Faces of Conservation

Q&A with Josh Royte

Meet Josh Royte

Learn about the people and experiences that inspired him to devote his career to preserving nature.


"When I began to notice the vast imbalance between what we take for our own purposes and what we set aside for the nature that support us, I knew I wanted to try to fix that imbalance."

Josh Royte, senior conservation planner, Maine


Why are you a conservationist?

Josh Royte:

When I began to notice the vast imbalance between what we take for our own purposes and what we set aside for the nature that support us, I knew I wanted to try to fix that imbalance. The Nature Conservancy corrects that disparity by ensuring that we have areas big enough and connected enough to support healthy ecosystems.


On the road to becoming a conservationist, who inspired you along the way?

Josh Royte:

I spent a gap year between high school and college in the Netherlands with host parents who showed me how to look at the natural world more critically and analytically. We spent our vacations botanizing — shoulder to shoulder with our hand lenses in places like the Ardennes forest in Belgium. This was a new experience of recreation for me. It wasn’t just hiking or enjoying flowers, but documenting them so that the information would be useful to others. I was also lucky to have parents and grandparents who encouraged me to pursue the academic areas that inspired me, even if they didn’t lead to more well-known or lucrative careers.


What was your first project with The Nature Conservancy?

Josh Royte:

On my second day of work at the Conservancy, I flew over the St. John River lands to help determine which areas of forest were in the best shape for large-scale reserves. Along the St. John River, we saw huge chunks of forests with natural blow downs, what appeared to be old growth and no roads. Later, as we explored the area by foot, we discovered 300-year-old trees and a spruce heath barren — a new natural community in Maine. Little did I know that the Conservancy would eventually buy not only the reserve lands, but the entire 185,000 acres of St. John forest lands.


What's the best thing you get to do as a part of your job?

Josh Royte:

My favorite part is the reconnaissance — getting out on the land or flying over it, seeing intact mature forest, clean, free-flowing streams and comparing those features against our maps and data to figure out how they fit into a larger context. More recently I’ve really come to love connecting with people. My work, particularly on the Penobscot River Restoration Project, has impressed upon me the amazing value of partnerships. These days my favorite moments are pouring over maps with partners like the Penobscot nation and finding that we share a deep respect for the land and a commitment to restoring it.



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