About the Algoma Highlands Conservancy


Our mission is to conserve the unique beauty and ecological integrity of key areas within the Algoma Highlands region, creating sanctuaries that protect the ecological function and habitat requirements of many native plant and animal species. At the same time, we wish to encourage human access and visitation to these areas both for low impact recreational use and enhanced understanding and appreciation of the natural wonders of the highlands area. All those interested in bird watching, wildlife photography, silent sport recreation, or simply communing with nature to clear the mind and soothe the soul are encouraged to join us in our conservation efforts.

Board of Directors

Elisa Muto Elisa Muto (President)
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Elisa developed an appreciation of the landscape surrounding Sault Ste. Marie as a young girl and pursued her love of the outdoors through her work and education. Elisa earned her B.Sc. in Biology from Lake Superior State University in 2005 and a M.Sc. in Environmental Biology from the University of Guelph in 2008. She also holds an Ecosystem Management Technician diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College and an Integrated Resource Management Technologist diploma from Sault College. Elisa has a keen interest in conservation and environmental education. She is currently employed as a part-time faculty in the Natural Environment and Outdoor Studies Department at Sault College and is a sessional instructor in the Biology Department at Algoma University.
kara-webster11 Kara Webster (Vice President)
Sault Ste. Marie, ON Email Kara.Webster@Canada.ca 
Kara grew up in a southern Ontario oak woodlot and spent her formative years wandering the family property. That early natural history experience led to a career in Environmental Science. She first came to the Algoma Highlands in the summer of 2000 and then went on to complete her field work for her PhD in the area. Kara returned to Sault Ste. Marie in 2008 first working as a research scientist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and then joined the Canadian Forest Service in 2010. Her research interests are focused around forest soil ecology, biogeochemistry and hydrology. Kara is an avid outdoor enthusiast and enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing. Kara joined the AHC Board in 2014.
Bob Beggs Bob Beggs (Treasurer)
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Bob Beggs was elected to the Algoma Highlands Conservancy Board in December, 2011. Born in Southern Ontario, Bob has lived throughout Northern Ontario since 1978. He has both a Forest Technician Diploma and Bachelor of Science Degree (Forestry) from Lakehead University, and an MBA from York University. Bob has extensive management experience in the newsprint and lumber industries, is semi-retired, and currently teaches business and economics courses, part-time, at Algoma University. He enjoys canoeing, camping and hiking throughout the Algoma Region. Bob joined the AHC as he strongly believes in its core value of preserving our natural “jewels” for future generations to enjoy.
Laurie McBay Laurie McBay (Secretary)
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Laurie McBay is an enthusiastic cross country skier and hiker. She was on the executive of the Stokely Creek Ski Club for 5 years. As a practising physiotherapist for more than 30 years, she recognizes the importance of ongoing physical activity to achieve good physical and mental health. Therefore, Laurie feels it is very important to conserve land to give people the opportunity to enjoy silent sports in the outdoors and reconnect with the natural world. She appreciates the unique value of the Algoma Highlands and is pleased to support the goals and principles of the conservancy.
Lisa Venier Lisa Venier
Sault Ste. Marie, ON • Email Lisa.Venier@Canada.ca
Lisa moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 1996 to take a position as a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service. Her research focuses on the relationship of biodiversity to sustainable forest management. She enjoys many outdoor activities including backcountry and track skiing, snowshoeing and hockey in the winter and mountain biking, hiking, canoeing and road cycling in the summer. She is an active member of the Sault Cycling Club and has worked to make mountain biking more accessible in the Soo by planning and teaching introductory mountain bike workshops and developing signage and maps for local trails. She believes that people are happier when they spend more time outdoors especially in winter and so protecting and managing areas such as Stokely for accessible silent sport recreation is important. She joined the AHC board in 2008.
Douglas G. Pitt Douglas G. Pitt
Goulais River, ON • Email Doug.Pitt@Canada.ca
Dr. Douglas G. Pitt is an avid skier, kayaker, and hiker and has frequented Stokely and area since 1988. He first served as a technical advisor to the AHC in 1997, and became a Board member in 2000. Since March 2006, Doug has served as the AHC’s President. For the past 12 years, Doug has also helped keep Stokely skiers safe on the trails, serving as Patrol Leader and instructor for the Canadian Ski Patrol. Doug has an Honours BSc in Forestry (1984) from Lakehead University, and a Ph.D. in Forest Biometrics (1994) from Auburn University. During his career, he has worked as a forest manager and protection supervisor; he currently holds a position as Research Scientist with the Canadian Forest Service. His efforts have provided foresters with many practical tools for forest renewal, stand tending, and remote sensing applications in forest sampling.
Gaylen J. Byker Gaylen J. Byker
Grand Rapids, MI
Raised in Hudsonville, Michigan, Dr. Gaylen J. Byker earned a B.A. from Calvin College in interdisciplinary communications, both a master’s in world politics and a law degree from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania. At the age of 19, Byker interrupted his career at Calvin to earn a commission in the United States Army and serve as an artillery officer in Washington State and Vietnam, where he supervised 90 enlisted men in combat situations and was repeatedly decorated. Discharged with the rank of captain, he resumed his studies at Calvin, graduating in 1973. During that time, he and Susan (Lemmen) Byker, a 1971 Calvin graduate, served as resident directors. It was while at Calvin, Byker says, that he became interested in the Middle East, and he explored that interest more deeply at the University of Pennsylvania. While working on his Ph.D., Byker lived and taught in Beirut, Lebanon. Prior to returning to his alma mater in 1995 as President, Byker worked as a lawyer in Philadelphia, an investment banker in New York, and a partner in a natural gas firm in Houston. Gaylen and Susan Byker, who often frequented the Algoma Highlands and Stokely in the past, are the patriarch and matriarch respectively of the Byker-Phair family whom now own and operate the Stokely Creek Lodge. Together with their extended family, the Byker clan are once again frequent visitors to Stokely and the Algoma Highlands area.
kees-vanfrankenhuyzenahc-pic Kees van Frankenhuyzen
Sault Ste. Marie, ON 
Despite growing up in one of the most crowded places on earth, Kees acquired a deep appreciation for the natural world at an early age as the son of an enthusiastic entomologist and dedicated naturalist. His interest in insects and desire to protect the environment from wanton destruction lead him to pursue a graduate degree (1980) in Entomology and Environmental Toxicology at the University of Wageningen in Holland, followed by a degree (1985) in aquatic ecology at Simon Fraser University. He came to the Sault in 1985 to start a 31-year career in research on managing forest insect pests by using their natural diseases. Coming to the Sault and being able to explore its endless bounty of forests and waterways by foot, canoe, kayak, skis or bike was a dream come true, a dream he continues to live every day. Kees is happiest when he is outside roaming the woods and lakes, with King mountain and Lake Superior being his premier playgrounds.  He was on the AHC Board of Directors from 2005 to 2008, and now that he is retired, is looking forward to renewing his commitment to conserving the natural beauty that surrounds us.
Ian Phair Ian Phair
Grand Rapids, MI • Email ian@byker.com
Ian Phair is a managing member of Global Asset Management, LLC (GAM), a private investment firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. GAM’s primary focus is investing in start-up companies and projects. Ian has managed the day-to-day operations of GAM for the past 10 years. Prior to GAM, he worked for JP Morgan in New York City for 5 years in investment banking and trading for the energy sector. Ian received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University, where he studied economics. In addition to the board’s of GAM’s portfolio companies, Ian serves as a director for companies affiliated with WestHarbor Capital (a UK-based hedge fund) and the Christian Montessori School of Ann Arbor. Ian is also one of the owners of Stokely Creek Lodge.
Dieter K. Hohnke Dieter K. Hohnke
Ann Arbor, Mi • Email dhohnke@mac.com
Dr. Hohnke is an avid cross country skier (highlight: Vasa Loppet in Sweden) and a long distance cyclist (highlight: self contained 3- months mountain-bike tour along the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico). For their annual winter migration he and his wife Carol prefer extended stays in Ontario’s Goulais River on Lake Superior over any Florida beach. He is currently the President of the Stokely Creek Club and joined Board of the AHC in 2008. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania he worked for, and retired from, the Scientific Research Laboratories of Ford Motor Company. He considers the Algoma Highlands one of the premier cross-country ski terrains in North America and as such most deserving of, and ideally compatible with, the conservation promoted by the AHC.
Brian Anstess Brian Anstess
Heyden, ON
Brian Anstess is a lifelong resident of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma. He finds silent sport recreation in the Algoma Highlands to be a great diversion from work, and seeks to expose others to the many outdoor opportunities available in the area. The values of the Conservancy are much aligned with his personal principles, and he hopes to assist the AHC with conservation of these precious lands for his children and future generations. Brian is certified through the Ontario College of Teachers, and is currently employed as a Sessional Professor with the Natural Environment and Outdoor Studies Department at Sault College.
Richard Greenwood Richard Greenwood
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Rich’s lifelong love of the outdoors has been a primary influence in both his personal and professional life. He enjoys skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, sailing and managing his own woodlot. These activities have enabled him, his wife and two grown children to experience much of the beauty of Ontario, Canada and other parts of the world. He and his family reject the often prevailing attitude by loving winter as much as summer! After beginning his career with forest industry in Canada and Australia, Rich recently retired from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources following 33 years of progressive responsibility for the management of public forests. These responsibilities have included field planning and operational stewardship, the development and transfer of new technology, management of provincial R&D programs and several senior management positions with province-wide program responsibilities. When he retired, Rich was the senior executive responsible for legislation, policy and program direction associated with the protection and sustainable management of Ontario’s public forests. Rich has also represented Ontario and Canada on numerous national and international boards, delegations and committees, and volunteered at the community level. Rich is a graduate of the University of Toronto (BScF) and has been a Registered Professional Forester and member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry for over 30 years.

Algoma Highlands Conservancy Staff

facebook Jennifer Cross (Part time)
Sitka, AK • Email info@algomahighlandsconservancy.org
From 2009 to 2015, Jennifer played the duel role of Executive Director and Wildlife Biologist for the AHC.  Now living and working in Sitka Alaska, she remains connected to the AHC on a part-time basis providing support in various administrative, promotional and fund raising tasks.  She demonstrates her passion for preserving the ecological and recreational attributes of the Algoma Highlands through her continued commitment to assisting the AHC in any way she can.
Shannon Ramsay (Environmental Education Coordinator) Shannon Ramsay (Environmental Education Coordinator)
Goulais River, ON • Email shannon.ramsay@hotmail.com
Shannon Ramsay has played and worked in the great outdoors as much as possible throughout her life, and is passionate about sharing this love with others. She taught at Tawingo College, an independent, outdoor-education based school in Huntsville, Ontario for four years. There she could be found snowshoeing across frozen lakes, raising ducks and building quinzhees with students as often as instructing in the classroom. Shannon relocated to beautiful Sault Ste. Marie in 2006 and enjoyed teaching a variety of grade levels within the Algoma District School Board for four more years. Upon the arrival of her first son, she chose to stay at home with her children for several years to ensure the start of their lives were spent in the natural environment and involved plenty of physical activity.She lives in Sault Ste. Marie with her husband, two wild boys and their dog. She loves to be active in the outdoors with friends and family, whether it’s trail running, hiking, canoeing or mountain biking in the warmer months or snowshoeing, cross country or downhill skiing during the snowy season. She is very excited to be carrying on the great work done in the creation of the Environmental Education program with the Algoma Highlands Conservancy!
Sirpa Tarssanen (Volunteer Book Keeper)
Goulais River, ON
Sirpa is a finance professional (Certified General Accountant) with 25+ years of accounting/finance experience in the high technology and manufacturing sectors, in Ottawa Ontario. She was originally from Sault Ste. Marie and moved back from Ottawa near the end of 2011 to be closer to her aging parents and brother.