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Our History

A volunteer wearing gloves picking up dry foliage from the ground

Image courtesy of CAKE CISMA (TSN Spring Challenge 2023)

In the late 1990s, three friends and colleagues serving as stewardship professionals for different organizations compared notes and agreed that both the “small and localized” and “large and centralized” approaches to this work had serious flaws. Their goal became hybridizing these models for a new way forward that would harness the best of each extreme. Initial efforts led to the creation of the Huron River Watershed Volunteer Stewardship Network in 1998. What began then as small collective of influencers, activists, and environmentalists laid the foundation for the creation of The Stewardship Network in 2004 to increase collaboration between communities caring for local ecosystems. TSN would be a centralized, efficient resource connecting local stewardship groups together without taking over, providing for their needs and their development, ultimately keeping them in the office less and in the field more to do the vital work that is their true purpose. One of those original visionaries, Lisa Brush, remains TSN’s CEO to this day.

Group of Lake St. Clair CISMA volunteers gather leaves and sticks from a green foliage area
A yellow and black butterfly

Image courtesy of Lake St Clair CISMA (TSN Spring Challenge 2023)

In the decades since then, experience has hammered our unique organizational model into a potent and efficient engine of change that continues to grow in size and efficacy. While many hunkered down during the pandemic, TSN thrived, growing our staff, adding several new Member Communities, and vastly increasing our geographic reach. This is how you do stewardship at the scale we need without surrendering local passion and knowledge. The planet needs us to dramatically increase the flow of helpful human actions and with your support, we’re making it happen.
Young volunteer holds a potted tree
Green leaf

Image courtesy of Blue Heron Headwaters Conservancy (TSN Spring Challenge 2023)

Today, The Stewardship Network facilitates countless relationships across organizations and individuals, including community groups, government entities, non-profits, and businesses. At all levels, TSN is breaking down walls and building new lines of engagement that unite us in our common cause and leave behind the silos of the past. By creating channels to share knowledge, stories, and resources, The Stewardship Network is the dream of those three young stewardship professionals made real and a wealth of emerging solutions to some of our world’s most significant ecological challenges. We invite you to be a part of this, to join us and our Member Communities as we stand “TOGETHER FOR NATURE.”

Honors & Awards

Glass trophy award

Winner: Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award (2015)

Awarded By: The Natural Areas Association

Notes: A national honor “in recognition of excellence and achievement in managing the natural resources of reserves, parks, wilderness, and other protected areas.”

Preview of an article for the Scientific Symbiosis Award

Winner: Science and Practice of Ecology and Society Award (2013)

Awarded By: Foundation for Scientific Symbiosis

Notes: An international honor “given annually to the individual or organization that is the most effective in bringing transdisciplinary science of the interactions of ecology and society into practice.”

Michigan Natural Areas Councilmembers group

It remains a particular point of pride that when the celebrated Michigan Natural Areas Council (founded in 1946) gracefully ended operations in 2014, they named The Stewardship Network as their heirs and entrusted us to carry forward MNAC’s storied legacy. From their public announcement at the time:

Beginning as a Committee of the Michigan Botanical Club in the mid-1940’s, the Michigan Natural Areas Council spent its life urging the Michigan DNR to acquire, protect and well steward our State’s greatest natural areas and scenic sites. That work involved thousands of hours in the field and in the chambers of government, carrying detailed reports of our investigations on the natural features of many, many special places – now part of our great park system. We join with The Stewardship Network to rekindle the spirit and work of those pioneers, and call for renewed government action toward crafting a well-designed/well-managed system of natural areas public and private, large and small – throughout Michigan, a system fully representative of our great biodiversity.

TSN Wall of Memories

Dr. Sheila Scheuller

“My mission is to educate the next generation of stewards and academia can only take them part of the way.

The Stewardship Network gives my students real world opportunities and connections.”

– Dr. Sheila Scheuller

John Taylor

The Stewardship Network is all about connection. It connects our people, our places, our values.

Lands and waters are the center of it, but it’s the people connected to those that stick with me.”

– John Taylor

Melanie Manion

“I feel like The Stewardship Network is giving us our best chance and we can’t do it without them.

We have to have a community, a large network of people, and the scientists can’t do it alone.”

– Melanie Manion

This video from 2014 still rings true in the ways that matter most!

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