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30 Stories for 30 Years: An Impulse to Help Protect Undeveloped Land

Roger Nielsen, ORLT's current secretary, has served on the board since 2013.

Roger Nielsen joined the ORLT board in 2013 and currently serves as board secretary. If you’ve participated in an ORLT member hike, you’ve probably met Roger, who is an avid hiker, wilderness backpacker, and flat-water kayaker. Roger retired in 2020, ending a 44-year career as a journalist, naturalist, and a writer. His dedication to land conservation was sparked at a young age, as he describes below.

"In grade school, more and more of the suburban “wild” lands where we played kept getting bulldozed for roads, malls, and houses. To my dismay, “our” hangouts – where we hid from parents, built forts, and climbed trees – were disappearing. That dismay grew into an impulse to help protect undeveloped land, a desire reinforced every time I saw a farm or a forest make way for “growth.” As an adult, I did what I could – supported conservation organizations, taught schoolchildren about the outdoors, and helped to weed out invasive exotic plants – but it never quite felt like I was conserving land."

"It wasn’t until founding board member Walt Cook invited me to join the Oconee River Land Trust that I began to feel I could actually help save undeveloped land. Working with ORLT and landowners to protect beautiful forests, farmlands, and riversides allows me to help conserve some very special places. Our partnership lets these conservation-minded owners keep productive farms and woodlots while maintaining natural processes in their forests and floodplains – and maybe leave a quiet place for their children or grandchildren to hide out, build a fort, or scamper up a tree."

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