Wyoming conservationist says, it's all about the money
A sellout crowd turned out for the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation's summer gathering and annual dinner Monday night. The annual event, a mix of socializing and conservation awareness raising, took place amidst the impeccably groomed grounds of an Edgartown captain's house originally built in 1840.
The featured speaker was Story Clark, a Western conservationist with very local roots. Ms. Clark, who now lives on a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, spent her youth on the nearby island of Tuckernuck.
Ms. Clark was senior director of the Jackson Hole Land Trust and now serves on several boards including Conservation International. She is also the author of a book on conservation strategies, "A Field Guide to Conservation Finance."
With Ox Pond Meadow, one of many properties donated to Sheriff's Meadow, and Nantucket Sound for a backdrop, president Steve Crampton welcomed the guests and thanked the evening's hosts, Sal and Anne Giordano. Mr. Crampton provided what he termed a "state of the foundation."
Sheriff's Meadow supporters listen to Story Clark describe conservation success stories. Photos by Ralph Stewart
His report described a growing conservation organization, strongly supported by its members and staff, adapting to a changing world, and still guided by its original founding mission. Mr. Crampton said Sheriff's Meadow is the Island's largest private land conservation organization with almost 3,000 acres.
Board member Bill Maloney, a seasonal resident of Jackson Hole where he first met Ms. Clark, had the honor of introducing her. He said that there are approximately 19,000 acres protected in Jackson Hole and Ms. Clark had a hand in protecting a lot of it. "What a community does with land shapes the character of a community," said Mr. Maloney.
Ms. Clark began her talk by describing her experience on Tuckernuck Island where she first "learned to appreciate open land." But getting quickly to the point, she said she was there that night to talk about a subject her mother always told her was not polite to talk about in public "money."
The theme threaded through Ms. Clark's remarks as she challenged her listeners to think creatively and cleverly about how to finance land conservation purchases. She peppered her presentation with anecdotes and stories, some read from her book on conservation finance, about individual success stories.
Story Clark, a resident of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was the guest speaker.
Ms. Clark described her first conservation land purchase, a battle to save a local farm along a scenic roadway. "From this battle," she said, "I learned a valuable lesson. That conservation is the business of money. We must be clever about how we use and find it to conserve and steward land."
She urged members to be creative and tell their story well and repeatedly to anyone who would listen. "Don't hold back," she said, "tell your Martha's Vineyard stories whenever you can."
Will we succeed, Ms. Clark asked, when the stakes are so high? She left that question unanswered.
In a brief interview prior to her remarks, Ms. Clark said she found little difference in approaches to land conservation around the country. But she drew a sharp distinction between land conservation and political advocacy.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time I think it is better to stay out of politics and work with land owners of every ilk," she said, "because we all share this common love of open land, especially on a place like Martha's Vineyard. So it is really in everybody's interest, Democrat, Republican, landowner, businessperson, worker, whatever, to do it. That's kind of my view."