Awards 2024

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2024 Excellence in Conservation Awards

We are proud to celebrate and feature our winners for our annual Excellence in Conservation Awards. In making these awards, CLCC seeks to recognize organizations and individuals who have made a substantive contribution to the ongoing success of land conservation in our state and projects that may serve as a guide to or be replicable by other land trusts and conservation organizations in Connecticut.

Peter B. Cooper Award for Excellence in Conservation Law

Peter B. Cooper

An Unyielding Commitment to Conservation Law and Environmental Stewardship

Peter Cooper has spent his life – as a lawyer, volunteer, advocate, and teacher – promoting, implementing, and leading conservation in Connecticut. Known for his civility, kindness, humility, and gentleness, Peter is yet a surprisingly scrappy, tenacious, clever, and creative advocate. He is a quiet leader and collaborator who people listen to and join. Developers and other opponents who might have underestimated Peter have done so at their peril.

Graduating from Yale Law School in 1964 with a Master of Urban Studies from Yale in 1965, Peter joined forces with Attorney James Whitney to create a “public interest law firm” in 1970. In his nearly 55

Black and white photo of Peter Cooper smiling at a desk

years in private practice, Peter has represented citizen groups, land trusts, landowners, and environmental organizations on issues from pollution of public water supplies to development on Long Island Sound, highway construction to air quality control. The primary focus of his work has been land and water conservation.

Peter has been a moving force behind most of the statewide conservation organizations in Connecticut. For more than 20 years, he has been General Counsel to Save the Sound (formerly the Connecticut Fund for the Environment), which established the Peter B. Cooper Legal Fellowship in his honor. From 1990-1994, Peter started and co-taught the Yale Law School Environmental Law Clinic. He was co-counsel to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund on many cases. He was a director of the CT Audubon Society and Woodbridge Land Trust, as well as a member of the New England Advisory Council of the Trust for Public Land.

One of Peter’s most enduring achievements occurred as Chair of the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where he was a director for 20+ years, Chair 1978-1982 and 1987-1989, and Trustee Emeritus. In 1980, he promoted the creation of the Land Trust Service Bureau (LTSB) of The Nature Conservancy with assistance from the Conservation Law Foundation of New England. LTSB was the predecessor of the CT Land Conservation Council, which was established as a separate entity from TNC in 2006. LTSB assisted local land trusts by creating a Land Trust Handbook and newsletters for forming and maintaining land trusts and their charitable status; acquiring and managing land; watching for legal decisions and legislation affecting Connecticut land trusts; assisting individual trusts with operating, technical, and legal issues; improving skills of trust members through workshops and conferences; and offering group liability insurance at a reasonable cost. When Peter advocated for the creation of LTSB in 1980, there were 78 land trusts in Connecticut protecting 17,000 acres in CT. With the assistance of LTSB and its successor CLCC, there are now 123 land trusts conserving over 200,000 acres.

Over his legal career, Peter has led efforts to protect thousands of acres of habitat, farmland, wetlands, forest, and watershed throughout Connecticut. Several of his “conservation wins” stand out.

In 1975, Peter was a moving force behind and legal drafter of the West Rock Ridge State Park Legislation. His work resulted in the creation of the 1,691-acre park, which is the third largest state park and has the second highest concentration of rare and endangered species of any park in the state. Peter was instrumental in the legislation being passed in regular session — and Governor Grasso’s veto being overridden in special session.

On behalf of his client, Peter orchestrated the donation of Outer Island to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to be part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in 1995. Working with state and nonprofit partners, he created a Memorandum of Agreement in 2001 to establish a permanent fund to sustain public outreach, scientific research, and public access on the island. Outer Island is the only Thimble Island open to the public.

In 2003, Peter represented a local citizens’ coalition to oppose development of an 18-hole “world class” golf course on a 780-acre former farm in Norfolk and Canaan. Focusing on the proposal’s impact on the property’s significant wetlands and other natural resources, Peter argued before town commissions over the course of two years that the development should not be approved. He prevailed based on his careful presentation of the scientific evidence. As the result of Peter’s work and lawyers for other citizen groups, the golf course developers ultimately withdrew their proposal after six and a half years of hearings and appeals.

Peter doesn’t just talk about conservation. He walks the walk. In 2011 and 2012 with the enthusiastic support of their two sons, Peter and his wife, Diana, protected 47 acres of their farm in Bethany and Woodbridge.

Peter has forever changed the face of Connecticut. Thank you, Peter.

Katchen Coley Award for Excellence in Conservation

Barton Jones

Championing Nature's Legacy

Bart Jones has been President of the Cornwall Conservation Trust since 2011 and a board member since 2009. An all-volunteer board runs the organization, supported by a small part-time staff. CCT was accredited in 2016 and its accreditation was renewed in 2021. Under Bart’s leadership, CCT has greatly accelerated its pace of conservation. Now CCT owns 2,178 acres of beautiful preserves with hiking trails that provide quality habitat and climate resilience for wildlife and plants. Miles of well-maintained trails provide people with places for quiet enjoyment. In addition, CCT holds 767 acres in conservation easements.

Among Bart’s noteworthy accomplishments:

  • Completed eight purchases totaling 764 acres with state grants under the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program
  • Accepted the iconic Cathedral Pines preserve donated by The Nature Conservancy
  • Placed 375 acres of core forest into forever wild conservation
Man outside
Photo Credit: Deborah Jones
  • Greatly increased the number of hikes, lectures, and hands-on workshops, as well as increasing the attendance for these events. In 2023, there was at least one program per month, and often as many as three, about Mushrooms, Plants, Nocturnal Animals, Trail Building, Trail Hikes, Birdsong, and more.
Quarry Hill Credit Cornwall Conservation Trust

In 2017, hundreds of acres of forestland owned by a prominent hedge fund manager went into foreclosure. Bart proposed a Square Mile Forest Project, assembling and motivating conservation organizations and the state to preserve the land. Nearly all this land was conserved. CCT purchased 114 acres through the OSWA program, and the State purchased the rest and added it to Wyantenock State Forest.

Thank you, Bart, for your dedication to conservation and community in Cornwall and the greater Northwest Corner.

Excellence in Conservation Organization Award

Still Road Credit Wintonbury Land Trust

Traprock Ridge Land Conservancy

Defining Conservation Collaboration

The Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) is honored to present the Excellence in Conservation Organization Award to the Traprock Ridge Land Conservancy. The new regional land trust is the product of a pioneering merger between the East Granby, West Hartford, and Wintonbury land trusts. The collaboration between these groups demonstrates a commitment to conservation that transcends individual organizational boundaries, showcasing a collective dedication to increasing organizational impact and permanence.

From 2021, these land trusts embarked on a transformative journey, uniting their strengths, resources, and visions. They

walked each other's properties, shared records, and participated in joint events, fostering a spirit of mutual understanding and respect.

The 2023 merger, ratified by the members of each trust, stands as a testament to their courage, determination, and selflessness. Their collective efforts have fortified the foundation for a stronger conservation entity and paved the way for similar organizations considering the benefits of collaboration or merger.

The newly formed organization is committed to following best practices for governance, conservation, and stewardship. By developing updated by-laws, policies, and monitoring forms, it has streamlined its operations and set the course for a successful future. Its vision, deeply rooted in community engagement and the preservation of land and resources, aims to make an impact that will endure for generations to come.

Traprock Ridge Land Conservancy's achievements remind us of the power of collaboration in the face of challenges and opportunities. Through their merger, they have created a contiguous landscape of protected areas, with the organizational capacity needed to continue conserving priority conservation areas and engaging their community in the process. This award celebrates their exceptional contribution to conservation, highlighting the enduring value of their work in the Connecticut conservation community.

Hawk Hill LaSalette Credit West Hartford Land Trust

Excellence in Community Engagement Award

Aspetuck Land Trust, with Special Recognition of Reggy Saint Fortcolin

The Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) is honored to present this year’s "Excellence in Community Engagement Award" to the Aspetuck Land Trust (ALT), with a special recognition of Reggy Saint Fortcolin for his outstanding contributions. This year, the award celebrates the synergy between ALT’s commitment to preserving open space, and Reggy’s unparalleled dedication to bringing nature and environmental education to the forefront of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

By establishing conservation outreach and spearheading programs that bring residents into nature, ALT has bridged the gap between urban living and the serene embrace of nature. This is

Three people at a table
Photo Credit: Aspetuck Land Trust, Reggy Saint Fortcolin

evident in their successful efforts to introduce over 150 Bridgeport children and adults to a range of nature experiences, from trout fishing to beekeeping and beyond, fostering a deep appreciation for the environment.

Three people gardening
Photo Credit: Aspetuck Land Trust Reggy Saint Fortcolin

Reggy Saint Fortcolin stands at the heart of these initiatives, embodying the spirit of community engagement and environmental advocacy. His innovative approach to creating green spaces within the urban landscape of Bridgeport has not only beautified the city but also cultivated a culture of conservation. Through the planting of micro-forests and the creation of pollinator gardens at local schools, Reggy has made significant strides in making nature accessible to all, particularly youth, ensuring the seeds of environmental stewardship are sown early.

As CLCC honors the Aspetuck Land Trust and Reggy Saint Fortcolin with this award, we celebrate their remarkable achievements in community engagement and environmental conservation. Their work serves as an example of how thoughtful collaboration, innovation, and a deep commitment to community values can create lasting impact. ALT’s dedication to inclusivity and engagement, coupled with Reggy’s tireless advocacy for green spaces and environmental education have together enriched lives and transformed the Bridgeport community’s relationship with nature.

Conservation Hero Award

Man wearing a suit outside
Photo Credit: Mark Lifflander

Hiram Williams

A Leadership and Vision in the Growth and Protection of Connecticut's Natural Treasures

Landscape-scale conservation is a process that unfolds over many years and requires patient, persistent, and diplomatic leadership. For the past 19 years, Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy (NCLC) has been guided by the sure and steady hand of an exceptional board member who embodies all these qualities — Hiram Williams. Hiram joined the board in 2005 and became president in 2010. He guided Weantinoge (as it was then known), through two mergers with Brookfield Open Space Legacy in 2019 and Naromi Land Trust in 2020, to create NCLC, a regional land trust working across town and county borders to protect significant parcels of land. Under Hiram’s extraordinary service as president, the land protected by NCLC grew by over 4,500 acres, or roughly double, making NCLC the steward of the largest portfolio of protected land by a land trust in Connecticut by the number of lands protected. Hiram also dedicated his time and energy to building an effective team including both board and staff that are prepared to guide NCLC through the challenge of perpetuity.

NCLC works throughout Litchfield and northern Fairfield counties, an area recognized for its rolling hills and valleys, cold water streams, rivers and lakes, core forests, and a complex variety of climate-resilient habitats for threatened and endangered species. Hiram has a deep and abiding connection to the protected lands and communities in NCLC’s region. Hiram’s love of the land began when he was young, as he described in his own words:

“I grew up on a farm, and until I was eight or nine years old, I spent the entire day outdoors. This was a daily event for me, almost as much a part of my life as going to school. I always took it for granted that other people lived that way, that they took comfort in the woods, in wildlife, and knowledge of the woods. It was much later in life I realized that many people knew much less about being out on the land.”

Dedicated, wise, insightful, and modest, Hiram has donated his time and talent to help protect Northwest Connecticut. He is the critical connection between the land trust and the communities it serves, between individual board members, and between the board and staff. This extraordinary volunteer has quietly helped protect over 13,300 acres of Northwest Connecticut.

Hiram stepped down as president of NCLC in 2023 but continues to serve on the NCLC board, sharing his insights and institutional knowledge with staff and new board members. Hiram now serves as chair of NCLC’s acquisition and stewardship committee. During his time as chair, NCLC has significantly accelerated the pace of acquisitions through innovative strategies and increased pursuit of land purchases. Most recently, he helped lead the discussion, and ultimate agreement to preserve 5,300 acres of water company supply lands in northern Connecticut. Hiram was deeply involved

Sun shining from the mountains over a green valley
Photo Credit: Northwest CT Land Conservancy

in the work that led to the Memorandum of Understanding with the water company and consistently made himself available for consultation on this unusual acquisition project.

Hiram Williams has over four decades of experience as a real estate advisor and investor, having led more than $5 billion in transactions. He served as the founding partner of Albrizzi-Williams, LLC, an investment banking firm specializing in private placements of both equity and debt, property sales, and financing and advisory work with clients accessing the capital markets for real estate acquisition and development. Hiram also served previously as a vice president at Goldman Sachs and as a partner at Millstein & Co.

Congratulations, Hiram, for your recognition as CLCC's 2024 Conservation Hero.

Past Annual Award Honorees