WeConservePA helps people care for, wisely use, and enjoy what nature offers. We help organizations and individuals to effectively and efficiently conserve land, protect and restore waterways, implement sustainable practices, and connect people to the outdoors. We foster understanding of conservation and advocate for pro-conservation governmental policy to promote a high quality of life for all.
Who We Are
WeConservePA is a community of conservation volunteers, professionals, and supporters. United around common interests and needs, we present a powerful force for conservation, and in sharing our knowledge and experiences, we are better equipped to make more and better conservation happen.
WeConservePA Leadership and Staff
Board of Directors
Seventy-five of Pennsylvania’s most active conservation organizations count themselves as dues-paying members of WeConservePA. These organizations elect the ten individuals who serve on WeConservePA’s board of directors.
Reneé Carey, President
Reneé has been with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy since 1994, becoming Executive Director in 1998. She is the President of WeConservePA, and has served on numerous committees and in a range of roles in her time with the organization over the years. Additionally, Reneé sits on the Pennsylvania Forestry Association Board and serves on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Forest Stewardship Committee.
Jeff Swinehart, Vice President
Jeff is the chief operating officer of Lancaster Farmland Trust. In his 18-year tenure at Lancaster Farmland Trust, Swinehart has held several positions, most recently serving as deputy director since 2006. As COO, Swinehart assumes greater operational and management responsibilities, while continuing to work alongside the executive director.
Jeff graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from Pennsylvania State University and has a B.S. in geography, plus minors in geology and regional planning from Mansfield University. Jeff is a member of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association Policy Committee, serves as vice-chairman of the Manheim Township Planning Commission, and is a member of the executive committee of the Lancaster Clean Water Partners.
John Conner, Treasurer
John was one of the original 1996 incorporators of the Manada Conservancy, and served as its president from its inception through 2007. He is a former member of the East Hanover Environmental Advisory Council and was active in efforts to update the zoning there. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1975 and is retired from the Internal Revenue Service, where he was employed for 35 years. Along with land preservation, John’s interests include working with other non-profit organizations, organic gardening and his golden retrievers. John serves on the Preservation Committee and chairs both Manada’s Administration and Finance Committees.
Oliver Bass, Secretary
Oliver is president of Natural Lands. Before becoming president, he was the vice president of communications and engagement, where he oversaw communication and engagement efforts, including publications and Force of Nature volunteer program. He also works to foster partnerships between Natural Lands and area organizations, and advocates for natural resource conservation and related causes to state and national policy makers.
Oliver takes much satisfaction from his role in making Natural Lands’ preserves more accessible for people to enjoy. “The results of our work are tangible, permanent, and accessible to everyone regardless of means or background. It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Prior to joining Natural Lands in 1997, Oliver was executive director of the Philadelphia Singers and Performing Arts League of Philadelphia. Before that, he worked in radio.
He earned a B.S. in communications from Northwestern University.
Stephanie has over 13 years’ experience in the non-profit, private and public sectors in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. She specializes in agricultural and conservation easement preparation, historic preservation, and land use planning. In her role as Director and Conservation and Stewardship at the Brandywine Conservancy, she works with landowners to preserve their land in perpetuity. Stephanie also provides technical assistance to municipalities and other stakeholders to connect conservation to water quality improvement and assists them in creating innovative solutions to meet local and regional water quality goals. She holds a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University.
Chris Beichner is the current executive director for Allegheny Land Trust. Before his position at Allegheny Land Trust, Chris worked most recently at the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, where he served as its executive director for four years. Prior to his current position he served for eight years in a number of different capacities with the Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission in Oil City, Pennsylvania. His final position with the Commission was as director of community development and planning. Chris received a B.S. in business administration from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
Gail brings 20 years of experience in the environmental nonprofit sector. When asked to summarize her role in a single word, she said “relationships.” She spends her time in partnership with staff, board, donors, and other community leaders to ensure that Wissahickon Trails is able to effectively fulfill its mission today, tomorrow, and for many years to come. Gail currently serves on the Montgomery County Planning Commission’s Open Space Board, Philadelphia Water’s Green City, Clean Waters Steering Committee, the Water Quality Advisory Committee of the Delaware River Basin Commission, and is an advisor to the Wissahickon Clean Water Partnership. She is a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program and a Community Scholars Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2018, she received PennFuture’s Woman of Community Engagement and Environmental Education Leadership Award. Gail earned her M.Sc. in Ecology from S.U.N.Y ESF in Syracuse.
Kim joined Berks Nature staff in January 2004 and became president in July that same year. Prior to coming to Berks Nature, Kim was director of development at Penn State for nearly 12 years. During her time at Penn State she managed the development , alumni, and university relations program for both the Berks Campus in Reading and the Lehigh Valley Campus in Fogelsville. While at Penn State, Kim raised over $17 million for the Berks campus and Berks–Lehigh Valley College added 39 new endowed funds, managed a successful capital campaign raising $4.7 million, and has executed a variety of special events and worked with many volunteers. Kim has served on the board of several charitable organizations in the community including: Beacon House, The American Red Cross–Berks County Chapter, and The Girl Scouts– Great Valley Council. Kim does numerous trainings throughout the community and enjoys sharing her experience in development and nonprofit administration with others.
Kyle serves as The Conservation Fund’s Pennsylvania state director, located in Harrisburg. A native of Lancaster, he brought his lifelong love of the Pennsylvania outdoors to The Conservation Fund in 2007.
He oversees all aspects of the Fund’s work in Pennsylvania, focusing on high-priority conservation acquisitions and mitigation-fund management. The Conservation Fund has protected over 100,000 acres in the commonwealth through real estate transactions, bridge financing, and implementation of mitigation programs. Working with the nonprofit, business, and government sectors, Kyle spearheads conservation projects at multiple levels, from creating new local parks to expanding the footprint of state and federal lands.
He has a B.S. in geoenvironmental studies/GIS from Shippensburg University, and a M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from Temple University. Kyle is a former president of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association, and has served on the board of Green Urban Initiative. Kyle lives with wife and daughter in Camp Hill, and can often be found floating on the Susquehanna River or hiking through St. Anthony’s Wilderness.
Philip R. Wenger, a local business owner and community leader, became the Lancaster Conservancy’s new chief executive officer in 2016. During his first year at the Conservancy, an additional 570 acres were preserved, and he re-energized the primary focus of protecting wild places for future generations. Phil retired from active leadership at Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches in 2014. Both his success as an entrepreneur, and his passion have led to a proven track record for helping organizations grow.
Over the last 30 years, Phil has successfully led numerous community organizations, serving as board chair of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Lancaster County Community Foundation, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, and Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness, among others. He currently serves as chair of Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine. Phil leads a Conservancy that protects and manages over 6,000 acres and in recent years has transformed the former Camp Snyder in Pequea into the Susquehanna Riverlands Research and Education Center at Climbers Run Nature Preserve.
WeConservePA’s Policy Council is charged with studying and discussing opportunities to improve public policy at all levels of government and private measures that could be taken by the land conservation community to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of conservation efforts. The committee makes recommendations to WeConservePA board and staff on these matters.
Committee members are appointed by the board of directors. Individuals wishing to serve should contact WeConservePA for more information.
In addition to members of the Board of Directors, the following individuals serve on the committee.
Betsy Aiken, Executive Director, Westmoreland Land Trust
Betsy Aiken has been with the Westmoreland Land Trust since 2007, serving as a founding board member and stepping down from the board to start service as Executive Director in 2017. Betsy’s previous work includes municipal management, quality assurance, and strategic planning. She is active in many conservation, park, and trail initiatives. Betsy and her husband, Arvind, live in Murrysville. In her free time Betsy enjoys exploring trails throughout western PA.
George Asimos, Attorney at Law
In his real estate and land use practice spanning more than 20 years, George Asimos divides his practice between development advocacy and transactional work. He is particularly experienced representing clients in the areas of telecommunications, oil and gas, as well as the growing Marcellus Shale industry.
On the development side, he represents developers, land owners and others seeking project approvals from municipalities in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania in matters relating to zoning, subdivision, and land development. His projects include telecommunications facilities, quarries, warehouses, and residential communities. As a result of his experience in the municipal approval of telecommunications facilities, representing most of the largest telecommunications and tower companies, he has been heavily involved in litigation on behalf of telecommunications companies under the antenna siting provisions of the Federal Telecommunications Act. Though his clients are limited to private sector developers, industrial companies and landowners, his work is informed by his 17 years in Township government and eight years on the Chester County Planning Commission Board.
On the transactional side, George represents real estate owners and investors in the purchase, sale, and leasing of all basic categories of real estate, including office, commercial, and industrial properties, raw land for development, and unique properties such as quarries, telecommunications towers and golf courses.
A substantial part of George’s practice also involves advising land owners and nonprofit land trusts on the donation of conservation easements and related real estate planning. He has drafted, or advised landowners on, more than 200 conservation easement donations protecting more than 40,000 acres of land in more than 10 states.
Cynthia Carrow, Vice President, Government and Community Relations, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Cynthia Carrow oversees WPC’s public policy work, as well as the Community Gardens and Greenspace program which is responsible for more than 140 signature gardens and greening projects in 19 western Pennsylvania counties.
Cynthia is a long-time conservationist and advocate for protection of the natural environment. She participates in a wide variety of conservation and environmental programs and activities across Pennsylvania. She is chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). She has served as a member of the council since 1997. Created by law and reporting to the governor, the General Assembly, DEP, and the public, the council’s duty is to review the work of the DEP and make recommendations for improvements, study major environmental issues facing Pennsylvania, and promote sound environmental legislation. She is co-chair of the PA Abandoned Mine Land Campaign, a statewide coalition of conservation/environmental organizations advancing reauthorization of the federal program to clean up lands and waters.
Cynthia also is actively involved in the Pittsburgh community and serves on the following boards and advisory committees: WQED Multimedia Community Advisory Board; the advisory board for the Department of Science, Robert Morris University; the board of Conservation Consultants, Inc.; the board of Healthy Home Resources; the advisory council of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania; the Pttsburgh Cultural Trust Advisory Committee; past president of the board of directors of the Animal Rescue League/Pennsylvania Wildlife Center; and a member of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Capital Bicentennial Committee.
Cynthia attended Clemson University and the University of Pittsburgh where she received a B.S. degree.
Brenda Costa, Executive Director, French Creek Valley Conservancy
Brenda Costa joined French Creek Valley Conservancy in 2016 as the Executive Director. Previously, Brenda worked in environmental and geologic consulting for more than 20 years, with a concentration on groundwater. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Allegheny College and her Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Penn State, and has served on the Board of the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists. Brenda focuses on land protection and conservation efforts in northwest Pennsylvania, as well as providing educational programs to schools and community groups. She enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors- traveling, hiking, kayaking, and skiing- especially in the company of her husband and two sons.
Grant DeCosta, Director of Community Services, Brandywine Conservancy
Grant has over 16 years’ experience in conservation and environmental policy work in the non-profit, private, and public sectors. Mr. DeCosta specializes in land use planning, conservation, and implementation of land restoration projects for water quality improvement. In his role at the Conservancy, Grant works with landowners, municipalities, regulators and policy makers to provide a holistic approach to natural resource conservation and protection. He holds a B.S. in Forestry and Wildlife Science from Virginia Tech.
Evan Endres, Pennsylvania Director of Government Relations and Policy, The Nature Conservancy PA/DE
Evan works to help Pennsylvania achieve reduction of the emissions that cause climate change. He works with constituencies, regulators and elected leaders to build Pennsylvania climate leadership and pass policies that contribute to healthy climate future for nature and people. “I enjoy building a better climate future and helping people make the connection between their love of nature and our need to take action on climate.”
Jim Engel, Executive Director, Tinicum Conservancy
Jim brings 16 years of land conservancy experience and a lifelong passion for the natural environment. His family roots include Pennsylvania and he has a special love for the Delaware River and its tributaries. Jim joined the conservancy in February of 2008 and the Conservancy is benefiting from his knowledge accumulated through seven years as the executive director of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and fundraising positions with The Nature Conservancy and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Kate Etherington, President and Executive Director, Willistown Conservation Trust
After serving as a volunteer at the Trust since 2014, Kate officially joined our team in 2020 as Associate Executive Director and later transitioned to the role of Executive Director in 2021. Kate comes to us with an extensive background in nonprofit management, including serving as the Shelter Services Coordinator at Sojourner Center and the Senior Program Director and Interim Executive Director at Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility. Additionally, she holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Colgate University and a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. As Executive Director, Kate is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management of the Trust and planning for its successful future. Outside of the office, she spends plenty of time outdoors, hiking, horseback riding, skiing, reading, and spending time with her husband and three daughters on their small farm.
Ellen Ferretti, Executive Director, North Branch Land Trust
Ellen M. Ferretti was named the executive director of North Branch Land Trust in 2021. She brings more than 25 years of natural resource management and conservation/environmental experience. She served as secretary for Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and deputy secretary for Parks and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under her leadership, land conservation was a key priority and, working closely with staff and stakeholders, significant natural areas were protected as public lands. She also has proven success in strategic planning, partnerships and collaborations, and fiscal management and operations. Ferretti oversees the conservancy’s important work to protect water, preserve land, and engage communities. The organization’s three programs—Land Conservation, Land Stewardship, and Municipal Assistance—are renowned for their multi-tiered approach to conservation through working with private landowners who wish to see their lands protected forever, and providing innovative community planning services to municipalities and other government agencies. She is a graduate of Wilkes College with a B.S. in environmental science.
Brian Gallagher, Public Policy and Government Relations Manager, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Brian has been with WPC since 1999, first in the garden and greenspace and conservation programs before joining the public policy team in 2004. He works on a number of issues including the federal farm bill, abandoned mine lands, and wildlife funding, and is also involved with WPC’s accreditation efforts.
Prior to joining the conservancy, he worked for an arts agency in Florida. He has a degree in cultural anthropology from Florida State University. He grew up in the Mid-Mon Valley, south of Pittsburgh, where he frequently visited Mingo Creek County Park.
Bill Gladden, Executive Director, French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust
Bill has over 30 years of public and private sector experience in land use and preservation. He was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and holds a master’s degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia. Bill began the Chester County chapter of his career in 1994 and was asked to establish the county’s department of open space preservation in 2004. The department is responsible for monitoring land preserved through County programs as well as the administration of grant programs that represent an investment of over $200 million and have helped finance the preservation of over 55,000 acres of farms, forests, parks and preserves. In 2018, Bill was named executive director of French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust.
Debra Wolf Goldstein, Esq., Executive Director, Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival
Debra Wolf Goldstein, Esq., is an attorney and consultant specializing in land conservation and policy. She also is co-founder and executive director of the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival (www.philaenvirofilmfest.org), which brings the planet to Philadelphia through the power of environmental film.
Previously she served as executive director of Delaware Canal 21; as general counsel to the Heritage Conservancy; and as regional advisor for PA DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. She started her career as an attorney with the law firm of Wolf Block in their litigation, real estate, and environmental departments.
Debra chaired the Land Use Committee of the Philadelphia Park & Recreation Commission, where she helped draft and guide passage of the City’s first parkland protection ordinance. She also served for over a decade as vice president of the Fairmount Park Commission. She is a sought-after speaker and teacher on topics including public access liability, conservation easement violations, appraisals, and conflicts of interest.
Debra co-hosted a public television series on environmental issues facing Pennsylvania. She has written numerous scholarly and popular publications on land conservation, including several guides for WeConserve. Most recently she co-authored the widely-used manual Universal Access for Trails & Shared Use Paths and the guide on OPDMDs. Debra holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. from Brown University. To learn more please visit www.Conservmatters.com.
Kate Gonick, Director of Land Protection and In-House Counsel, Lancaster Conservancy
As director of land protection, Kate works with landowners, businesses, funders, and local and state government to identify and protect Lancaster County’s most vital natural lands. Kate, a native of Lancaster County, previously held a position at the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, PA, drafting subdivision and land development, and zoning ordinances, and working on general land use and historic preservation planning. Kate also held the position of cultural resource and environmental planner/archaeologist for the Pinelands Commission and developed a program in archaeology for Cheyney University teaching several courses and establishing a laboratory and university guidelines.
Kate practiced land-use law for over 25 years before receiving her M.A. in Anthropology/Archaeology from Temple University where she is a doctoral candidate. Kate holds a B.A. from Sweet Briar College and a J.D. from Penn State University Dickinson School of Law. Kate enjoys all types of winter activities, including downhill and cross-country skiing and hiking. Other hobbies include gardening and writing. Kate and her husband, Jeff, live in Manheim Township.
John Goodall, Western Area Manager, Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art
John conducts conservation easement outreach, participates in marketing efforts associated with the Conservancy’s Municipal Assistance Program, assists with monitoring, enforcement, and administration of conservation easements within our program area which encompasses approximately 24 townships in southwestern Chester County as well as adjacent townships in Lancaster County. He also coordinates and manages agricultural preservation outreach efforts that include conservation planning and implementation of best management practices to mitigate agricultural impacts on water quality. John is Director at the Conservancy’s 771-acre Laurels Preserve located in nearby East Fallowfield, Newlin and West Marlborough Townships and oversees the stewardship of the natural areas and trails.
Dawn Gorham, Director of Land Preservation, Wildlands Conservancy
Before joining Wildlands in summer 2015, Dawn served as the executive director of Pocono Heritage Land Trust where she was responsible for the planning and implementation of a comprehensive land conservation program, as well as the day to day management of the small land trust. Today, Dawn’s years of land conservation expertise are supporting Wildlands’ mission to protect critical natural areas and waterways. She holds a Ph.D. in environmental and forest biology from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry and resides in the Poconos.
Kelly Herrenkohl, Vice President of Communications and Engagement, Natural Lands
As Vice President of Communications and Engagement, Kelly oversees a team of people who focus on connecting people to nature—from events and volunteers, to communications and graphic design. She also oversees the organization’s Urban Program, which is working to foster opportunities for city residents to enjoy the outdoors.
Prior to joining Natural Lands, Kelly spent a decade working for Vetri Community Partnership, which promotes health and wellness through teaching cooking skills to children and families. “While cooking and land preservation may seem at odds with one another, they are actually the flip sides of the same public health coin…getting your body moving and engaging with nature is just as important to physical, mental, and emotional health as feeding yourself more fruits and vegetables,” she shares.
Kelly’s favorite place to be outside is her backyard garden. “It’s been a labor of love for the last 15 years. My kids have joked that I love working in my garden more than I love them. That is totally not true!”
She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and International Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and a Master of Arts in English Literature from the University of Missouri.
Sean P. Kenny, Executive Director, Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County
Sean has been with Farm & Natural Lands Trust of York County since 2008. FNLT has more than 10,000 acres under conservation easements on over 130 properties property of agricultural and environmental importance. Prior to joining FNLT, Sean was employed with the York County Chamber of Commerce following graduation from York College of Pennsylvania. Sean lives on a FNLT preserved farm, which is bisected by the Heritage Rail Trail, with his wife and two young children. Sean has or had leadership positions with local arts, young professional and culture organizations, as well as sitting on the York County Planning Commission.
Kris Kern, Senior Land Conservationist, Heritage Conservancy
Kris has more than 10 years of land-use planning and conservation experience. In addition to assisting with Heritage Conservancy’s grant writing and fundraising efforts, Kris works with municipalities and private landowners to protect land via conservation easements and fee acquisitions. Before joining Heritage Conservancy, she worked for the County of Bucks, administering three grant programs under its open space program. Kris is a graduate of Kutztown University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a master’s degree in city and regional planning.
Abbie Kessler, Land Preservation Director, Brandywine Red Clay Alliance
Abbie has a background in archaeology and history to coordinate all aspects of easement projects to conserve both natural and historic resources in support of the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance’s mission.
Christopher M. Kocher, President, Wildlands Conservancy
No stranger to the Lehigh Valley or Wildlands, president Christopher Kocher’s more than 15-year tenure began when he joined the organization as an environmental scientist in 1995. Throughout his career, he’s raised community awareness about the region’s specific conservation needs, and has notably developed several key, broad-based partnerships that continue to be vital to fulfilling our land protection, environmental stewardship and education mission.
His conservation work has been recognized statewide by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and other like-minded organizations.
Chris and his wife, Sheila, live in Whitehall and are parents to Ella, Jack and their loveable yellow lab, Daisy. As a family, they enjoy connecting with nature on the Ironton Rail Trail and the nearby Coplay Creek.
Bill Kunze, President & CEO, Heritage Conservancy
Bill joined Heritage Conservancy as President & CEO in fall 2021, after 15 years as a senior leader with The Nature Conservancy. He brings deep experience helping organizations accelerate the pace and scale of land conservation and developing innovative strategies around conservation funding, community engagement, sustainable forestry and agriculture, urban conservation, and climate resilience.
Before becoming a conservation leader, he was a Division Chief at the Federal Communications Commission and worked as a management consultant, an attorney, and in academic publishing. Bill brings to Heritage Conservancy a passion for nature and history, the two foundations of the Conservancy’s mission: he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, and as a young child, he fell in love with nature through birding excursions to Hawk Mountain in Berks County and Brigantine (now Forsythe) National Wildlife Refuge near Atlantic City.
Annie Maloney, PhD, Executive Director, Foundation for Sustainable Forests
Annie began working with the Foundation for Sustainable Forests in 2016, first as Conservation Outreach Manager in 2016, and later as the organization’s first executive director. Her primary focus is on the conservation of working forests, which will be managed sustainable in perpetuity for the benefit of both the forest ecosystem and the surrounding community. In addition, she coordinates educational offerings and outreach to private forest landowners who are seeking to achieve their conservation objectives through active management.
No stranger to natural lands and wild places, before joining FSF, Annie spent 15 years in outdoor education and leadership development with the Voyageur Outward Bound School and Cornell University’s Team and Leadership Center. She holds a PhD in Forest Ecology from Boston University and a B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University. She occasionally teaches as an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA.
Annie shares 150 acres of forest and farmland in Crawford County with her husband Patrick and two children.
Chris Mendel, Executive Director, Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust
Chris is a landscape architect who has practiced for the last 15 years with internationally recognized firms that specialize in ecologically informed, place-based design. His completed projects range from therapeutic green roofs for hospitals, to the revitalization of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks, to designs that have pushed the boundaries of ecological and sustainable design. He is driven to foster areas of ecological function and richness for the benefit of humans and other species. As Executive Director of the Trust, Chris serves as an advocate for nature, the environment, ecological research and education, while always being focused on creating an emotional and intellectual experience for all those visiting the Pennypack Preserve. Chris was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, serving as a natural resource management volunteer in a wildlife sanctuary in Thailand not far from the Mekong River. He holds a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and a Bachelors in Environmental Studies from the University at Buffalo.
Deb Nardone, Executive Director, ClearWater Conservancy
Andy Pitz, French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust (retired)
A key leader and thinker within the conservation community, Andy has spent his entire professional career working to permanently protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources. From 1986 to 2012, he worked in various capacities for Natural Lands, where he coordinated public-policy activities, developed strategic and ecological management plans, supervised transactions on hundreds of projects, and initiated several landscape-scale conservation efforts. Pitz retired as the executive director of the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust in 2019. Under his leadership, the organization has expanded its staff and conservation holdings, achieved accreditation, developed a new strategic plan, increased revenue, and undertook the largest conservation project in its 50-year history.
Pitz was a founder of PALTA and served as president for six of the organization’s early years. He was instrumental in the hiring of PALTA’s first executive director in 2000 and the passage of the Conservation and Preservation Easements Act in 2001. He rejoined the board in 2013 and served until his retirement.
He has also been active in the Climate Reality Project as a presenter and activist. He participated in one of the first groups trained by Al Gore in 2007, and in the following years presented more than 80 times in 15 states, focusing on the links between land conservation and climate change.
Todd Pride, President, Legacy Land & Waters Partners; Commissioner, PA Game Commission District 8
Todd, appointed to the PA Game Commission as the commissioner for District 8 in 2022, is the President of Legacy Land & Waters Partners, a new conservation and wildlife organization focused on the preservation of culturally-significant and strategic natural resource properties, expanding diversity in conservation and mission-driven organizations and training of students and adults in fishing, hunting heritage, agriculture, and conservation activities. Todd previously served as Managing Director of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) and remains one of the only professionals of color managing a conservation organization.
Prior to this, he led the Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoors Partners organization since 2008 as their Managing Partner and Lead Coach, headquartered on the border of Chester and Lancaster County in Nottingham, PA and in Philadelphia, PA. The Mid-Atlantic organization has been a nationally recognized fishing, hunting heritage, conservation and diversity training operation having trained and introduced over 12,000 diverse youth and adults to our 5-state region’s outdoor natural resources (PA, NY, NJ, DE, MD). Land preservation has been the core of these activities around protecting and enhancing wildlife habitats in the Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay Watersheds. Prior, Todd brings over 20 years in corporate management experience in the financial services and merchant banking industry. Todd is an avid hunting heritage and fishing trainer and spends as much time as he can on the water or in our region’s beautiful natural resource areas.
Lauren Pregmon Tetreault, Attorney, Pregmon Law Offices
Lauren Pregmon Tetreault grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and attended Kenyon College where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. After graduating cum laude from Kenyon, Lauren attended Wake Forest University where she received her law degree. While at Wake Forest, Lauren studied in both London and Venice.
After graduation from law school, Lauren moved to Atlanta to practice commercial real estate law for Parker, Hudson, Rainer and Dobbs. It was not long, however, before Lauren had the opportunity to relocate to Philadelphia to partner with her mother, Patricia, at Pregmon Law Offices. Since 2000, Lauren has practiced general real estate with a strong emphasis on conservation law. Lauren is proud to have counseled land trusts and landowners in conservation transactions which have resulted in thousands of conserved acres throughout the Commonwealth. As a frequent lecturer on conservation easements, she shares her passion for protecting critical natural resources with seasoned professionals as well as new members of the conservation community.
Diane Rosencrance, Executive Director, Delaware Highlands Conservancy
Formerly a senior director at Natural Lands, Diane joined the Conservancy in 2016 with twenty years’ experience in land conservation. She is a registered landscape architect and her portfolio includes assisting landowners in preserving their properties through conservation easements and fee-simple transactions, landscape and watershed-scale projects, stewardship and trail plans, and park master plans. Diane has a B.S. in landscape architecture from Temple University.
Thomas D. Saunders, President and CEO, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Tom Saunders came to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy from Florida where he was community development director for the City of Gainesville. In that role, Tom directed planning, growth management, redevelopment, housing, historic preservation, and neighborhood planning. Prior to that, Tom was director of the Maryland Environmental Trust, a statewide land trust that protects open space and supports the conservation work and capacity growth of 40 local land trusts across the state. As one of the largest conservation and voluntary preservation easement-holding organizations in the country, the Maryland Environmental Trust works with property owners across the state on permanent land protection. Tom was also a land use, historic preservation, and redevelopment attorney with Arent/Fox and Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. Tom holds an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, a masters in public affairs and urban and regional planning from Princeton, and a J.D. from Stanford.
Steve Schiffman, Schiffman Sheridan & Brown, P.C.
Steven J. Schiffman concentrates his practice in the fields of business, taxation (including business and estate planning and administration), commercial loans, bank-asset recovery, and workout and nonprofit corporation law. He also provides counsel in the areas of general litigation, real estate and personal injury. Steve is a graduate with distinction of the Pennsylvania State University, where he received a B.S. degree in 1974. In 1977, he graduated from Capital University School of Law with a Juris Doctorate magna cum laude, followed by a master’s of law in taxation from Temple University of Law in 1983. After graduation from law school in 1977, Steve served as an assistant attorney general with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue until 1980.
Shelly Tichy, President, Westmoreland Conservancy
Shelly Joined the all-volunteer Westmoreland Conservancy October 2000 and stepped up to the Board in 2001. She has served as secretary, treasurer, and vice president at various times, and as president from 2008 – 2014, and again from 2016 – present. Westmoreland Conservancy achieved accreditation in 2013 and renewed in 2019. In addition to her work with the Conservancy, Shelly works full time and has also volunteered at an assisted living facility for the past 18 years doing a music & memories program with the residents. She retired from teaching ballroom dancing after 30 years.
Sally Zaino, President, Manada Conservancy
Sally is one of the original founders and Board members of Manada Conservancy and has served in several roles since its inception in 1997, both as a volunteer and as former Executive Director. She chaired the East Hanover Township Environmental Advisory Council for 10 years, is a former township supervisor and planning commission member. She has represented Manada Conservancy at a number of regional planning committees, including regional comprehensive planning, and the recent Return on Environment Study for Dauphin County, an analysis of the economic value of conserving natural resources. She is also a part-time writer, editor, and poet.
Andrew Loza, Executive Director
Andy Loza has served since 2000 as executive director of WeConservePA where he leads public policy efforts, plans and implements technical assistance and educational programs, writes and edits technical guidance, and directs a terrific staff. His work is informed by seven years as a land trust executive director and leading land use planning, environmental, conservation, and economic development, and trail initiatives for county government. He holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Lehigh University.
In his spare time, Andy enjoys gardening, reading, and challenging the aging process in the gym. Among his top passions are music and eating. He’s the proud father of two adult children. He bicycles to work because he can and it’s good for the planet as well as his wallet and health.
Carol Grayshaw, Director of Education
Carol Grayshaw has been with WeConservePA since 2016. She plans and administers WeConservePA’s many conferences, workshops, roundtables, panel discussions, and other programs. She manages the EAC Network, Conservation Easement Assistance Program, greenways and trails programming, and the WeConservePA database. Prior to her work with WeConservePA, she spent six years as the Coordinator of Children’s Programs for the Wayne Art Center, a nonprofit community art center on Philadelphia’s Main Line. She holds a BFA degree in fine metals from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
The majority of her spare time is spent with her husband and two sons, exploring the area and enjoying the ample parks and green spaces available. Other interests include making jewelry, reading, gardening, and volunteering at her local library.
Irina Beal, GIS Analyst
Irina Beal joined WeConservePA in 2020. She creates, improves, and analyzes spatial data to support conservation-related efforts across Pennsylvania. Her many geographic information system-based projects include updating and improving WeConservePA’s statewide database of privately and publicly conserved lands.
Prior to WeConservePA, Irina worked on living shorelines and shoreline monitoring projects in NJ and DE where long-term in situ data were collected allowing for trend analysis and calculating volumetric changes. She has her M.S. in Geology with a focus on Geomorphology from Temple University and her B.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from the University of Maine, Orono. She is well versed in field work, braving talus and scree slopes, ephemeral spits, and pluff mud.
Michele Cook, Office & Project Administrator
Michele joined WeConservePA in 2021. In her role, she provides assistance for a variety of administrative tasks that helps to ensure the smooth running of WeConservePA.
Before joining WeConservePA she has had years of administrative and office management experience and recently was a membership and event assistant at a non-profit. She has a Business Administration degree from York College of Pennsylvania. Michele is a Pennsylvania native, raised in the Endless Mountain region of the Commonwealth. Michele spends times on the trails of Pennsylvania and enjoys discovering new places to enjoy nature while traveling with her husband.
Bradley Barkdoll, Advocacy Manager
Bradley Barkdoll joined WeConservePA in 2022. As advocacy manager, Bradley seeks to educate people, including elected officials and influencers, about conservation and advocate for pro-conservation policies in and outside of Harrisburg. He works to advance the policy education and advocacy agendas of WeConservePA and the Growing Greener Coalition (of which WeConservePA is the managing partner).
Prior to joining WeConservePA, Bradley specialized in logistics management with the Naval Supply Systems Command and was also an Aerospace Maintenance Journeyman with the United States Air Force, Pennsylvania Air National Guard for six years. Bradley holds an MPA in Nonprofit Management from Kent State University and a BA in History from Shippensburg University.
Bradley is an avid hunter and angler. From a young age, Bradley has fond memories fishing with his dad and brother throughout the spring and summer, then spending the fall and winter hunting white-tailed deer. In addition to being an outdoorsman, Bradley has been singing and acting in the region since 2018.
Robert Campbell, Communications Specialist
A lifelong Pennsylvanian who’s always lived within the Susquehanna watershed, Robert supports the broad-ranging efforts of WeConservePA through writing, editing, design, media management, and more. Prior to joining WeConservePA in 2022, Robert was a full time theatre artist and educator. He still pursues opportunities in those arenas as the calendar allows with 717 Arts and their partner organizations. He has a BA and M.Ed. from Penn State University and is an adjunct humanities faculty member in theatre at Penn State Harrisburg.
Robert enjoys the beauty of Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation options most often through camping and hiking with friends and family. He lives in Harrisburg with his wife Alexis and their daughter Rosie.
Justin Hollinger, Director of Conservation Law
Justin Hollinger joined WeConservePA in 2023. A member of the PA Bar, Justin provides legal resources to PA land conservation organizations. His projects include maintaining and updating WeConservePA’s library of model documents and resources, providing legal education, facilitating ongoing cooperation between land conservation attorneys and land conservation personnel, and providing direct legal services.
Prior to joining WeConservePA, Justin represented Pennsylvania affordable housing nonprofits in complex real estate transactions. He received his J.D., summa cum laude, from Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, and his B.A., magna cum laude, from Temple University.
In his free time, Justin can be found hiking, cycling, camping, and fishing on PA trails and waterways, and spending time with his spouse and toddler in Lancaster, PA.
WeConservePA Member Organizations
Regular voting membership is open to nonprofit organizations who support WeConservePA’s goals and who: acquire land or conservation easements for conservation purposes; or provide stewardship of land or conservation easements; or assist organizations in accomplishing land trust work; or generally advance the cause of land and water conservation.
Join as an organizational member.
For more information on WeConservePA membership and sponsorship, please reach out to [email protected].
Public Policy Endeavors and Successes
Ongoing for more than two decades
Advocacy for Conservation Investments. For more than two decades, WeConservePA has led campaigns to boost state investments in land conservation, environmental restoration, and outdoor recreation and turned back numerous legislative efforts to eliminate or slash the investments made by the state’s Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund. WeConservePA’s continuing efforts have ensured $3 billion in state conservation investments in the new millennium.
The WeConservePA-led Growing Greener Coalition campaign results in a $100 million boost in state investments for conservation, State Parks and Forests infrastructure, and recreation projects and a $220 million investment in a newly created Clean Streams Fund.
Congress fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the culmination of years of advocacy by WeConservePA and other organizations. Going forward, several million more federal dollars will be invested each year in Pennsylvania’s public lands.
Governor Wolf signs Act 98 of 2018, which better protects from liability those who open their land to public recreation, a culmination of WeConservePA efforts begun in 2006.
After a whirlwind campaign by WeConservePA and allies, Governor Wolf signs Act 45 of 2018, which requires school districts, local governments, and others to prove to court that there is no reasonable and prudent alternative before taking a conservation easement by eminent domain.
WeConservePA agrees to lead a reboot of the Growing Greener Coalition and serve as its managing partner.
The PA Supreme Court adopts the arguments made by WeConservePA in its amicus curiae briefs (2014 and 2016) in defense of parks and other open space lands held by government. The court rejects the arguments of the developer and municipality who sought to liquidate a portion of a park for a housing development.
WeConservePA advocates for and achieves changes in state tax law to broaden realty transfer tax exclusions to include more types of conservation projects.
WeConservePA leads a successful charge to prevent large-scale commercial development in state parks, stopping a fast-tracked bill that would have facilitated the development.
Congress makes the conservation easement tax incentive permanent, the fruit of years of advocacy by LTA, WeConservePA, and land trust partners.
Governor Corbett signs Act 115 of 2013, an amendment to the open space law. WeConservePA achieves its goals of ensuring that voter-approved open space taxes may be repealed only through referenda and accommodating municipal needs for spending flexibility while keeping dedicated open space money focused on open space.
WeConservePA leads the campaign that derails the fast-tracked “sell-parks-for-cash” bill that threatened the permanence of parks.
Governor Corbett signs Act 44 into law. The product of a multi-year campaign by WeConservePA, the Act amends the Agricultural Area Security Law to ensure that state-funded agricultural easements can’t be extinguished after 25 years.
Governor Corbett signs Act 8 of 2011 to prohibit private transfer fees in real estate transactions. WeConservePA succeeds in carving out an exception for conservation easements, strengthening the ability of land trusts to raise funds for stewardship.
The 9th Circuit Court rules for WeConservePA and its six partners, who challenged the Department of Energy’s designation of the Mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (a designation that ignored good energy planning and conservation, giving federal preference for eminent domain and coal-fired power).
The PA Supreme Court rules for conservation in the Erie Golf Course case, preventing municipalities from liquidating their protected open spaces for easy revenue. In its ruling, the court quotes WeConservePA’s amicus curiae brief and other briefs inspired and supported by WeConservePA.
WeConservePA co-leads the coalition that successfully protects PA State Forests from a drilling free-for-all.
Governor Rendell signs Act 154 into law. The Act, a WeConservePA legislative priority, empowers local governments to give land, easements and cash to land trusts in support of conservation.
WeConservePA’s initiative snowballs into a nationwide push, leading to President Bush signing expanded conservation easement tax incentives into law.
Responding to WeConservePA and partners’ outreach, Pennsylvanians vote 60.5% to 39.5% to authorize a $625M Growing Greener bond. WeConservePA’s advocacy results in $80 million dedicated to farmland preservation and $90 million to open space protection – dwarfing the open space monies previously available under Growing Greener.
WeConservePA initiates an ambitious push to expand federal conservation easement tax incentives as most conservation organizations are hunkered in defensive positions as a result of Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation proposals to gut the existing tax deduction.
WeConservePA plays a lead role in the establishment of a dedicated funding source – a landfill tipping fee – to support the extension of Growing Greener.
Governor Ridge signs Act 29, the Conservation and Preservation Easements Act. WeConservePA was the principal advocate for the law, which greatly strengthens the effectiveness of conservation easements.
Milestones in Technical Assistance, Training, and Education
- Held six regional land trust gatherings.
- Began building relationships outside the land trust community.
- Held half-day PA Land Trust Meeting with 65 attendees during the Mid-Atlantic Land Trust Conference co-organized by WeConservePA.
- Published 1st guidance: the Guide to the Conservation and Preservation Easements Act.
- Launched the Technical Assistance Program: supported six guided organizational assessments and provided direct staff assistance by phone, email and in-person.
- Published the first installments of the 18-part Stories of Land and People series.
- Held the 1st Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference with 130 attendees and two days of programming.
- Launched ConserveLand.org.
- Made 1st Conservation Easement Assistance Program grants.
- Critiqued proposed changes to and advocated for strengthening of Land Trust Standards & Practices.
- Established the Lifetime Leadership Award.
- Published 1st edition of the Model Grant of Conservation Easement and Declaration of Covenants.
- Expanded Conservation Easement Assistance Program to cover amendments, baseline documentation and signage.
- Introduced the ConserveLand print newsletter.
- Published In Their Own Words and distributed 16,000 copies.
- Expanded the Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference to three days with 315 attending. (Attendance going forward always exceeds 300 until the Covid-19 cancellation of 2020.)
- Established the local government Conservation Leadership Award.
- Published the 1st edition of the Model Trail Easement Agreement.
- Held two-day Natural Gas & Land Conservation Conference in response to the Marcellus boom.
- Published Public Dedication of Land and Fees-in-Lieu for Parks and Recreation, WeConservePA’s first guidance regarding the Municipalities Planning Code.
- Published guides on stewardship fees, pledges and donation agreements, and more as WeConservePA moved to fill the many gaps in technical guidance available to land trusts.
- Published the PA Land Choices land use curriculum for schools.
- Debuted ConservationTools.org with guidance on dozens of conservation and planning tools and topics, expert listings, and more.
- WeConservePA’s greatly expanded its guidance, publishing four new model documents associated with easement transactions and twenty guides featuring original content.
- Published the 1st natural gas drilling violations report, which drew attention across the continent.
- Teamed up with DCNR, et al. to promote outdoor recreation, expanding Get Outdoors PA to involve local government and land trusts.
- Published WeConservePA’s first model documents to go beyond easement transactions: a release of liability agreement and grant of purchase option.
- Initiated effort to improve the Land Trust Accreditation system.
- Took responsibility for facilitating the previously quiescent EAC Network for environmental advisory councils.
- Published WeConservePA’s 1st model ordinance (riparian buffer protection) and 1st model organizational policy (easement amendment).
- Published groundbreaking manual on Universal Access Trails.
- Facilitated the development of the Land Stewardship Network peer group.
- Published Nature Play to promote nature play by children and highlight its criticality to conservation.
- Created an on-line gallery of sign images to inspire and assist organizations in sign design.
- Published model documents for obtaining rights of first refusal and offer.
- Participated substantially in developing the new edition of Land Trust Standards and Practices.
- Launched the mentorship program.
- Published WeConservePA’s 100th original guide (and several more).
- Held 1st Western PA Land Conservation Summit, attracting 87 individuals, the majority being land trust board members, over the two days.
- Launched comprehensive, interactive online maps of privately and publicly conserved PA lands and of the service areas of conservation organizations.
- Created the groundbreaking Model Declaration of Public Trust to help permanently protect publicly-held parks and open spaces.
- Produced 17 new guides and rebuilt and updated 17 more, ensuring the continuing utility of WeConservePA guidance.
- Published the Model Permission for Encroachment and updated three more models.
- Organized the PA Greenways & Trails Summit.
- Initiated and facilitated the coming together of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Community for people working in conservation and expanded DEI programming.
- Adapted swiftly to the Covid-19 crisis, using emerging digital platforms to gather together and connect PA conservation staff and volunteers as well as national leaders, provide guidance and training, and disseminate guidance.
- Organized a record number 26 conferences, workshops, seminars, and lectures as well as a half dozen roundtables—both in-person and virtual events.
WeConservePA started in 1991 as an informal gathering of land trust leaders seeking to advance common interests. These leaders incorporated the “Pennsylvania Land Trust Association” in 1995 to address and focus on the broad needs of land trusts—to take on initiatives and activities that no single organization could effectively handle or wish to handle on its own.
Since the 1990s, the organization’s mission has expanded to help people protect, wisely use, and enjoy what nature offers, whether that is through land trusts, local government open space programs, environmental advisory councils, trail groups, or other organizations.
Today, WeConservePA is made up of 70 dues-paying, voting conservation organizations as well as hundreds of individuals who contribute their time, energy, and money to the organization’s endeavors. The voting organizations elect the board and set WeConservePA’s purposes. (The organizations in turn count more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians as members and contributors.)
WeConservePA is registered with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Charitable Organizations and has held 501(c)3 tax status with the Internal Revenue Service since 1996. The organization adopted its present name with a vote of the member organizations and an amendment of its articles of incorporation in 2020.
Organizational Development Timeline
WeConservePA obtained 501(c)(3) tax status.
1st executive director hired.
Board of Directors adopts 1st strategic plan.
2nd staff position established.
1st edition of WeConservePA’s public policy agenda adopted.
Policy Advisory Council established.
2nd strategic plan adopted.
3rd staff position established.
At board’s recommendation, membership amends bylaws to provide automatic removal of directors for poor attendance.
First broad solicitation of individuals for contributions.
3rd strategic plan adopted.
4th strategic plan adopted.
4th staff position established to beef up WeConservePA’s communications and outreach.
5th staff position established to address conservation mapping and analysis needs.
6th staff position established.
The voting member organizations vote to change the organization’s name from the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association to WeConservePA. The articles of incorporation are amended accordingly.
5th strategic plan adopted.
Strategic Plan 2022-2028
WeConservePA helps people care for, wisely use, and enjoy what nature offers. We help organizations and individuals to effectively and efficiently conserve land, protect and restore waterways, implement sustainable practices, and connect people to the outdoors. We foster understanding of conservation and advocate for pro-conservation governmental policy to promote a high quality of life for all.
WeConservePA's Distinct Role
Who WeConservePA Is
Seventy dues-paying, voting conservation organizations elect the WeConservePA board of directors and set WeConservePA’s purposes. Hundreds of individuals associated with these organizations and other supporters contribute their time, energy, and money to WeConservePA. Coming together around common interests and joined by WeConservePA staff, these professionals, volunteers, and supporters constitute the WeConservePA community.
WeConservePA is a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation registered with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Charitable Organizations and holding 501(c)3 tax status with the IRS.
What WeConservePA Does
WeConservePA brings leadership to a diverse array of organizations and individuals at work in communities across Pennsylvania. It builds communities of shared interests for land trusts, environmental advisory councils, trail groups, municipal open space programs, and others with conservation goals. It helps volunteers and professionals connect with and learn from one another, and provides them with resources, equipping them to make Pennsylvania a better place. And by uniting people who conserve land, protect and restore waterways, and foster healthy communities, WeConservePA creates a powerful advocacy voice for conservation.
WeConservePA started in 1991 as an informal gathering of land trust leaders seeking to advance common interests. These leaders incorporated the “Pennsylvania Land Trust Association (PALTA)” in 1995 to address and focus on the broad needs of land trusts—to take on initiatives and activities that no single organization could effectively handle or wish to handle on its own.
Over time, the organization expanded its scope of activities to serve local governments, including their open space programs and environmental advisory councils; trail groups; and other organizations. In recognition of this evolution, its member organizations voted to adopt the organization’s present name in 2020.
WeConservePA’s member organizations count more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians as members and contributors.
All Pennsylvanians will benefit from well-stewarded, thriving open spaces: the forests, farms, parks, urban gardens, greenways, and other open lands that safeguard our drinking water and reduce flooding; provide food and timber; offer hunting, fishing, nature watching, and other recreational opportunities; preserve scenic beauty; and deliver myriad other benefits. All will have the opportunity to be a part of prosperous communities that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
Our lands are our lifeline. They clean the water we drink and the air that we breathe; they are the fields that grow our food and the forests that provide our wood; they are the homes of wildlife and places of beauty; they are the heart of our hunting, fishing, and nature-watching traditions.
The aims of conservation are as diverse as the lands being conserved, the communities in which the lands are located, and the people leading the efforts. Different circumstances lead to different concerns, priorities, and strategies.
Whether one feels that we should conserve nature for its own sake or for its utility to people, conservation is essential for human prosperity and healthy ecosystems for all life.
Redeveloping land, reinvesting in urbanized areas, using smart growth principles to guide development, and using natural infrastructure to manage water all contribute to creating prosperous communities that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
An effective conservation movement needs conservation organizations and the individuals comprising them to act ethically and strive for excellence; it prioritizes collaboration over conflict; it focuses on shared interests and respects the rights of all.
Organizations have a responsibility to be equitable and inclusionary in their operations and in their service to the public. This necessitates organization leaders, staff, and volunteers investing time in understanding what is involved in being equitable and inclusionary; it requires revisiting assumptions, long-held beliefs, and practices.
Whether living in urban, suburban, or rural environments, people benefit from getting outdoors and connecting with the land, feeling the sun, seeing the veins of a leaf, listening to the burble of a stream.
What Is Conservation?
The word conservation appears frequently in this plan (and, of course, conserve is fundamental to WeConservePA’s name). So, what does conservation mean?
Merriam Webster defines it as “a careful preservation and protection of something, especially planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.”
Wikipedia defines it as “the preservation or efficient use of resources…”
Wiktionary’s first definition is: “The act of preserving, guarding, or protecting; the keeping (of a thing) in a safe or entire state; preservation.” Its second definition is: “Wise use of natural resources.”
National Geographic’s encyclopedic entry defines it as “the act of protecting Earth’s natural resources for current and future generations.” The entry continues:
Earth’s natural resources include air, minerals, plants, soil, water, and wildlife. Conservation is the care and protection of these resources so that they can persist for future generations. It includes maintaining diversity of species, genes, and ecosystems, as well as functions of the environment, such as nutrient cycling…
WeConservePA uses conservation to mean taking action to ensure for present and future generations some or all of the following outcomes:
- The land will serve as natural infrastructure: absorbing rainwater to prevent erosion and flooding and recharge groundwater; filtering stormwater runoff of pollutants before they can enter waterways; and sequestering carbon in plants and soil.
- The land will be available and productive for logging, farming, hunting, and other activities that sustainably draw from nature.
- The land will provide habitat and support for the diverse species with which we share the planet.
- The land will provide other open space benefits such as scenic views and opportunities for outdoor recreation, reflection, and inspiration.
WeConservePA also looks at conservation as encompassing the active stewardship of land (for example, fencing forest to prevent deer overbrowse or redesigning trails to prevent stormwater runoff) and the active restoration of natural functions to degraded lands and waters (for example, reforesting riparian areas or establishing meadow on strip mined land). Even more broadly, conservation describes actions to live sustainably to ensure that future generations may enjoy nature, undiminished.
WeConservePA seeks to:
- Increase the pace and improve the quality and efficiency of land conservation work.
- Ensure that land conservation is lasting (including parks and other public lands).
- Boost the knowledge and skill sets of conservation professionals and volunteers, and foster stronger, more equitable and inclusive organizations.
- Improve land use planning and advance sustainable practices at the local level.
- Raise understanding and support for conservation.
- Achieve conservation-friendly public policy.
WeConservePA pursues four strategies—described below—in support of these goals. (Note that each strategy supports multiple goals.)
Create resources that facilitate excellence, effectiveness, and efficiency in conservation acquisitions, stewardship, land use planning, and other activities.
Train, connect, inspire, and assist
Train, connect, inspire, and assist people to empower them to achieve more in their conservation-related work.
Advocate for conservation
Advocate for pro-conservation governmental policy, foster understanding of conservation, and promote conservation-serving land trust standards.
Build WeConservePA into a more effective organization.