On a community, county, and state level, Judge Rufe has committed his adult life to volunteer activism in protecting the land and environment. Steadfast dedication, unquestioned sincerity, interminable energy and insightful leadership characterize his efforts on behalf of preserving the historic and natural heritage of the greater Delaware region.
Since 1976 Judge Rufe has been an active member of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC), which is the oldest continuously operating bird organization in North America, dating to 1890. Judge Rufe has served on DVOC’s Council, been Secretary, Vice President (Program Chairman), President, and Chairman of the Nominating Committee. Judge Rufe currently serves as one of its three Trustees.
For thirty-three years, Judge Rufe has served in a leadership role for Heritage Conservancy, guiding the Conservancy’s growth into a strong and credible, regional land trust. Judge Rufe joined the Board of Heritage Conservancy (then the Bucks County Conservancy) in 1974. He was immediately elected Vice President, and in 1975 became President (now Chairman of the Board). In 1974 the Conservancy had no employees, no office, and a $1,200 annual budget. Judge Rufe’s impact has been monumental and he has been intimately involved in every major decision concerning the Conservancy. He gave the fledgling conservation organization its initial credibility and leadership to evolve into a recognized leader in land conservation and historic preservation.
Judge Rufe also served as President of Bucks County Audubon Society and Honey Hollow Watershed Association where the Society is located. The Honey Hollow Watershed is a National Historic Landmark has served as a prototype for thousands of similar small watersheds throughout the nation.
While the bulk of Judge Rufe’s environmental activism has been focused on the local and county levels, he has played an important role on the state level as well. Judge Rufe served on Pennsylvania’s Wild Resources Conservation Fund (WRCF) Advisory Committee for a period of 10 years, the first year as Vice Chairman, and the remaining time as Chairman. This committee has the responsibility for allocating funds to wildlife conservation efforts from the sale of the WRCF license plates in Pennsylvania. In the Chairman’s role Judge Rufe conducted all meetings and met directly with the Pennsylvania State legislators to present committee recommendations.
For the past nine years Judge Rufe has served on the Bucks County Open Space Board, which reviews applications for funding from the 1997 Bucks County ten-year $59M Open Space Bond. The impact of this work resulted in over 15,000 acres permanently preserved in Bucks County since 1997.
In 2007, Judge Rufe served as Co-Chairman of the proposed 2007 renewed ten-year $87M Bucks County Open Space Bond Issue, and was instrumental in the development of the final report upon which the 2007 bond issue was based. The report recommended an expansion of areas to be funded to include among others, Historic Preservation, Public Access Open Space, Parks and Recreation, Education, and Stewardship of preserved properties, thus providing opportunities for communities where little open space remains.
In the process, Judge Rufe was appointed by the County Commissioners as Co-Chairman of the “Save Bucks County” Committee to promote the 2007 Bond Issue. In addition to appearances all over the county, Judge Rufe also authored the “Frequently Asked Questions” portion of the web site, which was widely circulated in print and resulted in The Bucks County Courier’s endorsement for the referendum question. The question passed by better than 75-25%, and even more significant, there was not a single voting precinct, as well as municipality, in the county that voted against the question.
Clifford C. David Jr., President of Heritage Conservancy, and Jackie Kramer, WeConservePA President, will co-present the 2008 Lifetime Leadership Award to Judge Rufe on April 5th at the 2008 Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference in Malvern, Pennsylvania. “Hart is truly an advocate for land preservation,” David stated, “and we have all benefited from his dedication and hard work.”
Each year, WeConservePA honors an individual who has demonstrated decades of leadership and dedication in conserving our special places and landscapes. Judge Rufe’s hard work, lasting resolve and dedication to land conservation encapsulates what this award represents.
On behalf of WeConservePA and the land conservation community, we thank Judge Rufe for his remarkable life of service to the environment and for being an exemplary contributor to land conservation efforts in Pennsylvania.