By Roz Weis,
Devin Stortz gained a passion for the land when he was a youngster on his family’s farm near Highlandville.
His youth was spent hunting, hiking and fishing in the rural Decorah countryside.
The 2016 graduate of Decorah High School was recently awarded an Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) Living Lands Fellowship.
The son of Mitch and Amanda Stortz, he graduated from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science in 2020, and interned with the INHF as a Blufflands Land Steward. Upon graduation, he began to pursue a career in the natural resources field.
“I became interested in land conservation during my high school years,” Stortz said, “where I began to witness change in the environment around me. My passion for wildlife and outdoor recreation led me to this profession, and protecting native areas of Iowa for future generations helps give my life a purpose.”
The Living Lands Fellowship was established at INHF by Kathy Steege of Maynard and her late husband, Jon. The fellowship was designed to create an opportunity for college graduates to engage in stewardship work while searching for a permanent position in the conservation or natural resource management field.
As part of the fellowship, Stortz will divide his time between the INHF and the Fayette County Conservation (FCC), building a range of experiences to support him in his career.
“The Living Lands Fellowship allows me to spend two days a week working with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in northeast Iowa, and the following two days with the Fayette County Conservation District. This has been a great opportunity for me in terms of meeting new people and furthering my experience in the field,” Stortz said.
“One of the more exciting aspects of this fellowship is the ability to see multiple different properties and the conservation practices in place at each of them,” he continued. “I’ve been able to go from clearing oak savannas one day, collecting remnant prairie seed the next and clearing invasive species off of 100-year-old fens. The wide variety of conservation work I’ve been able to do between INHF and Fayette County will absolutely carry with me in my future with natural resources management.”
In announcing the award, INHF staff members applauded Stortz’s dedication to land stewardship.
“Devin’s enthusiasm, work ethic and personality make him a great fit for this fellowship,” said INHF Senior Land Stewardship and Blufflands Director Brian Fankhauser.
The Fellowship was made possible through a joint partnership between INHF, the FCC Board, Fayette County Pheasants Forever, the Steeges and other anonymous private donors.