DNRP employee Kelly Heintz receives prestigious land conservation award

Pictured: Kelly Heintz with her husband Andrew and the Jim Ellis Spirit Award.

Kelly Heintz, a Natural Lands Planner with the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, was recently honored at the annual Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (MTSGT) Celebration Dinner as a long-time partner and advocate for public lands, conservation, and recreation in the region. The MTSGT leads and inspires action to conserve and enhance the landscape from Seattle across the Cascade Mountains to Central Washington, ensuring a long-term balance between people and nature.

The Jim Ellis Spirit Award recognizes Kelly for her work as a dedicated and effective open space and natural lands planner, both in her current position at King County Parks, and in her previous work at the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Kelly is a program/project manager in the Natural Lands and Open Space Section of the Parks Division. She secures grants and other funding to acquire high conservation value natural lands. She engages the community around stewardship, public access, and use of those lands.

“I have worked in land conservation and stewardship over the past 20 years at King County and Washington Department of Natural Resources,” Kelly said. ”Together with partners, stakeholders, and citizens we are conserving natural open spaces for wildlife, water quality, outdoor adventure, clean air, and future generations.”

“Collaboration between agencies, private entities, non-profit organizations, citizens, and others is a key element for getting this work done,” she added.

To be honored by the MTSGT is an important distinction in the work being done to conserve and protect natural lands throughout Washington. This award in particular is named after Jim Ellis, a long-time civic leader in the region, and founder of the Trust. Now in his 90s, Jim still plays an important role in local conservation efforts. He was profiled in Seattle Business Magazine and also in an online exhibit exploring WA State history.

“Jim Ellis is a tremendously well-regarded leader, so being given an award in his name is quite an honor,” explained Sarah Brandt, Open Space Government Relations Administrator with King County Parks. “This award recognizes the great work Kelly has done over her career to benefit public lands.”

The dinner, held at the Convention Center on November 28, recognized several King County employees and teams for their projects and programs. Kelly received the prestigious Jim Ellis Spirit Award, presented by Jim Ellis’s granddaughter, Hayley Goelzer, for her work with the Rattlesnake Mountain Land Conservation and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Initiative. Several other King County employees in attendance were also recognized for their projects and programs, including:

  • Monica Leers, King County Parks: East Lake Sammamish Trail and Zackuse Creek
  • Jean White, King County Parks: Snoqualmie Valley Trail Connections
  • Lizzie Jessup, King County Parks and Ryan Miller, King County Metro: Trailhead Direct
  • Alan Painter, Executive Office: Savor Snoqualmie Valley

Pictured: Kelly Heintz

“Together, we are leaving a legacy that makes a difference,” said Kelly. “I’m proud of our work together and commitment to the future.”

Kelly shares that this work can be challenging as the population continues to grow, property values increase, and land is developed. She shares how leaders in this field must be proactive and resourceful to identify lands that need to be conserved, secure the funding, and reach agreements with landowners.

“The good news is that King County and its partners are rising to the challenge with a new Land Conservation Initiative. It launched last year to preserve 65,000 acres of remaining vital and at-risk open space lands in King County within a generation, before the chance is lost to population growth and development pressure,” Kelly adds.

The work of Kelly, Jim Ellis, and others throughout our region will leave a legacy of lands conserved for future generations and protects our way of life in King County and the Pacific Northwest. This land is what makes our community a thriving, successful one, and relies on each of us to do our part.

“We are protecting the landscapes and habitat that increases our quality of life and is a big reason that people live, stay and play here,” Kelly said. “We are increasing public access to green spaces and making our region more resilient to climate change.”

“When I think of King County employees, I think about how everyone I know here is working to help our residents thrive. That’s why I feel lucky working for King County Parks and am excited that my work can support the Land Conservation Initiative and help to save the last, best places in King County.”

Congratulations to Kelly and other employees recognized at the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust Celebration Dinner! To learn about the Trust visit www.mtsgreenway.org. For information about how King County is preserving natural lands, protecting the environment, and being a leader in ecological stewardship visit the Water and Land Services Land Conservation webpage.