The Nature Conservancy Mourns Death of Founding Trustee Wayne Lebsack

Topeka, Kansas


The Nature Conservancy is mourning the loss of founding Kansas trustee, Wayne Lebsack, who died this week at the age of 92.

"We are truly saddened by Wayne's passing," said Rob Manes, director of the non-profit conservation organization. "Wayne was the driving force behind establishing a Kansas chapter of The Nature Conservancy in the 1980s and was a highly-respected board member for 30 years. I am honored to have known and worked with him, and I'm grateful that we had an opportunity to celebrate his leadership as a conservationist and a great human being."

In the fall of 1987, Lebsack attended The Nature Conservancy's national annual meeting in St. Louis with his daughter Amy. While there, they met with regional leaders and offered to help build a Kansas chapter. From the start, Wayne was the key to opening doors and generating support for on-the-ground conservation across the state. A World War II veteran and president of Lebsack Oil from Lyons, Kansas, he had a passion for Kansas geology and hydrology. He had co-authored several articles on natural springs in Kansas.

On April 7, 2018, Conservancy staff and trustees past and present gathered in Ellinwood, Kansas to celebrate Lebsack's 30 years of inspiration, conservation and friendship. With his friends and family surrounding him, Wayne recalled how he first learned about conservation.

"My dad had bought my first shot gun and we went duck hunting southwest of Cheyenne Bottoms. We each got a few birds the first round, and when the second group took flight, I raised my gun again. But my father stopped me and told me 'Hold it. We don't need any more. Let's save some for the next guy.'" To Wayne, this simple gesture defined his conservation ethic. "Part of our mission is to preserve - whether one acre or one thousand - preserve the land in this state that is like it was 250 years ago, to show our children and grandchildren what it was."

At the celebration, Steve Chaplin, senior conservation scientist with The Nature Conservancy, shared that Lebsack "was the person that I relied on, the person who really opened those doors in the beginning for what we were doing." Presenting Lebsack with a white ball cap, Chaplin explained, "I brought him a white Nature Conservancy hat because only the good guys get to wear white hats."

"On behalf of the staff and trustees of The Nature Conservancy in Kansas, we are grateful for Wayne's vision, leadership and passion for the natural world," says Manes. "He will be missed but we know that his legacy of conservation will live on in his children and grandchildren an in the organization he helped build."

Steve Chaplin, Wayne Lebsack, and Ross Sublett in 1987 and reunited in April 2018.
Reunited Steve Chaplin, Wayne Lebsack, and Ross Sublett in 1987 and reunited in April 2018. © TNC

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.