The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association (PALTA) awarded Thomas “Tom” Kerr with the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award at an awards dinner in Lancaster on Friday, May 5th.

In his 40-year conservation career, Tom has contributed greatly to the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources and worked to energize and mobilize the state’s conservation community.

For 20 years, Tom served as President of Wildlands Conservancy.

During his tenure, the organization revolutionized how land trusts connect with the broader public, emphasizing the need to engage and nurture future environmental stewards. As a result, the Conservancy’s outreach and educational programs have reached hundreds of thousands of people (particularly children) and imparted an appreciation of nature and the value of stewardship to its participants.

Kerr’s love of the outdoors is evident in everything he has accomplished. He is an avid hiker and canoer. Through his passion for exploring the outdoors, he has exposed state and community leaders and the public to the importance of conserving land and protecting the Delaware and Lehigh rivers.

Through his leadership in building the organization and its programs, Wildlands Conservancy has:

  • protected thousands of acres of open space;
  • educated more than 300,000 individuals on responsible environmental stewardship;
  • restored miles of local waterways;
  • developed over 90 miles of aquatic and terrestrial trail;
  • fostered the Conservancy’s Bike & Boat Program that has introduced thousands of students to outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship; and
  • established the Lehigh River Sojourn, a multi-day canoe trip designed to educate participants about the river and the environment.

Tom also chaired the campaign to establish $67 million for open space preservation in the Lehigh and Northampton counties.

After retiring from Wildlands, Tom served as interim executive director for the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and served as an environmental representative with HDR Engineering, which included the development of the Allentown waterfront.

Tom was a pioneer in the state’s land trust movement and founder of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. For PALTA’s first dozen years after incorporation in 1995, Tom and the Wildlands Conservancy provided vital administrative support, allowing the organization to focus on programmatic work and build capacity. He also helped organize the first statewide land trust conference.

“Tom was always gracious in welcoming newcomers to the budding land trust community and fostering the movement’s growth. Credit didn’t interest him; making conservation happen did,” said PALTA Executive Director Andy Loza,

“Tom is a teacher, convener, and conservationist whose leadership enabled the land trust movement in Pennsylvania to be born,” said Chris Kocher, president of Wildlands Conservancy. “Every resident of the Commonwealth is indebted to his vision and tireless support of land conservation. Penn’s Woods is truly a better place due to his lifelong commitment to nature.”

The award was presented in conjunction with the 2017 Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference held in Lancaster.