High Plains Environmental Center Staff

Jim Tolstrup is the Executive Director of the High Plains Environmental Center in Loveland, CO, a unique model for preserving native bio-diversity in the midst of development.  His past work experience includes serving as Land Stewardship Director of Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, CO and running his own landscape design business in Kennebunkport, Maine where he installed gardens at George and Barbara Bush’s “Summer White House.”

Jim holds a Certificate in Gardening Arts from the Landscape Institute of Harvard University and the Arnold Arboretum, he has written numerous articles on gardening and environmental stewardship for various publications, and is a past recipient of Denver Water’s Xeriscape Award, ALCC’s Excellence in Landscaping Merit Award, ASLA Land Stewardship Award and the Sustainable Living Association’s Sustainable Contribution Award.

Growing up in an urban environment near Boston, MA, Jim had to “look hard to find nature.” This background has led to a strong sense of empathy for people, and children in particular, who don’t have access to the restorative qualities of nature in their daily lives.

Jim is personally committed to bringing together people with diverse points of view (environmentalists, business people, and other community members) in an inclusive dialogue about preserving the natural world for future generations.

As a founder and former president of Cankatola Tiospaye, a non-profit that provides material assistance to Native American Elders, Jim has gained a perspective through life-long friendships with Native Americans living on reservations in South Dakota and elsewhere, that the land we live on is much more than a commodity, it is a community of which mankind is an integral part. Read Jim’s Blog Here



Lauren Sadowsky is the Community Outreach & Programs Manager at High Plains Environmental Center. Lauren graduated from SUNY Binghamton University in 2012 with a double major in Psychology and Global Cultural Studies and a certification in Evolutionary Studies. In December, 2017 she graduated from Colorado State University with an MS in Conservation Leadership after finishing her thesis project near Santiago, Chile. Lauren is a long time lover of gardening, yoga/meditation, music, international travel, and outdoor recreation, and naturally made her way west to Colorado from NY in 2014. Lauren believes in the people power of conservation, of inspiring the stewardship and love for the natural environment that lives within us all. She hopes to (re)ignite that spark through outreach, education, and collaboration.

Email: Lauren@suburbitat.org


We would like to introduce Kristin Oles, the new Restoration Ecologist & Project Manager at HPEC. Kristin is a Colorado native and grew up in Pueblo. She graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Rangeland Ecology with a concentration in Restoration Ecology and a B.S. in Fishery Biology in 2011. She moved west and earned her M.S degree in Horticulture and Agronomy with a focus on Rangeland Ecology from the University of California, Davis in 2016. Kristin is very excited to be back in Colorado and looks forward to helping HPEC bring people closer to their natural surroundings. She enjoys crocheting, drawing, and scouting for invasive weeds on hikes.

Email: Kristin@suburbitat.org


Jack Van Vleet is the Lead Field Technician for our Open Space Management programs. He is a graduate of Colorado State University with a Bachelors of Science in Rangeland Ecology and minors in Ecological Restoration and Conservation Biology. As a lifelong Northern Colorado resident Jack has a passion for the ecology and management of the Front Range’s unique habitats and plant communities. When he’s not identifying grasses and wildflowers he is lounging at a brewery with his dogs.