Faces of Conservation

Q&A with Tom Rumpf

Tom Rumpf learned about the interdependence of people and nature at an early age. Today, as associate state director of Maine, he works as to share his ideals with others. Learn more about his commitment.
"The best part of my job is having the opportunity to take chances on huge conservation projects that provide inspiration for others."

Tom Rumpf, associate state director of Maine


Why are you a conservationist?

Tom Rumpf:

I grew up on the Mississippi River in a small city in Iowa. Back then, we had a lot more unstructured time than kids do today, and I was always out exploring the river with my brother and sister. That’s where I first learned to care about the natural world and consider the role people play in taking care of it.


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

Tom Rumpf:

Many people inspired me, but my mother was instrumental. We’d go hiking down near the farm where she grew up. There was a natural spring there, and we’d collect wild watercress for salads. That was my first experience with how nature provides for people.


Describe one project you are working on that you are particularly excited about.

Tom Rumpf:

I think people will look back at The Moosehead Forest Conservation Project and be amazed that we were able to protect 400,000 acres of forest with less than 20,000 acres rezoned for development. It’s been a great example of collaborative leadership. You can get much further if you first get stakeholders into a room to talk as opposed to trying to solve problems on your own and then convincing others of what you want.


What’s the best part of your job?

Tom Rumpf:

Having the opportunity to take chances on huge conservation projects that provide examples and inspiration for others. Within the Conservancy, the Maine chapter is known for pursuing innovative solutions and bold projects. We were the first chapter to conserve forest land by working with a paper mill that was in trouble and the first to try creative approaches like tax incentives though the Treasury’s New Markets Tax Credit program.


Is there anything you learned working at the Conservancy that surprised you?

Tom Rumpf:

The tremendous role relationships play in getting conservation done. When I was working for the state’s spruce budworm project in the late 1970s, I met a man named David Carlisle. Fifteen years later, he approached me about protecting a piece of property. As it turned out, that property abutted Crystal Fen — a tract we’d been trying to acquire for more than 20 years. After David came to talk, 22 other owners donated or sold us surrounding lands. You never know when the trust you establish today will pay off.



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