Joselin Matkins 1978-2021

Joselin Matkins 1978-2021


15 January 2021


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


The unwelcome news arrived in an email on Tuesday afternoon:

Joselin Matkins, an accomplished land trust Executive Director from Idaho, took her own life on Friday, January 8th. She was 42 years old.


Land trust director found deceased



I had to go back and look, but Joselin was one of my first clients after deciding to go full-time into consulting in 2009. She was smart, perceptive, energetic, driven, and accomplished. Vibrantly alive. That she is now gone is unimaginable.


Years ago, my wife and I were in a car accident. The person who hit us ran a stop sign into a busy intersection. The civil matter was settled several months later in arbitration and the other party was deemed to have been 100% at fault.

I’ll never forget what the arbitrator said at that time. “You have an obligation to see what’s there,” he told her.


We are collectively at a place and a time where we need to see what’s there. We need to look for stop signs.

People who are struggling.

People who are isolated.

People who are under stress.

People who are alone.


Joselin was 42 years old. I obviously don’t know the specific circumstances, and the analogy is far from perfect. But those were the words that came back to me when I learned of Joselin’s death: you have an obligation to see what’s there.

And apparently, we – collectively – missed it.

How can we take better care of each other?


How many others in our community are similarly struggling?

How many others are under stress?

How many others are isolated and alone?


And maybe most importantly is our own gut check. How am I doing? Where am I on the spectrum?


I have some thoughts, but frankly, I am having trouble processing. So, I turned to the person who shared the news with me – a person for whom I have enormous respect, who also knew Joselin, and who enjoys a similar position as an accomplished land trust Executive Director – Carol Abrahamzon at Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Here are her thoughts:


Joselin’s death brought past thoughts tumbling back to me. Thoughts I’ve been too busy to visit – too busy to – think about.

As I sat alone, in my remote, home office, I was moved to tears when the Land Trust Alliance’s President, Andrew Bowmen said in his parting remarks during Rally this past October, “I’d like to make a request of all land trust board members, please take care of your executive directors”.

Until that moment, I didn’t even know I needed someone to take care of me.

We bear a tremendous burden of stress on our shoulders and rarely do we have time to even think about the weight of those responsibilities – but in that moment – as the tears flowed – it hit me. Wow, this past year more than ever, just wow.

We all know that saying: “it’s lonely at the top.”

Land trust executives need to be taken care of just as they take care of their people. And we can be – need to be – a part of that circle of care. I encourage fellow executive directors to reach out to one another right now, today.

  1. Form a state or regional executive director support group. This is easy-peasy with ZOOM .
  2. Set a reoccurring day to come together for an hour every month or two, just to talk and to listen to one another. Don’t be tempted to skip out because you are busy – you need each other.
  3. Be the shoulder someone needs one in the moment.
  4. Ask for a shoulder when you need one.

Our work is so important, but we are even more important. It’s time we care for ourselves and care for one another.

– – Carol Abrahamzon



Tomorrow starts a three-day weekend for many of us, and I have a request.

Spend a little time looking for hidden stop signs. Now is not a time for blowing past them. Now is a time for paying attention.


  1. Think about the people you know – the people in your orbit. Who is likely to be alone this weekend? (Joselin died on a Friday.) Who might benefit from a call or an invitation to a ZOOM cocktail? Or just a friendly check-in?
  2. If someone calls you, don’t take it personally. We need each other right now, and more than most of us truly realize. Let’s agree that being there for each other is important. Allowing others to also be there for us is part of that importance.
  3. And if you are someone who is isolated and struggling, reach out. Find someone to call.


I’ll also invite you to leave your comments and remembrances below and ask that you pass this along to those you care about.


Remember that you are part of a community that stretches across the entire nation – land trusts in every nook and cranny filled with people with common values who know that the land is the answer. People who care.


Now is the time for each of us to see what’s there.


Rest in Peace, Joselin. May your memory be a blessing.




The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.


PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by George Becker courtesy of


Share this!
  • Chris Canfield
    Posted at 13:31h, 15 January

    I stopped long enough just now to read these meaningful words and comments and let them soak in. Thank you. Depression and its suffocating effects are known to me, mostly as something in the past thanks to lots of therapy, spiritual insights and support. But some days it is closer still. I have to let it pass through me on those days and not get too attached to its views. We are all now like the frog in the pot of water that has slowly been heated. We risk losing the feeling of being boiled because the turmoil has all become so normalized. So I will reach out to others and, as importantly, accept the caring of others (the harder part). Blessings to all, and especially to all those who were closest to Joselin.

  • Annie Jacobs
    Posted at 12:33h, 15 January

    David, thank you very much for sharing this and telling the story in such a way that makes us truly stop and pause. Mental health and burnout issues are a very real part of non-profit work and Covid only makes it more so. We all need to pay attention to our own and others’ stop signs and take care. Take time to walk and talk and feel and heal.

  • Ryan Owens
    Posted at 11:42h, 15 January

    Thanks, David and Carol, for this call to action. I can’t believe she’s gone.

  • Jenny Hansell
    Posted at 09:47h, 15 January

    How devastating. As an ED, I do feel reasonably supported by my board and organization – but I’ve also been doing this a LONG time and I’m used to the isolation in this role and have built my own external support system (therapist, friends, etc.) It does feel like a LOT right now – Covid getting worse before it gets better, the political nightmare, and a lot of trouble in my own family that’s really weighing on me. I will take your advice and reach out to other EDs – we can help each other.

  • Sarah Livesay
    Posted at 09:09h, 15 January

    Thank you David for this moment of pause and reflection, this was eye-opening and inspirational. yes, her words ring so true- I didn’t even know I needed someone to take care of me

  • Mike Koutnik
    Posted at 09:08h, 15 January

    This post made the pandemic “real” for me in a way I hadn’t truly accepted before. We all do need each other’s support to get through this. Including leaders. Thanks David and Carol.

  • Jennifer Fusco
    Posted at 08:45h, 15 January

    This stopped me in my tracks. Thank you for sharing. Joselin’s story and your call to us will undoubtedly save lives. May we all find peace.