Fritz Schroeder and Phil Wenger at Climbers Run Nature Center. Photo by Mary Schroeder.

The Board of Directors for the Lancaster Conservancy (Conservancy), a 54-year-old natural land trust, announced the promotion of Fritz Schroeder to President and CEO, effective July 1, 2023. Schroeder will replace Philip R. Wenger, who has served as the Conservancy’s President and CEO for eight years. Wenger will transition out of his leadership role and will continue to work at the Conservancy on special projects.

Schroeder’s track record during his 11 years at the Conservancy is remarkable. He joined the organization as Director of Urban Greening during the Conservancy’s merger with LIVE Green in 2012. Since joining the Conservancy, he has elevated clean water as a central purpose of the organization. In 2017, he launched Lancaster Water Week, a major annual awareness campaign to celebrate and restore Lancaster County’s impaired streams and rivers. In 2018, Schroeder was promoted to Senior Vice President of Community Impact, which combined the organization’s marketing, development, and engagement efforts. Under Schroeder’s leadership of the Community Impact Department, the Conservancy rebranded and expanded its support. He implemented a corporate sponsorship program, doubling funding received from area businesses. Under his guidance, Conservancy events and fundraisers have grown dramatically. The Conservancy has topped the leader boards during the Extraordinary Give, and its annual fund has increased year over year to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of natural land protection and stewardship projects, even during the height of the pandemic. In the last two years, Schroeder has been leading the Protect & Restore Campaign, helping to raise over $21 million to enable the organization to further advance its mission.

“I’ve had the benefit of working with Fritz for years,” said City of Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace. “His commitment to clean water and the natural environment is evidenced by an incredible body of work and a growing number of engaged residents and partners.”

“Fritz is the right person at the right time,” said Conservancy Board Chair Sara Lamichane. “He has proven his capabilities, and the Board is confident he can build off the momentum and growth the organization has experienced in recent years.”

Wenger is stepping down as President and CEO after eight years, but he believes he can’t fully retire. “The important issues our climate and community face with the loss of natural lands and biodiversity are not going away,” said Wenger. “You can’t walk away from an organization that is literally saving the planet one tree, one acre, one stream at a time.”

“During Phil Wenger’s tenure as President and CEO, the Conservancy more than doubled in size, increasing from a staff of 11 to 25,” said Immediate Past Board Chair John F. Pyfer Jr. “The land the Conservancy protected under Phil’s leadership doubled what the previous 45 years took to accomplish.”

Wenger’s intent after July is to work on special projects like raising endowment funding and leading a campaign to grow support in York County for the Conservancy, but with more freedom, flexibility, and down time for family and travel.

“The Lancaster Conservancy has been a remarkable success story and partner with the state in protecting land along the Lower Susquehanna River – including the tremendous work to help add Susquehanna Riverlands to our state park system,” said Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “The ability to ‘get the job done’ both with land protection and building community support is a remarkable success story both Fritz and Phil have led together. We look forward to working with Fritz and the amazing team at the Conservancy to continue our work to protect this critical landscape.”

The leadership transition created other promotions, as well, as the Conservancy continues to grow. Kelly Snavely, the Conservancy’s former Director of Marketing and Communications, was promoted to Vice President of Development and Marketing, and Keith Williams, hired by Schroeder in 2020 to grow the organization’s volunteer and community outreach programs, has been promoted to Vice President of Engagement and Education.

“I’m honored to work with such a strong team of leaders,” said Schroeder. “The Conservancy is 54 years old, but its purpose has become even more important. The initial impulse of our founders was to protect land for hunting and fishing. Today we face climate change, impaired waterways, polluted air, and loss of lands to unsustainable development – challenges that we need to face if the Lancaster County I grew up in is the Lancaster County our grandchildren will hopefully call home. I can’t think of a better way to impact our future than by continuing to grow the momentum of this organization down this path we’ve embarked on. Our future depends on coming together to address these environmental challenges, and I am excited to lead us forward.”