Hanni Muerdter

After graduating with an environmental studies and biology degree from Oberlin College in 2006, I knew I wanted to return to the mountains of Western North Carolina where I grew up.  My goal was to find some way to protect and support the resources of these special mountains -- not only are the Southern Appalachians scenically beautiful (a large driver of the local economy), but they have some of the richest concentrated biodiversity in the world and supply drinking water to millions of residents in the South.  They are also home.  I didn't know exactly how I was going to start on this desired path, but after I heard about AmeriCorps Project Conserve one spring day during my senior year, I knew it was the right fit.  

In fall of 2006 I began a Project Conserve position that was split between High Country Conservancy in Boone and Blue Ridge Forever, the coalition of Western North Carolina land trusts.  Through this AmeriCorps position, I was able to work with local landowners to help them protect their properties, as well as collaborate on large-scale conservation planning for the region.  I worked closely with land trust staff and professionals from across Western North Carolina and after my AmeriCorps term was over, I joined the staff of one of the Blue Ridge Forever partnership land trusts, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC).  For the past six and a half years, I have worked as SAHC's Stewardship & Conservation Planning Director.  I take care of the land SAHC protects through acquisitions and conservation easements.  Throughout my time at SAHC, I have had the pleasure to supervise and hike alongside ten AmeriCorps Project Conserve SAHC Stewardship Associates as we've worked together to take care of our conservation properties.   The quality of our Project Conserve members has been outstanding and they've been just all-around great people, to boot.

Project Conserve has been, and continues to be, an integral part of my professional life.  It started the path that allows me to help conserve the mountains I grew up in -- that, in itself, is pretty special.