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Land Conservancy Staff

Josh Balisteri

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Stewardship Director

Josh was born and raised in Western New York where his experiences hiking and camping in the region’s forests and waterways cultivated a deep passion for the outdoors and inspired him to pursue a career in land conservation. Josh obtained his B.S. in Natural Resources Management with a focus on protected area management, recreation resources, and ecological restoration from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. After graduating, he moved to Virginia Beach to work as an Ecologist with Ecology & Environment, Inc. where he participated in a wide array of environmental projects all over the country for clients like the US Navy, Army Core of Engineers, EPA, and a multitude of state agencies. Josh is passionate about land conservation, ecological restoration, and promoting stewardship through outdoor recreation. In his spare time he enjoys backpacking, photography, playing music, and exploring remote wilderness areas. Office telephone: (716) 687-1225 ext 128. Email: josh@wnylc.org

Rachel Chrostowski

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Farmland Protection Specialist

Rachel has a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from SUNY Geneseo; however, her education in earth science started at a much earlier age. She credits her geologist mother with her deep love of the natural environment, appreciation for open space, and strong conservation values. Before coming to work for the Land Conservancy in 2015, Rachel was a planner for nine years in Erie and Livingston Counties where she specialized in land use planning, smart growth, and the protection of agricultural lands. Rachel is excited to work with our region’s farmers to protect Western New York’s working lands and keep our agricultural heritage alive. 

Sarah Costlow

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Land Protection Specialist

Originally from Johnstown, PA, Sarah came to WNY in 2017 because she wanted to help protect the world's largest freshwater system, the Great Lakes! Sarah received her bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College and attended graduate school at the American University of Paris where she obtained a M.A. in Communication and Civil Society focused on environmental communication. After graduating, Sarah worked in advertising on sustainability campaigns and then as a translator, living in France for a few years, until she decided to return to the United States to get a master’s degree from Vermont Law School in environmental law and policy. Her graduate work focused on land use practices to protect water resources. Prior to coming to the Land Conservancy, Sarah worked as a program manager at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and before that was at the The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I). Sarah enjoys time spent with her partner, daughter, and pets, hiking and being outdoors. 

Erik Danielson

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Stewardship Coordinator 

Erik is always asking questions in an effort to understand the relationships between flora, fauna, geology, and society that drive Western New York’s rich and diverse ecosystems. With a background ranging from forestry and pasture management to recycling education with the NYC Compost Project, he began working as an ecological consultant in 2017, surveying plant communities across the northeast for clients starting with NYC-based WildMetro before shifting back towards his home region of Chautauqua County. Erik came on board with the Land Conservancy to assist with The Riverline project and branched out from there. He’s grateful to be able to do so much more as a part of this team in the service of conservation and education. 

Kara Frisina

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Communications & Development Manager 

Kara grew up in Olean, NY along the Allegheny River and is thrilled to be back in Western New York to help protect the beautiful places here. She received her B.S. in Visual Communication and her M.A. in Communication and Development both from Ohio University. Her graduate work focused on storytelling about growing food and lead her to travel across the country working on organic farms. She has worked in fundraising and communications positions for different nonprofits both in New York and Ohio. She loves creating art, hiking with her dog, and growing veggies, herbs, and cut flowers.

Molly Gadenz

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The Riverline Outreach Coordinator

Molly recently moved back to her hometown in Western New York after many years away and is thrilled to join the Land Conservancy team.  Molly got her Masters in Education from Suffolk University in Boston, MA and was a high school guidance counselor there for many years.  In 2012, she had the opportunity to move to London, UK and lived there for almost 10 years. It was a re-invention of sorts: she got involved with an environmental waterway charity called Thames21, first as a volunteer and eventually as an employee guiding their Training Program. She also co-founded a grassroots community group called the Lower Regents Coalition (LRC), a group that started with two people who wanted to "just get on with it” and clean up around their stretch of the Regents Canal in East London. The LRC ended up becoming a formidable stakeholder and community resource in the area, making ecological improvements to the canal and surrounding green spaces and running volunteer events and other opportunities for the public to join, experience why urban open spaces are so important, and help us get the work done. Molly’s passion is working with diverse groups of people and getting them excited about connecting to the natural environment. She also loves to hike, cook, knit, and spend time with family and friends.

Andrew Gaerte

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Director of Development and Communications

Andrew Gaerte brings a passion for the environment and conservation along with over a decade of professional philanthropic experience to his role as Director of Development and Communications. Prior to the joining the Land Conservancy team, Andrew spent over six years at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, most recently as the Associate Vice President, Gift Planning. There, he led a team responsible for business development and client service, acting as a philanthropic advisor to the many individuals, families, and nonprofits who have funds at the Community Foundation. He has his M.A. in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta.

 

Andrew serves on the boards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – WNY Chapter and the Western New York Planned Giving Consortium.  He is an active member of the Buffalo Ornithological Society.  In his free time, Andrew enjoys birding, fly-fishing, and hiking in Western New York with his wife and young daughter.

Michelle Jones

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Accounts Payable Clerk

Michelle was born and raised in Western New York. She has over twenty years of experience in Business and Finance. She enjoys hiking, fishing, gardening, and spending time with her family. She is excited to be a part of a great team in the non-profit sector.  

Kimberly Krywalski

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Director of Finance & Operations

Kimberly was born and raised in Western New York. She has a Bachelor’s in Business from SUNY Buffalo State College and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. She has spent close to two decades in various positions in Finance and enjoys the satisfaction gained in the non-profit sector. In her spare time, she enjoys reading as well as gardening, camping, hiking, and kayaking.  

Andrew Lance, Ph.D

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Restoration Ecologist

Andy’s passion for the outdoors began growing up in the beech-maple forests of northern Ohio.  He has a B.S. from Bethany College, a M.S. from the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, and a Ph.D. in Biology with a focus in Ecology and Evolution from Case Western Reserve University. His dissertation work focused on the development of best methods for urban reforestation projects with an emphasis on the role of soil fungi in tree establishment. This work led to multiple publications in the journal Restoration Ecology as well as publication in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Andy has previously taught biology and ecology courses at Lorain County Community College in Ohio and worked as a field botanist with Cleveland Metroparks. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his children Graham and Rosie, gardening, hiking, camping, and following the Cleveland Guardians.

Jeffrey Lebsack

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The Riverline Director 

Jeff’s connection to land and water comes from growing up on an irrigated farm on the front range of Northern Colorado. Jeff moved east to experience city life, and after growing tired of the noise and crowds of New York City, he moved to Pittsburgh where he obtained his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. From there, Jeff moved to Rochester, NY (his wife’s hometown) where he started his career in transportation planning with the Genesee Transportation Council, specializing in bicycle and pedestrian planning.  Jeff was appointed The Riverline Director in December 2021 after a 30-year career in transportation planning, traffic engineering, street design, and project management. Outside the office, Jeff enjoys any outdoor activity that involves hills or mountains, and is an unaccomplished cyclist, triathlete, skier, and hiker.

Cathleen Maine

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Deputy Director 

Though she's originally from Oneonta, NY, Cathleen most recently served as the Development Director of the Northeast Wilderness Trust in Montpelier, VT. During her nine years there, she had many roles from finance to development director, helping to grow the Trust's staff, capacity to execute on land protection projects, and revenue. To the Land Conservancy she brings over 30 years of nonprofit management experience, including extensive knowledge of organizational development, program management, grant writing and monitoring, fundraising, and financial management. When not spending time outdoors with her family, she can be found reading, baking, or making art. 

Marisa Riggi

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Executive Director 

Marisa was born in Rochester and grew up in Williamsville, New York. Marisa obtained a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo and attended graduate school at the University of Vermont where she obtained a M.S. in Natural Resources. After graduating, Marisa began working at the Northeast Wilderness Trust, where she worked for over 5 years to protect land in the Northern Forest region. Marisa moved home to Western New York in 2018 with her family to work at the Land Conservancy on making Western New York a more connected, and healthier place. Marisa is passionate about land conservation and wildlife, and enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and gardening in her spare time.

Marcus Rosten

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WNY Wildway Director 

As a Buffalo native, Marcus’ love for nature was instilled at an early age thanks to weekly walks with his grandmother at Stiglmeier Park and summers spent camping at Allegany State Park. Those green cabins inspired him to pursue a career outdoors and earn a degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Since graduating he’s served as an interpretive park ranger in our national parks and forests, led environmental education programs and stewardship projects with local non-profit organizations, and worked as a fish and wildlife technician conducting wildlife surveys and managing habitats for state and federal agencies. Marcus is a 30 Under 30 Awardee (2020) from the North American Association for Environmental Education and has been featured nationally in Scholastic News, the Nike Journal, NPR's BirdNote, and on PBS Nature. In his free time Marcus can be found birding and kayaking throughout the region, or performing with the GRAMMY Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. 

Kyle Semmel

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Communications Manager

Kyle grew up in Livingston County on 30 acres of land, where he learned to appreciate the beauty of nature by wandering the forest alone or with his siblings. Throughout his career, he has served in a variety of capacities in nonprofits, including as the Executive Director of a literary center. In addition to his work at the Land Conservancy, he’s a writer and literary translator (as K.E. Semmel) whose fiction, nonfiction, translations, and literary criticism have appeared in the Washington Post, Lithub, The Writer’s Chronicle, and World Literature Today, among other outlets. He has translated more than a dozen books from Danish or Norwegian, and he was a 2016 NEA Translation Fellow. In October 2023, his translation of Danish novelist Simon Fruelund's The World and Varvara will be published by Spuyten Duyvil; in fall 2024 SFWP will publish his debut novel, The Book of Losman.

Nancy Smith

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Senior Project Manager

Nancy’s work is focused primarily on urban forestry and the Ralph Wilson Park native plant project. She previously served as Executive Director from 2012 until 2023. During that time, the Land Conservancy protected more than 2,500 acres and 27 properties, including high-profile acquisitions such as the Stella Niagara Preserve in Lewiston, Mossy Point in Wales, and the College Lodge Forest near Fredonia. During her tenure, the Land Conservancy expanded its size and reach, growing from a staff of 3 full-time employees to sixteen, by embracing large-scale conservation projects. In the process, it became one of the largest and most respected environmental organizations in Western New York. She is recognized as a leader in Western New York and beyond. In 2021 and 2022, Buffalo Business First recognized her on its list of 200 Power Women in Western New York and in 2022 she was honored as one of West Herr’s Inspiring Women of Western New York. A mother of three grown children, she lives in East Aurora with her husband, Tom. 

Teresa Tokasz

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Natural Resource Specialist

Teresa's passion for conservation began with hiking and exploring the natural areas of Western New York at a young age. She holds a BS in Environmental Studies from the University at Buffalo and a BA in Public Communications from SUNY Buffalo State College. She has a background in education and naturalist work through many local organizations including Cornell Cooperative Extension, Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, and Earth Spirit. In 2022 Teresa served as a project manager for an ecological company based out of Western Massachusetts where her work focused on ecological restoration, invasive plant management, and easement monitoring. During this time she became a Certified Ecological Practitioner in Training through the Society of Ecological Restoration. Teresa considers community engagement and environmental education to be the basis of conservation work so that all can understand the importance of conserving our natural and agricultural areas. She is excited to return to Western New York to work with the Land Conservancy on the continued conservation of the local area. 

Kyra Umrigar

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Development Coordinator

Kyra grew up in Ithaca, NY in the Finger Lakes region exploring the woods in her neighborhood and learning about contemporary environmental issues.  At Cornell University she studied History and French, and minored in Climate Change. One summer, she worked on a farm that will soon be protected by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Through this experience, she learned about the importance of land conservation and the role of land trusts. After a year of serving with AmeriCorps in Gloucester, Massachusetts working with English learners, she was thrilled to find this opportunity with the Western New York Land Conservancy. In her free time, Kyra enjoys hiking, horseback riding, and hummingbird sightings. 

Angeline Woodworth

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Operations and Receivables Coordinator

Angeline was born in Santa Fe and spent part of her childhood in Houston, TX, but at a young age she moved with family back to the Western New York region. Some of her favorite memories are in Elma, NY where she grew up exploring in the woods, playing in creeks, apple picking, and helping her family with their flower and vegetable gardens. She has a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a minor in Psychology from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has worked for over a decade at community and mental health nonprofits. As a mom to three children and a practicing artist, children’s well-being, self-expression through the arts, and preserving and protecting our environment are all very important passions for her. 

Board of Directors

Kathy Bieler

President

Gail Wells

Vice President
 

Theresa Gaglione

Secretary
 

Beth Curtis

Treasurer

Steve Blabac

Jim Clark

Katie Costanzo

Deborah Fenn

Adam Francis

Ed Hutton

Laraine Kelley

John Owen

Bart Roberts

Emma Smalley

Kayla Stocking

Robert Townsley

Emeritus Board

Lyle Toohey

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