PA Land Trust Assn. Honors Union County, Tom Kerr For Protecting Natural Resources

The PA Land Trust Association Saturday honored Union County with the 2017 Government Conservation Leadership Award for demonstrated leadership in the conservation of our special landscapes and critical natural resources and Tom Kerr, former President of the Wildlands Conservancy, with the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award.

Tom Kerr

In his forty-year conservation career, Tom has contributed greatly to the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources and worked to energize and mobilize the state’s conservation community.

For twenty years, Tom served as President of the Wildlands Conservancy.

During his tenure, the organization revolutionized how land trusts connect with the broader public, emphasizing the need to engage and nurture future environmental stewards.

As a result, the Conservancy’s outreach and educational programs have reached hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children, and strived to impart an appreciation of nature and the value of stewardship in its participants.

His love of the outdoors is evident in everything he has accomplished. He is an avid hiker and canoer. Through his passion for exploring the outdoors, he has exposed state and community leaders and the public to the importance of conserving land and protecting the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers.

Through his leadership, building the organization and its programs, Wildlands Conservancy has:

--  protected thousands of acres of open space;

--  educated more than 300,000 individuals on responsible environmental stewardship;

--  restored miles of local waterways;

--  developed over 90 miles of aquatic and terrestrial trail;

--  fostered the Conservancy’s Bike & Boat Program that has introduced thousands of students to outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship; and

--  established the Lehigh River Sojourn, a multi-day canoe trip designed to educate participants about the river and the environment.

Tom also chaired the campaign to establish $67 million for open space preservation in the Lehigh and Northampton counties.

After retiring from the conservancy, Tom served as interim executive director for the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and served as an environmental representative with HDR Engineering, which included the development of the Allentown Waterfront.

Tom was a pioneer in the state’s land trust movement and founder of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.

For PALTA’s first dozen years after incorporation in 1995, Tom and the Wildlands Conservancy provided vital administrative support, allowing the organization to focus on programmatic work and build capacity. He also helped organize the first statewide land trust conference.

“Tom was always gracious in welcoming newcomers to the budding land trust community and fostering the movement’s growth. Credit didn’t interest him; making conservation happen did,” said PALTA Executive Director, Andy Loza,

“Tom is a teacher, convener, and conservationist whose leadership enabled the land trust movement in Pennsylvania to be born.  Every resident of the Commonwealth is indebted to his vision and tireless support of land conservation,” acknowledged Wildlands Conservancy President, Chris Kocher. Penn’s Woods is truly a better place due to his lifelong commitment to nature.”

Click Here to watch a video interview with Tom Kerr on building partnerships.

Union County

Union County has provided leadership, support and guidance for numerous conservation and restoration projects and has served as a true partner to the conservation organizations working within the county.

Union County’s Planning Commission staff’s support and expertise proved instrumental in numerous conservation projects. Most significant was the acquisition of the roughly 36-acre McGinnis property and the 80-acre Rozyckie property adjacent to Shikellamy State Park.

Both parcels were ultimately transferred to the Department of Conservation & Natural

Resources as additions to Shikellamy State Park. Planning Commission staff prepared two successful grant applications on behalf of Merrill W. Linn Conservancy, which funded the McGinnis parcel purchase and played a key role in facilitating the Rozyckie property purchase.

The McGinnis purchase could have fallen through if Commission staff hadn’t taken the lead role in helping the Conservancy secure the necessary funding to complete the purchase. Staff’s experience in managing the grant writing process on behalf of the Conservancy was invaluable.

In spite of the loss of substantial property tax revenue to the township and county, commissioners supported and financially backed these two acquisitions. Commissioner John Showers hosted a fundraising event at his home to help the Conservancy secure donations to facilitate the acquisition and also stepped up with short-term personal financial resources to purchase the Rozyckie property.

The close working relationship between the Union County Conservation District, the Buffalo Creek Watershed Alliance, and the Conservancy resulted in numerous conservation projects throughout the county.

These efforts included the acid remediation site on the upper reach of Buffalo Creek, streamside buffer and restoration of Buffalo Creek and its tributaries (e.g., Conley Run), and nutrient retention ponds at Ard’s Farm.

UCCD’s stream restoration activities have received due recognition, including the 2014 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for the Northcentral Stream Restoration Project.

Union County established its Agricultural Land Preservation program in 1989, providing ongoing support of the agricultural industry by protecting precious farmland above and beyond easement purchases. Union County, through outreach efforts of the UCCD, also stands out with a far higher amount of no-till conservation agriculture than is practiced in adjacent or regional counties.

Union County has also had excellent success with its riparian zone improvement projects. The UCCD has worked with farmers and has made a particularly strong effort to reach out to plain-sect farmers.

The partnership of the UCCD with BCWA has facilitated riparian projects on Turtle Creek and now on Conley Run.

“It’s the day-to-day strong working relationship that makes the government-NGO partnership work so well in Union County,” explained Geoff Goodenow, Coordinator for the Merrill Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy. “The Union County Commissioners, Planning Commission, and UCCD have a vision for the county in which conservation is central. In making decisions, they consider the long-term consequences, impacts, and gains; and their judgment embodies true leadership.”

“We are pleased to honor such strong partners, actively protecting, restoring and preserving working lands and natural resources,” stated Andy Loza, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. “On behalf of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and the land conservation community, we thank the Union County Commissioners and their staff for their leadership and tremendous conservation efforts.”

The award was presented May 6 in conjunction with the 2017 Annual Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference in Lancaster. County Commissioner John Showers and Conservation District Manager Bill Deitrick accepted the award on behalf of the county.

For more information on programs, initiatives, grant and training opportunities, visit the PA Land Trust Association website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from PLTA.


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[Posted: May 8, 2017]


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