Friends of the Shawnee and the University of Illinois Extension plan 2021 partnership

The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest and University of Illinois Extension Coordinator, Kim Rohling are preparing to coordinate cleanup activities in the Shawnee National Forest. This partnership will prove instrumental in providing opportunities for individuals to become more involved in improving the health of the Forest and enhancing the experience of Shawnee National Forest visitors.

A follow up to our cost sharing agreement to survey the impact of nonnative invasive plant species.

This summer, the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, in partnership with the United States Forest Service, were awarded funds in a cost sharing agreement to survey the impact of nonnative invasive plant species (NNIS). Two of the seven designated Wilderness Areas in the Shawnee National Forest, Burden Falls and Bay Creek, were selected for this project.

Since then, the Forest Service’s GIS specialists met with contractors Caleb Grantham and Nick Seaton to start filtering through all the points and data that were collected throughout the field season. This includes infestation metrics and photos for many of the notable areas as well as the geologic features in the two wilderness areas. To make this more interactive, a virtual map has been created using photos from the 2020 summer field season. By following the attached link below, viewers can see firsthand the wilderness areas and scroll through the map to plan their own visits to the wilderness areas. As more progress is made throughout the next few months, we will continue to provide updates and ways to make this interactive.

See the photos related to the NNIS study here.

The Friends of the Shawnee National Forest is a nonprofit organization that supports the Shawnee National Forest by promoting land stewardship, environmental education and responsible outdoor recreation. December 29 marked the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the Friends Board, Founding Board member Pat York reflects on how it all began.

Tenth Anniversary Letter
Friends of the Shawnee National Forest

I am excited to participate in the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Friends of the Shawnee National Forest. Back in the early 2000’s, and probably prior to that, Shawnee National Forest visitors, partners, and volunteers would talk about making donations to protect trails and other valuable natural and heritage resources.

Many of my fellow employees were having similar discussions about connecting partners and volunteers to the Shawnee National Forest and public lands. When we asked the community, partners and volunteers if there was an interest in forming a Friends of the Shawnee National Forest not-for-profit group, there was a resounding YES!

The formation of a board of directors and elected officers led to the formalization of the organization and incorporation in December 2010. Volunteers from VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), assisted in setting up memberships, transferring the sale of interpretive merchandise to help fund the organization, leading trash blasts, trail work days, developing environmental education programs and much more.

Over these 10 years, there have been many board members, Executive Directors and other staff, and hundreds of members and volunteers keeping these programs going and serving as an effective organization that connects communities with the Shawnee National Forest.

Hundreds of volunteers have donated thousands of hours to protect resources, improve recreation and provide environmental education programs to families. Most importantly, hundreds or thousands of adults and kids have connected more meaningfully to nature through the efforts of Friends of the Shawnee National Forest.

As a retired Shawnee National Forest employee, former chair of Shawnee Friends, and proud member, I’m still very glad this organization provides us with a way to engage more deeply with the Shawnee National Forest. Please join me in showing support through membership or participating as a volunteer, partner or donor in 2021. Let’s show this organization how important it is to connect us and our children and grandchildren with our rich natural heritage within this Southern Illinois treasure.

Pat York
Public Information Officer
Retired Forest Service Recreation Program Manager and Forester
Co-founder and former Chair of the Board of the Directors for Friends of the Shawnee National Forest

Meet the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest Board

Tom Sadowski, Chair of the Board

At a very young age, Tom Sadowski, became aware of the beauty the natural world has to offer. He was fortunate enough to have parents who took family vacations that were nature centric. His academic endeavors pursued a passionate respect of nature. He completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Ecology and a Masters Degree in Botany. This later degree was completed under the tutelage of a renowned taxonomist who introduced hundreds of students to the gems of Southern Illinois. Many were found in the Shawnee National Forest.

Unable to find a career that afforded the luxury of being in nature while earning a living he pursued a career as a Forensic Scientist which provided the opportunity to put his academic training of the scientific method and reasoning to use. During his tenure as a Forensic Scientist, free time was spent experiencing the restorative powers that nature provides. As a retired person, he plans to spend even more time in nature with his wife, Shari, and to become a steward of nature.

Steve Melville, Board Member

Steve Melville (and his wife Tara) own and operate Rim Rocks Dogwood Cabins in the Eastern Shawnee. Steve is passionate about his civic duty of taking care of the Shawnee and has organized trash clean ups and trail maintenance work in the area while also promoting economic growth of the area through tourism with his work on several committee’s including being a board member of Southernmost Illinois Tourism.

Steve was born and raised in Saint Louis and has always been an outdoor enthusiast and avid traveler.

 Having visited most of the parks in the Midwest and many National Parks (with a goal to visit them all), he fully understands how amazing it is to call the Shawnee National Forest home. Steve has two teenage daughters; Loren and Katie who both share his passion for the outdoors.

Aur Beck, Board Member

Aur ‘da energy mon’ Beck is an energy efficiency advocate and is triple NABCEP Certified with his company, Advanced Energy Solutions ( ) installing solar since 1999. He is a founder and on the board of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association ( ).

 He has a weekly radio talk show, “Your Community Spirit,” ( ) but he would like to be known mostly for Oil Addicts Anonymous International (a real 12 step program), For fun he cooks, dances salsa and volunteers with Rotary.

Pat Jones, Board Member

Pat moved to Southern Illinois in 1998 from Texas.  He earned a Master of Arts in Mass Communication and Media at Southern Illinois University in 2004.  In 2014, he became the marketing and publicity coordinator at SIU’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. Pat has a passion for the Shawnee National Forest and the great outdoors.  An avid hiker and photographer, among some of his favorite places in the Shawnee are Garden of the Gods, Kincaid Lake, Little Grand Canyon and Snake Road.

Linda Ober, Board Member

Linda has been a member of the board since March of 2018. She studied foreign languages and literature at University of Massachusetts-Boston and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She has worked in diverse employment situations, has owned two businesses, and has been retired since 2007. 

Having built her home on property surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest in 1978 with her husband of 47 years, she appreciates and has taken advantage of the gifts the forest offers, having hiked numerous trails and ridden her horses there. She can think of no better way to give back than to offer some assistance in whatever manner she can to help promote the goals of the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest.

Shawn Gossman, Board Member

Shawn Gossman is better known as Hiking with Shawn which is a YouTube and social media persona that he created when he started filming and shooting photography around his hiking, biking and outdoor adventures in and around the Shawnee National Forest. Shawn is an advocate of tourism and conservancy gripping onto the Natural Resources in southern Illinois is what can save southern Illinois. Shawn joined the Friends because he believes in making the Shawnee National Forest better for everyone who wants to enjoy it.

Shawn is also a board member of the River to River Trail Society and Friends of the Cache River Watershed. Shawn was born and raised in southern Illinois and currently lives in the country around the Pope-Massac county border. Shawn is a double master degree holder with an MBA and a Master of Emergency Management & Public Health. Shawn is a QA specialist for a medium voltage cable manufacturing company.

Amelia Ketzle – Student Board Member

Amelia grew up in Carbondale and is a regular hiker and cyclist through the Shawnee National Forest.  She cares deeply about this region’s economic and environmental health, and the Shawnee National Forest is a critical part of that.  She’s a graduate student at Southern Illinois University in the MBA program and has worked in nonprofit fundraising support for 15 years in various roles at the SIU Foundation.

Susan Logue – Former Board Member and Chair

Susan grew up in Southern Illinois enjoying life in the outdoors in and around the Shawnee National Forest.  She has spent countless hours hiking and camping in the Forest.  She worked at SIU for over 34 years as a student worker, civil service employee, faculty member, Associate Dean for Library Support Services, and spent the last five years before retirement as Associate Provost for Academic Administration. She spends her time in retirement backpacking, swimming, kayaking, hiking and travelling.  She is committed to promoting the Shawnee and helping keep the it clean and safe for all to enjoy.

A Salute to our Friends of the Shawnee National Forest Members

Amber Burtis Aur Beck Barb Woolard Barbara McKasson Carol Klinger
Cathy Jennings Charles Holmes III Chelsi Nigra Chris Benda Connie Haylett
Connie Shanahan Dan Woolard David Bork David W. Flenner Deborah Tate
Debra Dell Dr. Nathan A. Schaumleffel Duane Dust Gene Honn Jay Dement
Jennifer Lamb Jennifer Mumper Jim Booziotis Jody Johnson Joe Lenzini
John O’Connell Jonathan Voelz Jonathan Weyer Jonathon Clapp
Joshua Welling Justin Schmidt Kate Zager Kathleen Ice Kay Ripplemeyer-Tippy
Kelly Flynn Ken Hayse Kenneth Sloan-Couch Linda Ober Lisa Musgrave
Maggie Herrmann Mindy Houghton Nate Willis Norman Willmont Pat York
Richard Harden Rick & Marlene Steger Robin Russell Sean Collins-Stapleton
Sharon Chancey Sierra Drew Shelden Susan Logue Susan Zaitz Thomas Collins
Trevor Bollman Vickie Devenport Wesley & Brandy Calvert

Become a Friends of the Shawnee National Forest Member


The Friends work with the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Illinois Communities, and a host of partners to help people explore, experience, and enjoy the Shawnee National Forest.
We strive to promote volunteerism, support stewardship projects, connect people to the land, strengthen relationships, and build a legacy of the Shawnee National Forest for future generations. Help support our mission.

Give what you can. All levels of membership are eligible for tax deduction. Visit our website at

Thanks very much for your support.