Meet the Experts

Allen Pursell

Director of Forest Conservation

Allen is originally from Indiana but spent 4 years working at Fort Benning, Georgia, for the Army on military impacts to the environment. Since returning to Indiana Allen has lived with his family near Corydon.  Allen has been with the Conservancy since 1994, and his work has included natural area land acquisition and public speaking on different conservation topics including why the decline in the number of oak trees in the forest is significant to the entire ecosystem, and why Indiana has too many deer and what can be done about it.

Allen celebrated 20 years with the Conservancy in 2014. We asked Allen to share some of his favorite memories of his time with the Conservancy.

What led you to the Conservancy?

I was a TNC volunteer while studying forestry in graduate school at Purdue University. I helped their staff with all kinds of preserve management activities and while doing that I decided that I’d like to work for TNC if possible. But I’ll have to say it wasn’t easy -- I had five interviews with TNC in four different states before I finally got hired.

What is an accomplishment that stands out in your mind during your time with the Conservancy?

The birth and growth of the Twin Creek Valley Preserve in Washington County stands out as a big accomplishment. It’s a hidden peaceful place with mature forest, several caves, and even grassy glades filled with wildflowers. TNC owns or manages several tracts there totaling about 950 acres and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a part in protecting each one of them.

What is one of your favorite memories of your time with the Conservancy?

That’s really too hard to answer. I have many, many good memories from working with landowners to protect habitat to seeing some very rare plants and animals up close in the wild.

What is a challenge the Conservancy faces in the next 20 years?

TNC will someday have to come to grips with the problem of too many deer in the eastern US. The impact of deer on our forests is even more immediate and damaging than climate change, though you wouldn’t know that from listening to the news. However, like climate change, deer overpopulation is both a social and a scientific problem. Just knowing the science isn’t enough. We have to address all the emotional issues surrounding deer. People love seeing deer, and I do as well, but too many deer are the kiss of death to many other plants and animals.

What are you working on right now that excites you?

TNC has protected a large amount of habitat over the last few decades, but in some places this has not been enough and we need to directly intervene to restore uncommon animals and plants. For example, this past summer we collected a handful of rare mussels from a river in southern Indiana to raise their young in captivity. From the five or six pregnant females that were captured we expect to have 1,000 to 2,000 offspring to put back into the river in about a year. Some of these young mussels will be tracked using radio frequency identification tags so we can determine how well they do. We’re also talking to a botanical garden about creating a genetic reserve for a globally rare plant found in only one place in Indiana.

What is the best change you have seen in conservation in the past 20 years?

I’m impressed by how many people understand the dangers of exotic invasive plants and want to do something about it. When I started working for The Nature Conservancy 20 years ago very few people were even talking about invasive species.

What is your favorite nature preserve, animal or plant that The Nature Conservancy helps to conserve?

The alligator snapping turtle is my favorite animal. It’s found in larger rivers mostly in the south, but it was also once found in the lower Wabash River. These animals can live to be ancient and are impressively large. They’re not your common snapping turtle.

More Indiana Chapter staff profiles


Allen Pursell

Director of Forest Conservation