Betsey Harris Honored for Land Conservation Efforts

April 8, 2009

Betsey Harris Honored for Land Conservation Efforts

Betsey Harris, the moving spirit behind the Monadnock Conservancy, was honored with the Sarah Thorne Award at the recent Saving Special Places conference in Guilford. The annual conference is organized by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest’Center for Land Conservation Assistance in partnership with UNH Cooperative Extension Services. More than 250 people attended this year’s conference, which took place on April 4 in Gilford, NH.

The Sarah Thorne Conservation Award was created in 2005 to recognize the people who make successful land conservation happen in New Hampshire. Recipients are intended to be those who, in the course of their own conservation efforts, have also enhanced the capacity of others.

Betsey and two others founded the Monadnock Conservancy in 1989 to conserve land in the towns surrounding Mount Monadnock. She quickly became a leader and catalyst, coordinating with other groups and individuals to multiply her effectiveness. Before her first term as trustee of the Monadnock Conservancy had expired, Betsey had led the organization to the point where it could and did hire its first staff person, a land protection specialist – a move that established the organization as a permanent voice in land conservation in Southwestern NH. During her second term, The Monadnock Conservancy conserved an additional 10,000 acres of land, growing the total acreage then conserved by the organization to more than 12,000.

Betsey believed that the Monadnock Conservancy could leverage its modest resources by recruiting allies in the surrounding towns. She implemented Monadnock Conservancy’s Town Representative program, recruiting and bringing together local stakeholders for training and inspiration. 

She also helped establish the Community Conservation Partnership, a collaboration between five organizations with expertise ranging from community planning to conservation training. Its pilot effort enabled five communities to identify their open space priorities and develop the skills to conserve these special places. This pioneering project was a direct result of Betsey Harris’s leadership.

Betsey also played a leadership role in the conservation of Beech Hill, an iconic local landmark that rises steeply from Dublin Lake. Betsey recruited the neighbors and others to raise the funds to purchase the property and remove the institutional buildings upon it.

“This precious spot would never have been protected without Betsey’s quiet, persuasive leadership,” said Sarah Thorne, who presented the award.

The award was created by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to honor Sarah Thorne, who dedicated nearly 20 years of her career to land conservation in New Hampshire. Sarah worked for seven years at the Trust for New Hampshire Lands and the balance at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. 

Previous recipients of the award include Phil Auger, UNH Cooperative Extension land and water conservation educator; Meade Cadot, executive director of the Harris Center for Conservation Education; Margaret Watkins, Executive Director of the Piscataquog Watershed Association (now Piscataquog Land Conservancy); Marjory Swope, executive director of the NH Association of Conservation Commissions; and Debbie Stanley, executive director of the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust.