Pittsburgh resident and Nature Conservancy trustee, Christina Schmidlapp has lived in western Pennsylvania all her life. She was president of The Garden Club of Allegheny County when she first became acquainted with The Nature Conservancy, which spoke to the club about invasive plants in 2000.We sat down with Christina to learn more about her motivation and approach to conservation.
“I’m impressed—smitten, really—with the Conservancy's comprehensive global reach, scientific emphasis and expertise, and creative and entrepreneurial approaches to addressing environmental challenges.”
--Christina Schmidlapp, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
How did you become interested in conservation causes?
I became interested in conservation causes as a result of being lucky enough to have spent most of my life's best experiences in beautiful outdoor places: summers at camps in Vermont and Maine; two college summers working on a ranch in Moose, Wyoming; a six-week bus trip across the western U.S. as a teenager; backpacking in the Grand Canyon; a spring working on Nantucket; and a memorable hitch-hiking experience in Scotland. My parents took me on trips to Bermuda, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Closer to home, we regularly visited Lake Paupac, a small natural lake in the Poconos that was purchased and preserved by a group of forward-thinking Quakers in the mid-20th century.
In my professional life, which included working for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, I recognized the importance—on many levels, including environmental and human health, economic and community well-being—of urban parks, and have always sought out those places for refreshment.
Why do you support The Nature Conservancy?
I’m impressed—smitten, really—with the Conservancy's comprehensive global reach, scientific emphasis and expertise, and creative and entrepreneurial approaches to addressing environmental challenges. I'm also impressed by the caliber of people who lead, manage and staff it, and with the passion that informs their work.
As a trustee, my contribution has consisted of helping to identify additional board members and supporters, provide moral support to the staff in Pittsburgh, and asking a lot of questions at board meetings!
What Conservancy projects do you believe to be the most interesting and/or important?
Wow—how do you rank environmental projects?
The focus on water is certainly an essential one. I'm fascinated by the efforts to create artificial reef structures that may help to rebuild the oyster reefs that have historically been so ecologically significant in coastal areas, or remove dams and levees to restore traditional water flows in certain areas. In short, efforts to engineer modern solutions to mitigate old problems. That’s translated into the awesome work that Pennsylvania has done in creating the Working Woodlands program, which makes protecting the environment economically attractive and, therefore, more feasible. Also, as Pennsylvania ramps up Marcellus Shale drilling, I see more than ever the value of the Conservancy’s science-based work in assessing the environmental impacts of human activity and in crafting collaborative approaches to manage growth.