SHERIDAN — The Nature Conservancy has been a leader in preserving Wyoming’s environment for 30 years. The time, effort, blood and sweat of staff, fueled by passion for the past three decades, has protected more than 1 million acres and 1,500 river miles with the help of partners across the state.
“Our program looks nothing like it once did when it started,” said Erica Wood, associate director of development. “We’ve expanded on our foundations of conservation and land protection and we’ve really found our niche in the community to fill the needs of our partners the best we can.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive, according to the organization’s website. The mission of the organization is to “conserve the land and waters on which all life depends,” the website continues. “Our vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives.”
As The Nature Conservancy celebrates three decades in Wyoming, current staff of the Sheridan sector look back at the roots of the organization. Wood and Northeast Wyoming Program Director Carli Kierstead maintain they owe Sally Morton tribute to the success they’ve seen locally.
Morton opened The Nature Conservancy’s Sheridan office in the late 80’s and worked relentlessly to lift the program off the ground and secure several conservation easements to protect land all across the Bighorns.
“There is so much land here that looks exactly as it did 30 years ago because of the work Sally put in,” Kierstead said.
“She wore all the hats,” Wood said. “She was the program director, landscape director, she was a fundraiser. She truly became the face of The Nature Conservancy here in Sheridan.”
Morton’s hard work is the foundation that the powerful women who have followed in her footsteps now stand on.
Currently, three local trustees and the chair of the board are all women.
“It motivates me every day knowing I’m working side by side by such powerful, hardworking and smart women,” Wood said.
“Working here I want to continue to challenge myself professionally and personally and make sure I’m accomplishing things that are meaningful,” Kierstead said.
The Nature Conservancy programs are ahead of the Tongue River Initiative, which originated as loose collaborative of local partners to clean up the Acme Power Plant site and other areas destructive to the natural health of Tongue River.
Now entered in a Regional Conservation Partnership Program, The Nature Conservancy staff are striving for streambank rehabilitation, improving fish habitats and septic remediations.
The team also spearheaded the Northeast Wyoming Invasive Grasses Working Group, among other workshops for ranchers including teaching financial sustainability, active stewardship and rangeland health.
“The women we work with on our staff and our board are all members are all propelled to a deeper commitment to the larger mission on a personal level,” Kierstead said.
The future looks promising for the organization, as they host a myriad of events throughout the state, from the Heart of a Trapper Hike in Powell Aug. 24 to the Antelope Dash in Laramie and Cheyenne the same day.