In 2018, MHLC is interviewing some of our incredible volunteers. We want to share the stories of these individuals, who are a vital presence in the field, at events, and in our office. This month, we talk to one of our longest-serving volunteers: Hank Stebbins. Read below to learn more about Hank and his conservation expertise!
*Are you interested in becoming a volunteer? Visit our Volunteer page for more information!
When did you begin volunteering with MHLC?
My volunteering with MHLC began when the organization was still known as the Albany County Land Trust. I began volunteering soon after I retired from the Scenic Hudson Land Trust in 2004. My focus at Scenic Hudson was developing a sustainable farmland protection plan. The idea was to secure conservation easements over 1000 acres or more of land, containing a certain number and configuration of farms that collectively would help ensure their sustainability. This was a “Critical Mass” approach which farmers liked. MHLC offered an obvious opportunity to continue the work I love as a volunteer after my retirement from Scenic Hudson.
What inspired you to become a Conservancy volunteer?
What inspired me to become a Conservancy volunteer was my interest in and concern for Wolf Hollow. The Hollow, the exposed portion of Hoffman’s Fault, valued for its geology, ecology and archaeology values, was and continues to be at risk due to a rise in development pressure in West Glenville. This was at the time the Albany County Land Conservancy was changing its name and extending its scope. Since then, MHLC has acquired three easements associated with Wolf Hollow, two along the Hollow itself and a third along Hoffman’s Fault, with a promise of a fourth in the offing.
How would you describe your role as a volunteer?
I help out with monitoring and stewardship, but, given my background, I have also worked with staff in facilitating the creation of easements. I continue to be focused on the Wolf Hollow project, keeping track of land ownership, reaching out to landowners, engaging with academics in regard to the significance of the location, and monitoring the status of the closed road that runs through the Hollow as it relates to public access.
I am also involved in farmland conservation in western New York. Owning land south of Rochester, I have been working with area landowners to assemble easements for conservation purposes and have recently become a grantor of a conservation easement donated to the Genesee Land Trust. My family farm in West Bloomfield, NY (hamlet of Ionia) of 100 acres will always remain a farm, and is currently under a lease agreement to a super CSA farmer (visit Wild Hill Farm’s website to learn more).
Which is your favorite aspect of volunteering with MHLC?
I don’t have a particulate favorite. I enjoy monitoring easements, and knowing the owners and their land. Working with staff is refreshing, learning their perspectives and what is new. And I always enjoy extoling the accomplishments of MHLC. It’s fun being part of this community.
What do you wish more people knew about volunteering with a local land trust?
Volunteering with a local land trust takes you to special places and always in the company of friendly, interesting people of all ages and backgrounds.
Why do you support land conservation (both generally and locally here in the Capital Region)?
Land conservation, saving the land for its conservation value, is the primary mission of land trusts. Several decades ago the term “land trust” was seldom spoken, and only few existed. Today there is such momentum. I believe every state is represented and each Land Trust Alliance land census remarkably increases, particularly acreage under easements. MHLC’s accomplishments over the past 25 years speak for themselves and have collectively enhanced our quality of life throughout the Capital District: iconic viewsheds, hiking/skiing/biking/birding opportunities, natural habitats, working landscapes, pristine creeks and ponds…
And it just gets better.