Face Of This Place

Todd McNew

After leading the Fund's Conservation Acquisition work in Pennsylvania for 12 years, Todd McNew is now a Florida Representative for the program. During his tenure in Pennsylvania, nearly 40 land conservation purchases totaling approximately 55,000 acres were completed, with a fair-market-value of more than $130,000,000.  Todd also served as the Fund's lead on several Mitigation Solutions projects.  

What were your favorite outdoor adventures as a kid?
Out behind the subdivision where I grew up were two old abandoned farms covering about 500 acres, although it could have been smaller and I just thought it was that big because I was a kid. There were a few abandoned homes and cars there but further back were trails and wetlands, places where we could catch frogs and big, bushy lichens grew. We just loved going out there to play and get away from our suburban enclave into another world. 

How did you find a career in conservation?
I had always had an interest in working to conserve land. That 500 acre oasis from my childhood was developed over when I was in my teens, they built a highway right through it. And that made a lasting impression on me. I always felt we should be conserving more of our open space and so as I was becoming disenchanted from my career, I was working in the planning field, I decided to try to break into the land conservation field.

How did the protection of the Flight 93 lands come together?
The conservation of the land came together in different parts. There were some parcels that had unwilling sellers who didn’t want to sell their properties for reasonable or fair-market values. Those properties, including the impact site, were conserved ultimately directly by the federal government, so we were not a party to those acquisitions.

Fortunately, many of the lands within the Memorial had owners who were willing to sell. We were able to assist the National Park Service, the Families of Flight 93, a nonprofit that was formed specifically to help make the memorial a reality, the Flight 93 Memorial Advisory Commission, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission to acquire many of those properties. Additionally, we worked in partnership with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to preserve roughly 600 acres just north of the site and those lands were renamed State Game Lands 93. Some of this land is actually within the official memorial boundary. The conservation of those lands will provide important opportunities for outdoor recreation - hunting, fishing, and hiking within and around the Flight 93 National Memorial and will also buffer, and protect from development, the main entrance to the memorial. Like most National Park Service properties, the Flight 93 Memorial will not allow hunting, the state game lands will allow those activities for the local community and visitors alike.

You have been responsible for several historic land acquisitions for the Fund, do any hold special significance for you?
There are two in particular that were special to me—the Gettysburg Country Club project and Camp Security. The Gettysburg Country Club was built on top of a 100-acre tract that saw much of the day one battle at Gettysburg. In the 1920s, the site was developed as a country club and golf course. In the mid-2000s, the country club went bankrupt and we were able to work with those handling the bankruptcy and the National Park Service to acquire the property and transfer it to the park. It has since been restored to its Civil War era look and it is now a very important part of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The Camp Security property was a 160-acre site that was comprised of two parcels, in two ownerships that was the site of a Revolutionary War British POW camp. That site was threatened by development throughout the early 2000s. We were able to come in and work with a variety of partners to acquire both of the properties and to ultimately transfer them to the township where they are now conserved as part of the Camp Security Preservation Area where they are open to the public. In the future, as resources become available, the site will be interpreted and studied so much of that visitors to the site can learn more about what happened there.

Do you find that working on historic site preservation projects involves a different level of community engagement?
In many ways yes, these projects do have special meaning for their communities. For one thing, we are able to work with a whole different set of stakeholders. We get to work with people whose primary interest is in preserving history. That’s a different group of people than those who are interested in outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry, or farmland preservation, the types of projects we are more often focused on. We broaden our horizons by working on these historic projects and bring in new folks to the conservation fold.  

For you personally, did the Flight 93 project change the way you look at your work in conservation?
Absolutely. Unlike Gettysburg or Camp Security, where the events occurred in the distant past, working on the Flight 93 project felt like a chance to actually play a small role in our nation’s history. Working on the project, I had a chance to interact with and get to know many of the family and friends of the heroes of 9/11.  It was much more of a participatory opportunity than any or the other projects I’ve worked on. 

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