University of Illinois Extension adds natural resources, environment, energy educator to staff

Amy Lefringhouse

Amy Lefringhouse | Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Extension

URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois Extension recently welcomed Amy Lefringhouse to serve as a natural resources, environment and energy educator in Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike, and Schuyler counties in Western Illinois. County Director Shelby Crow says this position involves a partnership with John Wood Community College.

“We are proud to serve local residents with expertise and education in specialized areas to improve the overall health of our community,” Crow said. “Residents will now have a local professional to ask questions about their own natural resource issues, to provide environmental workshops, and to serve as a resource for communities to learn how to save money through water and energy conservation.”

Whether you’re battling invasive species on your property, starting to compost at home or trying to reduce fertilizers on the farm, doing the right thing for the environment isn’t always clear. The extension’s team of natural resource experts connects communities around the state with research-based resources and best practices because small changes at the local level can have a big impact on the environment.

With community partnership being an essential part of her role, Lefringhouse will serve area college students by teaching natural resources, wildlife and sustainable and renewable energy courses for John Wood Community College at the new Orr Multipurpose Agriculture Facility.

Construction began on the new 24,000-square-foot facility in September. It will house the University of Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center and bring agricultural research, education and development to West Central Illinois. The facility will have offices and classrooms, an exposition space, and an animal care unit for onsite, hands-on training for students. The 400-plus-acre site will have grassland and prairie plots as well as a stocked pond.

“This new facility will increase and enhance educational opportunities for ag students and community members,” Crow said in a press release. “We look forward to many more years of this incredible partnership and the potential for Illinois Extension programs this new facility provides.”

Lefringhouse is passionate about revealing local natural wonders to communities and inspiring people to further their knowledge of the natural world by serving as volunteers with the Illinois Master Naturalist program.

“West-Central Illinois offers so many natural gifts to explore and University of Illinois Extension is positioned to bring environmental education to families and communities right to their ‘back yard,’ ” Lefringhouse said in the release.

She looks forward to helping residents discover new perspectives about their natural resources, learn how to save money at home through energy-saving actions, and discover that time spent in nature can be a path to healthier living. She has plans to expand the Master Naturalist program, connect landowners with resources to manage their property sustainably, and engage college students to actively participate in the conservation management field.

“Having managed several different natural sites, I have witnessed the positive impact of conservation practices on land and water resources,” Lefringhouse said. “I look forward to learning more about the local natural resources and environmental concerns. “

Most of Lefringhouse’s career has been focused on youth environmental education. She recently was executive director at Gardner Camp, a youth outdoor education facility. She has previously worked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minnesota.

A native of west-central Illinois, Lefringhouse studied Environmental Science at Illinois College and has a Master of Science degree in Environmental Planning and Management from University of Illinois at Springfield.  She is a member of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois and a member of the Illinois 4-H Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access Task Force.

Lefringhouse is based in the Illinois Extension Adams County office in Quincy. She can be reached at or (217) 223-8380.

University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists connect every county in Illinois with university research through in-person and distance-learning programming and other educational outreach. They work to provide businesses, families, and agricultural producers with the practical tools and resources needed to solve problems.

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