Service With a Smile: Celebrating Those Who Make Conservation Happen
For the last 27 years, the Forest Society has leaned on the assistance of community volunteers to monitor our conserved lands and help with special projects. Land Stewards form the backbone of our volunteer programs and are integral in meeting our mission. With the goal of recognizing their efforts, planning for the year to come, and gaining valuable feedback, each year Land Stewards and Forest Society staff meet at the Conservation Center to share a meal and a few stories, and to bask in the glow of service with a smile.
On January 30, more than 50 Land Stewards, guests, and prospective volunteers met for the annual meeting and brought along a home-cooked meal to share. The President of the Forest Society, Jack Savage, gave an address and took time to answer questions from our volunteers about where the organization is headed and where we currently stand. Before the talk went too far down the rabbit-hole of conservation issues in New Hampshire, someone from the group hollered out in a timely fashion, "Let's Eat!" It was a welcome reminder of why we were all present.
This annual event is part business and record-keeping, but also a great forum for one-on-one discussions and passing down stories and lessons from one generation to the next. Some of the Land Stewards have been volunteering for over 20 years. Others are new to the progam and excited to work with the Forest Society on conservation projects in this new millenium. There is something very New England about loading up your Crock-Pot for a meeting with your neighbors and sharing a meal together. The community that the Land Steward Program has established over the years is the reason I am passionate about the work we do. Sure, I love forests and outdoor recreation as much as the next guy, but what puts a smile on my face is introducing people to a forest for the first time and providing an opportunity for people give back and empowering them to take action to protect the resources within their own community.
Of the many great things I want to expand upon in 2020 and years to follow, is continuing to find and capitalize on our volunteers' unique skills. All we require of volunteer Land Stewards is to monitor an assigned forest reservation 4 times per year, but they keep asking to do more and more. These passionate individuals bring their enthusiasm and skills to volunteer trail-crew workdays, our citizen science initiatives, and assist Forest Society Staff and partner organizations on a number of conservation projects all over the state of New Hampshire.
This year, as a way to recognize one special volunteer, our staff presented Dave Heuss with a "golden hammer award" in recognition of his unique skills and commitment to the mission of the Forest Society through volunteerism. It's volunteers like Dave, and all who came out to the Annual Meeting & Potluck, that make the Land Steward Program more than just a sleepy monitoring obligation. It truly is a community of conservationists ready to offer their service with a smile.
- For more information about the Land Steward Program, volunteer trail-crew, or other ways to give back to your local forest, please send an email to the Land Steward Program Coordinator Andy Crowley - firstname.lastname@example.org