From the Assistant Director: More land, more responsibility

By John Lawrence, Assistant Director

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

John Lawrence birdwatching on a staff trip to Stillwater Marsh in 2007

It’s hard to believe how much Sycamore Land Trust has grown since I joined the staff eleven years ago. Three of us shared a small two-room office in the Showers building; now we are adding our seventh full-time position and are fortunate to have Cedar Crest as our lovely and spacious headquarters. Most importantly, the amount of land Sycamore protects has ballooned from 3,400 acres in June 2006 to over 9,100 acres today. We’ve nearly tripled in size!

Superhero fans will recall the words that drove Peter Parker to use his powers for good as the Amazing Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Had Peter not been bitten by a radioactive spider and instead went into land conservation (anything can happen, especially in comic books), his Uncle Ben would have similarly counseled him that with more land comes more responsibility.  “Completing” a land acquisition project is really just the beginning – protecting a parcel of land forever means taking on the responsibility of caring for it forever.

Sycamore now owns and manages nearly 50 individual nature preserves, and is responsible for over 30 conservation easements. At a minimum, every preserve or easement requires at least annual monitoring and follow-up, and many preserves are intensively managed to restore or improve habitat and to provide public access on trails. All those properties are spread across southern Indiana, too. From Eagle Slough in Evansville, to Beanblossom Bottoms north of Bloomington, and all the way to Pfrimmer Farm near Corydon, we have a lot of ground to cover. Even with all the help of our dedicated volunteers, we’ve got our work cut out for us!

Fortunately, our good friend Darlene Gerster has made a generous donation and pledge to help us keep up with our increasing responsibilities. With her assistance, Sycamore has just hired our first full-time position dedicated entirely to caring for our nature preservers and easements. Chris Fox is joining us as our new Land Stewardship Manager, and I’m excited to begin working with him to expand our land management program. You’ll get to know more about him in the next Twig, so suffice to say for now that he brings a great combination of experience and enthusiasm to our team. He may not be able to scale a skyscraper with his hands, but he will do an amazing job caring for the land we protect.