Over the past 29 years, Ralph “Bud” Cook of The Nature Conservancy has protected special places from Great Marsh to Goat Hill in Pennsylvania to the Chilean grasslands and the Ecuadoran cloud forest. Beneficiaries of his work include the golden-winged warbler, the river otter, the spectacled bear, the bog turtle, and of course people. Bud’s work exemplifies what can be done and how individuals can effect positive change for conservation with integrity and intelligence.

In Pennsylvania, the old-growth forests of Woodbourne Preserve, the cascading waters of Seven Tubs Natural Area, the dragonfly haven of Shelly Preserve and the boreal bog at Tannersville Cranberry Bog are just of the few of the places Bud has worked to protect.

One of Bud’s strengths is his ability to create and pursue huge conservation opportunities. In 1998, he initiated the Monroe County Citizens for Open Space and led a successful open space campaign that garnered $25 million for land protection in Monroe County. That program has leveraged an additional $50 million in matching funds and protected more than 12,000 acres.

Altogether, he has leveraged more than $100 million in public funding for open space preservation in those areas. These funds have helped protect extraordinary places like the Thomas Darling Nature Preserve, one of the largest undisturbed peatland complexes in Pennsylvania; and Hartman Cave in Cherry Valley, a winter sanctuary for hibernating bats.

Bud’s work extends far beyond Pennsylvania. He has provided guidance to conservation partners in Panama, Paraguay, Ecuador and Chile, initiating protection for more than 3.5 million acres.

On behalf of Pennsylvania’s eighty leading conservation organizations, WeConservePA honored Bud Cook with the 2009 Lifetime Leadership Conservation Award for his decades of leadership and dedication in conserving our special places and landscapes.

“Bud has been a tremendous asset to the conservation movement and an inspiration to us all”, stated Andy Loza, Executive Director of WeConservePA. “On behalf of WeConservePA and the land conservation community, we thank Bud Cook for his remarkable life of service to the environment and for being an exemplary contributor to land conservation efforts in Pennsylvania.”