Executive Director

Nancy Smith

Nancy’s passion for land protection stems from time spent in her childhood in the forests and streams of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where for many years her father directed the University of Virginia’s Biology Field Station.  Nancy has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Bates College and a Master’s degree Occupational Therapy from Virginia Commonwealth University.  While raising her three children she helped found the East Aurora Village Tree Board, the Explore & More Children’s Museum and Western New York Earth Day.  She opened the Western New York Office of the New York Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides before joining the Land Conservancy staff in 2004.  Nancy served as the Land Conservancy’s first Community Outreach Director, before transitioning to the role of Stewardship Director in 2010, and then Executive Director in 2012.

Deputy Executive Director

Jajean Rose-Burney

roseburneyJajean was born and raised in Western New York. He has a bachelor’s degree in environmental design and a master’s degree in urban planning, both from the University at Buffalo (UB). After graduating in 2007, he worked at the Urban Design Project, a research center at UB, on several local planning efforts, environmental coalition building, and non-profit development. As a graduate student, Jajean studied in the Sustainable Futures program in Costa Rica, and taught in the same program while working for the Urban Design Project. From 2010 to 2012 he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed with Mexico’s federal environmental agency in Puebla, a large city in southern Mexico, along with his wife Ana. There, he helped protect a large wetland from rapid and unplanned urban development, a project that led to an international Ramsar Site designation for the wetland and a new state park. This project won the 2013 International Planning Award from the American Planning Association (APA). Jajean has written numerous articles and books on environmental topics, leads bird and nature tours, and has worked with several environmental organizations.

Conservation Director

Marisa Riggi

Marisa was born in Rochester and grew up in Williamsville, New York. She realized her love of the outdoors when she was young and would have epic adventures exploring the Peanut Line Trail behind her family’s house. Marisa obtained a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo and moved to Vermont to attend 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 is very excited to move home to Western New York with her family (husband, daughter, two dogs, and a cat) to work at the Land Conservancy on making Western New York a greener, more connected, and healthier place. Marisa is passionate about land conservation and wildlife, and enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and gardening in her spare time.

Stewardship Director

Josh Balisteri

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.

Communications Director

Rachel Chrostowski

Rachel_PhotoRachel 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 over eight 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 share the Land Conservancy’s mission and Western New York’s most special places with the community.

Communications and Development Associate

Alicia Fahrner

Alicia spent her childhood on Grand Island playing in the woods near her subdivision where many hours were passed gazing into streams and catching frogs and snakes for fun. She is well-known amongst friends and loved ones as a passionate “tree-hugger.” This passion lead her to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, during which time she conducted research on invasive species, prescribed burns, and water quality. A firm believer in healthy human communities as well as environmental communities, she worked as a researcher for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC for a little over three years before starting with the Land Conservancy in June 2017. Alicia is thrilled to be working with the highly skilled and illustrious team at the Land Conservancy, and to provide much-needed project support.

Conservation Project Manager

Graham Tuttle, PhD

Graham’s childhood exploring the woods, fields, and creeks throughout western New York fostered his love of the natural world and his passion for environmental conservation. After earning a B.S. in Environmental Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, he worked for several non-profit conservation groups and federal agencies throughout the western U.S. In 2017, he earned a Ph.D. in Ecology from Colorado State University. For his dissertation research he studied the impacts and management of the invasive tree, Russian olive, on soils and plant communities in riparian ecosystems. In addition to studying and performing habitat restoration, he has taught Environmental Science and Conservation Biology college courses, most recently at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. Graham is excited to be returning to Western New York to help restore and protect the beautiful natural areas that will inspire future conservationists.

Office Manager

Liz Birardi

Liz BirardiLiz has lived in Western New York for more than 20 years. She enjoys spending time outdoors and has a keen interest in the condition of our natural spaces. She discovered the Western New York Land Conservancy through a friend, went on a hike at the Kenneglenn Nature Preserve, and became a volunteer. She took part in several volunteer activities including preparing the office space at Kenneglenn and going on monitoring visits before joining the Land Conservancy staff in November 2011. This work started with a temporary job reviewing the records and files, and led to her current position as part-time office manager in April 2012. Liz is an artist and is a member of the East Aurora Art Society. She is also a member of Enjoy the Journey Gallery and the Buffalo Society of Artists. Her art, while not being representational, reflects her experience of the outdoors and nature.


Priscilla Titus

Priscilla is an expert ecologist with experience throughout much of the United States. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Augusta State University and began her career at University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. With each new experience, Priscilla noticed the importance of the integrity of the plant communities in ecosystem function and wildlife support. This has kindled a lifelong interest in the restoration of damaged landscapes by returning local native plant communities to the landscape. Priscilla spends much of her time collecting seeds from native plants locally for use in the Land Conservancy’s restoration projects.