December 29, 2021| Support our Efforts

A Cause Worth Fighting For and a Career Worth Celebrating

Upon his return home from the Vietnam War, where he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Tom Macy began working in San Francisco’s financial district. He also began searching for a cause worth fighting for, and soon found it within the field of conservation. Motivated by his love of nature and significant financial savvy, Tom quickly found his stride as a project manager for The Trust for Public Land negotiating deals in California, Idaho, and New Jersey.

12 17 21 Tom Hiking at Pt. Reyes National SeashoreTom Macy hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. Photo courtesy of Tom and Sydney Macy.

When a close friend from Hamilton College called a few years later to ask for Tom’s assistance raising funds to protect Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Santa Barbara, Tom was eager for the challenge and left The Trust for Public Land to join The Nature Conservancy. Fun fact: a few of his fundraising exploits at The Nature Conservancy were even captured in his colleague David E. Morine’s book “Good Dirt: Confessions of a Conservationist.”

Tom met Patrick Noonan in the early 1970s, and Pat called on Tom when he needed a master dealmaker to help realize his vision of what is now The Conservation Fund. In 1985, Pat and Tom began making inroads with the Giftlands program, the Fund’s earliest means of generating conservation capital, even before the Fund was officially established.

As a consummate dealmaker, Tom’s strength lies in negotiating with landowners and partners to bring conservation transactions across the goal line. Ever alert to the next “tug on his line,” Tom also had the endurance required to see a deal like Long’s Gardens—a decade in the making—to fruition. In the Brush Creek Valley, 20 minutes from Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado, Tom’s work over the last 25 years has protected nearly 3,500 acres slated for ski and golf resort development. And Tom’s journey of over 30 years of focus in the San Juan River and Navajo River watersheds has protected 75,000 acres of wilderness-surrounded ranches along Colorado’s Continental Divide where the last grizzly in Colorado was documented in 1979 and where the San Juan strain of the cutthroat trout was recently re-discovered after having been thought extinct.

Tom has been unselfish with his success, often reminding us that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” He has been a mentor to many of the Fund’s real estate staff, modeling key deal-making tactics such as the “pounce factor” and “avoiding the temptation to negotiate against oneself.” And ever-mindful that small deals take just as much time as big ones, Tom chose to GO BIG throughout his career, and he coached his colleagues, sometimes relentlessly, to adopt this ethic.

12 17 21 Team Meeting at CQs 8.5.20The Conservation Fund’s Colorado team celebrating a record year of conservation despite the challenges of the pandemic. Clockwise from left: Liz Slokar, Christine Quinlan, Tom Macy, Justin Spring, and (the arm of) Kelly Ingebritson.  

Tom also wisely encouraged us to conserve the things that truly matter to us—those projects that truly “get your tail wagging.” For Tom, this passion was manifested in his devotion to conserve and spend time on healthy rivers. Many of the 300 projects Tom has been involved in, resulting in conservation of over 2.5 million acres in the western United States, have protected iconic rivers including the Colorado, Snake, Salmon, Umpqua, Deschutes, Silver Creek, Navajo, and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison rivers. The western United States’ most precious resources—its waterways—have a better chance for survival because of Tom’s enduring fight for their vitality.

12 17 21 TM hiking ELCR Camp Hale property JSpring IMG 1733Tom’s well-deserved journey into retirement. Photo by Justin Spring.

Tom remains enthusiastic about the outdoors, and in retirement no doubt will find more time for fly-fishing trips, biking, and hiking with his wife Sydney. Tom and Sydney’s connection to the outdoors goes beyond just enjoying it; they’ve gotten to protect it from being over developed. We owe Tom a tremendous debt of gratitude and offer him all the thanks in the world as he moves on to the next adventure.

Written By

The Conservation Fund's Colorado Team

Associate State Director Christine Quinlan and State Director Justin Spring authored this blog on behalf of the Colorado team. We welcome you to explore The Conservation Fund's work in Colorado.