Sycamore Land Trust announces new Executive Director, John Lawrence

JANUARY 29, 2019

contact: Abby Henkel, Communications Director, Sycamore Land Trust
812-336-5382 ext. 101

John Lawrence; photo by Abby Henkel

Bloomington, Ind. – John Lawrence has been hired as the Executive Director for Sycamore Land Trust, which protects land and connects people to nature in southern Indiana through strategic conservation and environmental education.

Having served as the organization’s Interim Executive Director since September 1, 2018, Lawrence is well prepared for this role. He has worked at Sycamore Land Trust for more than 13 years, the past 10 of which as its Assistant Director. A lifelong resident of Monroe County, Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs with a major in environmental management from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. In addition to his experience with Sycamore, he has served as president of the Sassafras Audubon Society and volunteered with Wildcare, a local wildlife rehabilitation nonprofit.

Former Executive Director Christian Freitag left Sycamore Land Trust after 18 years to direct the Conservation Law Center in Bloomington, which provides legal services to environmental organizations including Sycamore Land Trust.

As Executive Director, Lawrence provides the vision and oversight for key program areas including land protection, land stewardship, and environmental education while overseeing six other full-time professional staff and several student interns from Indiana University. His chief responsibilities include maintaining Sycamore’s strong financial health, negotiating land donations and purchases, conservation planning, working with the organization’s board of directors and advisory board, establishing partnerships and collaborations with other conservation groups, and guiding the nonprofit with the distinctive mission of protecting and restoring habitat forever.

“I’m deeply thankful to Sycamore’s board as well as all of our wonderful supporters, volunteers, and partner organizations,” said Lawrence. “We’ve accomplished so much together in my time so far with Sycamore, saving important natural areas and building the organization. I’m thrilled for this opportunity to lead us further.”

“I’m also very happy for Christian,” Lawrence added. “I learned a great deal working with him for over twelve years, and I’m glad we’ll continue to work together through the Conservation Law Center.”

Sycamore’s board of directors, chaired by George Huntington, conducted a thorough national search and interview process. Board member John Whikehart, former chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington, led the search committee.

“On behalf of the board of directors, I am thrilled to see John take the helm. We’re confident in his capacity to lead Sycamore in this challenging and critical role,” said Huntington. “Land conservation continues to prove one of the most productive ways to address environmental issues facing our community, from clean water and air to biodiversity and public health. A strong, mission-driven leader like John will help us serve more people and protect more land long into the future.”

Huntington continued: “In my seven years on the board, I have seen John grow into this leadership role while accomplishing a great deal for Sycamore. His expertise in strategic land acquisition, ability to connect with all people, and passion for protecting southern Indiana’s wild places clearly set him apart as the perfect person to take on the tasks of the Executive Director.”

Since Lawrence joined the staff in 2005, Sycamore’s acreage of protected land has nearly tripled, to over 9,700 acres today; the staff grew to seven full-time employees; Sycamore completed the challenging process of applying for accreditation through the Land Trust Alliance; and the Environmental Education program expanded both in scope and in a now almost fully funded endowment. Through strategic acquisitions in the Beanblossom Creek Bicentennial Conservation Area, Sycamore expanded its footprint protecting this important watershed to more than 1,500 acres.

With Lawrence officially appointed as the new director, the staff and board of Sycamore Land Trust are eager to continue and expand upon the organization’s work to protect southern Indiana’s important natural places, restore native habitat, establish a conservation ethic among all Hoosiers, and create a healthier environment for future generations.

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About Sycamore Land Trust: Founded in 1990, Sycamore Land Trust protects land and connects people to nature in 26 counties in southern Indiana. The organization protects and actively stewards 9,773 acres (and growing) of forests, wetlands, prairies, and critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. Sycamore maintains 16 public nature preserves for hiking, bird watching, and general enjoyment of nature, and provides an environmental education program that connects more than 6,000 people of all ages each year to southern Indiana’s natural world through guided hikes, field trips, and other hands-on activities. Sycamore’s work is made possible by 1,100 members across the region.