Coupled with memories of those events, I can point to several people who helped shape who I am. First and foremost are my parents, who encouraged me to pursue my passions while teaching me to be independent. Threads of their emphasis on independence are woven throughout the fabric of my life—in how I raised my three children and in my professional pursuits. It’s not surprising that independence and self-reliance are core principles of The Conservation Fund.

Another major influence in my life has been Pat Noonan, whom I literally ran into on the football field at Gettysburg College in 1964 when I was a freshman and he was a senior. It was clear to me even then that Pat had a distinguishing drive and sense of purpose. He is a visionary and a highly respected conservationist among his peers and the business community.

Without internet and cellphones, Pat and I managed to keep in touch after college. In 1973, my final year of law school, I was entertaining offers from law firms when Pat called me and asked if I would be interested in coming to work with him at The Nature Conservancy. I decided to take the job, and we’ve worked closely together for over 40 years.

Pat left The Nature Conservancy around 1980 and worked in the private sector, but I believe he felt a higher calling and obligation to create a new model for land conservation that moved at a faster speed and used collaboration as opposed to confrontation. The recognition that conservation and economic development were not mutually exclusive was the central idea of the new model. With that founding principle as a driver and the support of several former colleagues, including KiKu Hanes and Hadlai Hull, we incorporated The Conservation Fund in March 1985 and launched our decades-long odyssey.

Looking back, one project in which I take deep personal pride is the Champion International acquisition in 1999. At that time, it was the largest multistate land conservation transaction ever accomplished by a not-for-profit organization. The Fund purchased 296,000 acres of forestland across New York, Vermont and New Hampshire using our Revolving Fund capital along with funding support from a diverse group of partners, including state and federal agencies, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and other private philanthropies. The Champion deal ranks among the most gratifying projects of my career, and it set the stage for the creation of our Working Forest Fund program.

In 1985 we had aspirations, but I could not have predicted that by 2021 we’d have protected over 8.5 million acres, with a staff of nearly 200 of the sharpest conservationists in the business, driven by the same core values with which Pat and I started—integrity, passion, innovation and the ability to make course corrections quickly and decisively. I’m proud to have helped build a firstrate team that cares deeply about our mission and this important work.

The advice I would give to people starting out in conservation is that while individually you may not change the world, you can certainly accomplish things that will shift the world’s approach. Little bits over the course of 36 years can produce significant results—the Fund has proved that!

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