the last several years by county drain commission, she said.

“Because of a lack of funding, the program has dwindled, and I would like to see it grow back to being a place where people can come for natural resource education and materials,” Blyveis said.

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