“I’ve got a project for you!” was the first thing I heard Stephanie Barnes say, at a field trip in the fall of 2007. She wasn’t kidding. Since that day, I have had the pleasure of working with Stephanie on several “projects”, the most recent of which added important acreage to our Wilkinson Brook Preserve.
Stephanie Barnes lives in Effingham, on the edge of the Watt’s Wildlife Sanctuary and in the middle of the forest surrounding Pine River - an area the Conservancy is highly interested in. She moved there in 2007 and built her home on 90 acres after retiring from a career in anesthesiology in Wolfeboro.
Our first project together was her donation of a conservation easement on the land surrounding her new home, “Stephie’s woods mountain house”, according to her answering machine. Although she had only recently settled in her new home, she was impatient to protect the remainder of her land permanently. Since NH Audubon manages Watt’s Sanctuary, it made sense for them to hold the easement on Stephanie’s abutting property.
The next “project” was to contact all the landowners around her to see if they might be interested in conserving their land, in order to create a conserved connection between Watts and the Forest Society’s Green Hill Preserve. The next thing I knew we were helping a neighbor down the road with a Wetlands Reserve Program easement. About a year and half ago, Stephanie decided the best way to protect land was to buy it, so she scanned the listings and when she found something of interest, she would check in to see if its protection was also consistent with TNC’s protection priorities. One property on the market at the time was a 50-acre piece of land abutting our Wilkinson Brook Preserve which we were very interested in protecting. So, Stephanie bought it! At first she thought about putting a conservation easement on it, but later changed her mind and transferred the fee to us at the end of 2010. Much of the property consists of forested and scrub shrub wetlands that are part of the large complex of exemplary wetland natural communities found in the Wilkinson Brook basin. In addition, the property includes more than 0.2 miles of undeveloped road frontage that helps to maintain connectivity between the preserve and other conservation land in the Wilkinson Brook basin across Town House Road to the large area of unfragmented forest on Green Mountain.
Stephanie is passionate about nature, conservation, and, above all, wildlife. Her home is nearly “off the grid” and surrounded by wildlife plantings, along with a garden that supplies her food throughout the winter. Conversations with Stephanie are sprinkled with comments about various wildlife sightings, including birds and her “very smart” dog’s latest trick. She travels a lot now that she is retired and her trips are a catalog of exquisite birding and wildlife odysseys all over the globe, from which she brings home beautiful pictures that are scattered around her home.
"My high school career choice was a forest ranger," Stephanie told me. "It took me nearly a lifetime to get there. Now I preserve forests and wetlands for the wildlife. My goal is to use my retirement fund while I can direct it where I wish and enjoy the results of my conservation efforts."
Around our office, we call Stephanie our “hero”. Quietly, selflessly, and persistently, Stephanie is making sure Effingham stays green and wild.
Many thanks to the Adelard A. and Valeda Lea Roy Foundation for their generous grant in support of this latest protection effort in Wilkinson Brook.February 16, 2011
Jan is the New Hampshire Chapter's Protection Specialist. Jan is an avid skier and traveler and has worked in conservation in New Hampshire for many years.