The results of The Nature Conservancy work in West Virginia over the last 50 years can be seen from the tallest peaks where spruce still stand strong, inside vibrant forests alive with nature’s song, next to gurgling springs quenching the land, and from within the labyrinth of caves harboring secret creatures beneath our feet.
What’s less often seen and heard are the people behind this work: organization founders and leaders, landowners, donors, businesses and partners—the community of conservationists that, together, make it all possible. Meet the faces of conservation.
“When I was a relatively new member of the Department of Biology at West Virginia University, the new Chairman of the department summoned me to his office and told me that it had come to his attention that I was involved in the preservation of natural areas. He said that such activities were not appropriate for a biologist and I was not to spend any more time on these projects. I asked, ‘Who but a biologist would recognize lands that are worthy of preservation'"?
-- Dr. Roland Guthrie, founding member of The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia (fourth from left in image)
“I was at the meeting at Blackwater Falls State Park when we first talked about organizing a chapter of The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia. And that’s just what we did. All my life I’ve been interested in plants—a long time; I turn 100 in July this year—and West Virginia has the most beautiful areas anybody could ever want. As a board member and Chair of the Chapter in the 1980s I was able to help acquire and preserve some of these gorgeous places.”
-- Eleanor Bush, former board member and naturalist
“In the 1970s we bought some land in West Virginia, initially for a vacation home; a few years later we bought additional acres to prevent further development. It’s an incredible place—you’re driving along, turn in, and all of a sudden you’re away from everything, among people whose families have been living there for generations. When the time came, it was natural for us to turn to The Nature Conservancy to protect not just the land, but also the cultural heritage of the place. Now we know it will always be there, just as it was when we fell in love with it.”
-- FK Millar and Emma Shelton, landowners
“I first came to appreciate the ‘wild and wonderful’ lands east of the Ohio River during breaks from The Ohio State University, when college friends from West Virginia offered me a home away from home. Years later I would read in Nature Conservancy magazine about an important piece of North Fork Mountain property that the organization urgently needed funds to protect, so I sent in a contribution and helped raise additional funds to acquire the land. The experience gave me a greater appreciation of the land pressures that exist across the Appalachians, and since then a focus of mine has been developing funding sources for the Chapter’s protection efforts.”
-- Bob Reusche, donor (from a 2009 interview)
“We at Dominion knew that Dolly Sods was a special place. We wanted to see it protected, and we knew where to go. Now, Bear Rocks is the most-visited preserve that The Nature Conservancy has in West Virginia, and we are proud to be part of its legacy. No other organization in the state has the expertise and ability to make such collaborative and transformative conservation happen, and we celebrate our longtime environmental partnership and friendship.”
-- Robert Orndorff, Managing Director of State and Local Government Affairs at Dominion
“The Nature Conservancy and the Monongahela National Forest share a similar, broad view. Like us, they’re looking for connectivity, resiliency. But also, when it comes to the resource, they know it’s not just about the property and the land. It’s about the people. They care about the communities. And they have a vision of what they’d like to see happen on the forest, which gives them energy.”
-- Clyde Thompson, Monongahela National Forest Supervisor