Growing Up Wild

During fifteen years of dedicated service on The Nature Conservancy's Delaware Board of Trustees, Wayne Holden played a crucial role in convincing the state legislature to appropriate funds towards acquiring a Chesapeake Lumber Company property to protect fragile lowlands located near the Lewes-Rehoboth beach resort areas. The successful transaction led to establishment of the Conservancy’s Pemberton Forest Preserve and laid important groundwork for an additional purchase of the adjacent Ponders Tract from the Glatfelter Timber Company a few years later.

These projects represent some of Holden’s proudest moments as a Conservancy board member and a reason why he continues to support the organization today.

“The Conservancy takes better care of land than other organizations do, which is why they serve as the beneficiary of gifts from many who appreciate their work.”

While Wayne’s obligations to the Conservancy have diminished, he continues to weigh in as Trustee Emeritus on land preservation and policy issues related to the conservation of Delaware’s natural heritage and open spaces. He also emulates the Conservancy's careful stewardship at at the Kent County ranch his father purchased when he was a boy.

“My father cultivated my interest in preserving land for the sake of open space and also for making it more hospitable to waterfowl and deer, which we hunted,” says Holden. “Conservation served in part as a recreational activity. From an early age it got me out in nature.”

Eventually, Wayne added to the original property by acquiring an adjacent farm serving as an unofficial garbage dump. Holden and his family took on removal of trash, metal and appliances scattered throughout the property and developed a master plan for restoring wildlife habitat and protecting fragile wetlands from agricultural run-off. Over the years, this has resulted in the planting of thousands of trees and other stewardship activities.

“Growing up, my kids would bring friends to help with planting trees at the property,” adds Holden. “Now they mark childhood milestones by certain stands.”  

This tradition continues with Holden’s grandchildren who enhance this special family respite, even building a log cabin in the woods with help from a local forester and a batch of pre-cut trees. According to Holden, it’s an activity which “put a twinkle in their eyes as they notched logs and spent months building their new space in the woods.”

Thanks to the example of his own father, Holden serves a role model to his children and grandchildren through dedicated service to organizations like the Conservancy and through hands-on projects at the ranch. It represents the most important legacy he can leave those who matter to him most. It’s a sentiment shared by his colleagues at the Conservancy.

“In 2009 we bestowed Wayne with a Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award for his dedication to advocating and supporting the organization’s mission in Delaware,” says Andrew Manus, the Conservancy’s former director of conservation programs in Delaware. “While a big honor, it pales in comparison to the achievement of passing a love of nature on to a younger generation. For that, we truly salute him.”


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