The Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to conservation in Pennsylvania over the course of their life.  Since its establishment in 2004, the award has honored both conservation professionals and volunteers for their commitment to and leadership in conservation.

For the first time, and owing to disruptions brough about by the COVID 19 pandemic, WeConservePA will award two individuals with this distinction at the 2023 Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference in Reading. The awards ceremony occurs during the Thursday night reception, 5-8pm, on April 27 at the DoubleTree Reading. WeConservePA congratulates this year’s recipients, Karen Martynick and David Shields.

Karen Martynick

Karen Martynick grew up in Delaware County and moved to Chester County to attend West Chester University just as the county was beginning to experience rapid development and the once bucolic landscape was giving way to housing developments and corporate centers.

After achieving her B.A. and M.S. at West Chester, Karen worked for the Chester County Commissioners and the Pennsylvania State Senate.  In 1989, Karen became active in efforts to preserve open space with a referendum to allocate $50 million to land protection.  Her involvement in the “Save Open Space” campaign led Karen to run for county commissioner.

Karen served three terms as commissioner in Chester County.  During her tenure, Chester County committed $125 million to land conservation resulting in the preservation of more than 30,000 acres and the protection of critical water resources.  At the same time, the County developed and implemented the award-winning comprehensive plan, “Landscapes,” the County’s first comprehensive plan designed to manage growth and protect natural resources.

After leaving the commissioners’ office, Karen continued to pursue her passion for land conservation as Executive Director of Lancaster Farmland Trust.  During her 17 years leading the organization, LFT permanently protected 22,546 acres on 368 farms and Lancaster County became the home of the most protected farmland in the country.  Under Karen’s leadership, LFT launched a successful program to improve water quality by helping farmers reduce the environmental impact of their operations.

Karen served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counties, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, and EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee.  Karen served as a Board member of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association (now WeConservePA) and as a member of the Land Trust Alliance Leadership Council.

In addition to the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award, Karen was previously the recipient of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce’s George C. Delp award for leadership in agriculture and received the “Woman of Influence” award from the Central Penn Business Journal.  She has also been honored as Outstanding Commissioner of the Year by the County Commissioners Association and was named to the Pennsylvania Honor Roll of Women.

“Perhaps most instrumental to the organizations she has led are the many relationships Karen forged and fostered throughout her career in conservation. From farm owners to donors, partners, businesses, foundations, elected officials and other community members, relationships are the driving force behind her success and will ensure that these organizations are healthy and effective well beyond her service and for years to come. Karen’s deep respect for the land and care for the future of our community will leave a lasting legacy”

– Jeff Swinehart, President & CEO, Lancaster Farmland Trust.


David Shields

David devoted over 38 years to the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Throughout his long career, he worked to conserve the farmland, historic sites and buildings, forests, wetlands, streams and other natural resources of the Brandywine Valley and nearby watersheds in SE Pennsylvania and northern Delaware.

Beginning as an intern in the summer of 1980, he developed the Conservancy’s conservation easement monitoring program and conducted its first easement inspections. He later joined the Conservancy as a part-time employee in 1983 at the start of the King Ranch project, the Conservancy’s landmark effort to conserve the 5,367-acre property owned by the Texas cattle company. A year later, he stepped in to serve as the Administrator of Buck & Doe Associates, L.P., an investment group formed by the Conservancy to acquire and conserve the King Ranch. During the next four years, David supervised all facets of the partnership’s operations to acquire, manage, conserve, subdivide and distribute the property.

In 1988, while continuing to administer the wind down and dissolution of Buck & Doe Associates, he returned to the Brandywine Conservancy, first as a Senior Planner and later as Associate Director in charge of its Land Stewardship Program. In this capacity, he was responsible for all aspects of the Conservancy’s land conservation work, including conservation easement planning, preparation, stewardship (and sometimes enforcement actions), fee simple land acquisitions, and preserve management, plus untold other duties.

During his tenure at Brandywine, David oversaw the permanent protection of over 32,000 acres (50 square miles) through more than 380 individual conservation easements. He also managed the acquisition of four Conservancy preserves totaling over 1,300 acres.

Other Notable Activities:

  • Co-authored Catalyst for Conservation, which recounts the story of saving the King Ranch property.
  • Led a 30-year effort to conserve the undeveloped properties within Brandywine Battlefield National Historic Landmark.
  • Initiated Brandywine’s farmland preservation program and expanded it to conserve Amish-owned farms, leading to the preservation of over 30% of Honey Brook Township, the locus of the Brandywine Creek headwaters.
  • Managed the acquisition of the Laurels Preserve (771 ac), the Miller Farm (262 ac), the Waterloo Mills Preserve (172 ac), the Birmingham Hill Preserve (114 ac), and the Oxford Area Foundation’s Glenroy Preserve (730 ac).
  • Raised tens of millions of dollars in easement endowments, preserve endowments, operational grants, and land and easement acquisition funds.
  • Assisted with the acquisition of the First State National Historic Park; and
  • Coordinated the Brandywine-Christina Cluster of the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative.

“David’s knowledge is matched by his determination and enthusiasm for the critically important work that has defined his career” and “is among few whose professional legacy is documented by the extraordinary beauty of the lands that are permanently protected, the vibrancy of plain sect farms around the headwaters of the Brandywine and the historic resources that have been preserved for generations to come. David has been instrumental to Brandywine’s success and deserves much gratitude for all he has accomplished in his career.”

– Virginia A. Logan, The Frolic Weymouth Executive Director & CEO, Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.


“David leaves behind a legacy of protected forests, fields, and streams; rolling scenic landscapes; world-class prime agricultural soils; and beauty as part of his long career with the Brandywine Conservancy.  While many of these awards are given to the leaders that set a vision and then had staff complete, David is one that was both a leader and a workhorse who set both the vision AND completed the detailed oriented easement and fee acquisition steps–knowing, understanding, and living a conservation life from an intern to an Associate Director.”

– Stephanie Armpriester, Director of Conservation and Stewardship, Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

Past Award Winners