By: Sara Kaplaniak
Located all around the world, The Nature Conservancy’s staff boasts work day routines that are as diverse as the landscapes they are working to protect. Some don a shirt and tie to attend corporate meetings in office buildings. Others ride their bikes to a small chapter office on the outskirts of town. Others work remotely from home.
The Conservancy’s land stewards, like Virginia’s Sam Truslow, conduct their business in the field from a roving office ... usually a truck or an SUV.
“The chapter headquarters in Charlottesville is central but still more than two hours away from many of the places where I work,” says Truslow, who manages 10 of the Virginia chapter’s 14 public access nature preserves and other fragile properties located throughout the Commonwealth.
This year, Truslow and the 56 other Virginia chapter staff who work outdoors most of the time found themselves with an inadequate fleet of vehicles required for tackling even the most basic job requirements. Charged with managing and protecting natural landscapes ranging from the Central Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, these employees spend most days traveling many highway miles and then more on rugged dirt and gravel roads. Sometimes they tackle steep inclines and other times boggy marshlands.
According to Truslow, reliable pick-up trucks or SUVs are vital to making these trips safely and efficiently, and for storing whatever is needed for working outdoors, whether it be for clearing a trail, fixing a gate, posting a sign, or preparing for a prescribed fire. “My truck serves a dual purpose as transportation and a workshop where I keep brush cutters, chain saws, leaf blowers, hoes, rakes, post diggers, and an assortment of hand and power tools.”
Many stewardship vehicles have mobile radios for communicating when out of cell coverage and also serve as power stations for charging GPS units, cell phones, and battery powered tools. If prescribed burning is on the agenda, Truslow also appreciates the capacity to tow along a six-wheeled fire engine and even some passengers.
“Without a doubt, the Virginia chapter is sorely in need of new vehicles – thirteen to be exact – to ensure that our staff can engage in important restoration and conservation work in some of the state’s most spectacular natural areas,” says state director Michael Lipford. “I hope that getting the word out this month, when people are seeking out additional tax deductions, will help us meet this ambitious and important goal.”