Friends of Conservation
Kurt working on a Bluebird House
After 20 years as President of Sharon Friends of Conservation, I feel can offer a few suggestions on conservation land preservation efforts in general. At the top of the list is inclusiveness. A conservation organization should appeal to everyone-- young, old, and in-between. It should appeal to families. The goal is to introduce as many folks as possible to the natural spaces and resources in their area. We offer hikes for our members: sometimes just simple walks and sometimes led by an expert. We have had hikes led by botanists, historians, and geologists. In almost all cases, we make these events open to the general public. Besides hikes, we have added signs and blazes to local trails as well as creating detailed maps of our local trails. (With GPS this is fairly easy to do nowadays.) The aim is to introduce as many people as possible to local natural resources. If they know what's out there they are so much more likely to support conservation efforts.
My second suggestion is to collect contact information from as many people as possible. If this is an email list it should be used wisely. It should NEVER be sold or made available to anyone. It should not be used for political purposes (This is taboo anyway if you are a non-profit ). The list can be used to notify folks of matters pertaining to conservation or land preservation. That is, issues as opposed to candidates.
My third suggestion would be reaching out and creating a big network. This can include scientists, businesses, and other conservation groups as well as members of Town and State government. Never pass up a chance to make a new contacts-- and hopefully friends!
Try to create an organization that endures. Whenever a conservation issue arises you will be better able to deal with it if you have a membership already in place as well as a network of folks with expertise in local political and scientific matters. Think of conservation organization as a fire department. When the need arises, you do not have to suddenly go out and buy equipment and hire firefighters. Everything is already in place and ready to go.
Finally, I should stress the value of members working together. In its early days, Sharon Friends of Conservation held a few clean ups of conservation areas. People worked but also met and talked to each other. Good bonds were formed. This resulted in a strong core group within our organization.
So, to anyone hoping to form a conservation group, I hope this is helpful. My hope is to see groups form in many towns possibly one day linking together to influence wider statewide conservation and land preservation efforts.
Kurt Buermann President, Sharon Friends of Conservation