From the Land Preservation Director

by Rob McCrea

This article originally appeared in the fall 2019 issue of The Twig, our member newsletter. To see more articles and past issues, click here.

Many conservationists have a favorite passage from Aldo Leopold. One of mine is about how the outdoor experiences we have as children resonate with us, and how we try in vain to improve upon their significance throughout our lives. It struck a chord with me one autumn while I was back home in Indiana during a break from college in Arizona. I was walking down a gravel road a childhood friend and I had named the “old road,” located along my family’s land in Monroe County. We used the old road as a waymark for our hunting spots.

That fall, the angle of the light, color of the leaves, crispness of the air, and sound of the gravel underfoot took me back to a time and place from my youth that I have never experienced since. I realized the importance of my home in southern Indiana and how the experiences of growing up in the outdoors here were intrinsically part of me. While I’ve been fortunate to travel and live in other states, my heart has always been here in Indiana. Or you might say that Indiana is part of me. That’s what I think Aldo Leopold was talking about: that the outdoor experiences we have as kids resonate throughout our lives and inform our sense of place more powerfully than the experiences we have when we are older.

I grew up in Bloomington and attended Bloomington High School South. I went to college at Prescott College in Arizona and received a degree in Ecology and Natural History. Later on, I studied law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, OR. What a lovely coincidence that one of the areas of law I specialized in is 42 USC § 4321 or the National Environmental Policy Act, a federal law written by Linton Keith Caldwell. Keith was also a founder of Sycamore Land Trust and father of the family that donated Cedar Crest, where our office is located.

After law school I began practice at my family’s law firm in Bloomington. I joined the Sycamore board of directors in 2017. When the opportunity to join the staff opened up this past spring, I saw a chance to get back to my roots and work toward protecting the southern Indiana landscape that is so meaningful to me.

As Sycamore’s new Land Preservation Director I will be filling a modified version of the role John Lawrence had as Assistant Director before he stepped into the role of Executive Director, focusing on land acquisition, preservation, and stewardship. I look forward to dusting off my botanical Latin to interpret our properties and utilizing my background in law for land acquisitions and protection.

Sycamore protects some of the most biologically rich areas in southern Indiana. We also create opportunities for natural history exploration and recreation at many of our preserves. During
the early days of Sycamore, as someone concerned about environmental and land issues, I felt lucky that southern Indiana had such a trustworthy organization looking out for the beautiful natural world that takes care of us all. Now I feel privileged to work for this organization, and for all the members whose support helps us protect nature for Forever.