As an annual tradition, I asked the team to reflect on some CLCC highlights from 2023 at our final staff meeting of the year and share a project or two they are most excited about tackling in 2024. Here are some highlights:
Ricky Bentley, Climate Smart Stewardship Coordinator
Since joining CLCC late last month, I have already had the opportunity to meet many among the expansive network of people involved in conservation efforts across the state and region. I am inspired by the collaborative and constructive energy that surrounds the conservation community. I look forward to working and learning with many of you in CLCC’s Climate Smart Land Stewardship Grant Program in the New Year.
Jovan Bryan, Community Conservation Coordinator
From conferences to roundtables, networking events, and outdoor gatherings, just getting to meet and talk with people all over the state has been fulfilling. I can’t wait for 2024 to facilitate meaningful and impactful programs to help CT’s wonderful land trust community grow, including the Summit on Land Use in CT (1/19) and community conservation initiatives in Fairfield County, Eastern CT, and the Waterbury Region, with more in the works!
Yaw Owusu Darko, Senior Project Specialist
One of the highlights of my year was cohosting a bird walk with Aspetuck Land Trust, Sierra Club CT, and Black AF in STEM for Black Birders Week. It was an immensely uplifting and joyous experience. For 2024, I look forward to expanding and enhancing CLCC’s Bird & Hike program and helping more land trusts find funding opportunities, like our TAG, CCPP, and Climate Smart grant programs, to support their land conservation projects.
Cristina Hayden, Operations Manager
Looking back, it was especially exciting to return to Wesleyan for our 2023 Conference. Since joining CLCC in 2014, it amazes me to see how far we’ve come as a growing, collaborative team and the diversity of programs we offer to the land conservation community. We couldn’t do it without all of you. A lot is in store for 2024, including 56 workshops and more at the Connecticut Land Conservation Conference on March 23. I can’t wait to see it all come together. Stay tuned!
Victoria Jaskaran, Sandy Breslin Conservation Fellow
A highlight of my time at CLCC in 2023 was kayaking for the first time, thanks to an event hosted by Outdoor Afro-CT (and some encouragement from Jovan)! I learned much from CLCC’s policy work, including advocating for OSWA, the Community Investment Act, and other funds, advancing nature-based solutions, and more. I am excited to support these and other CLCC priorities at the Capitol in 2024.
Aaron Lefland, Deputy Director
It’s always a treat to visit the incredible places that land trusts have conserved – and 2023 took me to the sweeping vistas of Candlewood Lake at Sweetcake Mountain Preserve, a beaver pond at Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and dozens of other places in between. Discussions on the trail help illuminate opportunities and challenges, and I’m eager to continue these conversations and support land trusts in their conservation endeavors in 2024.
I may have struggled more than anyone to narrow down my 2023 highlights. With your support and the energy and new perspectives brought by our growing staff and board of directors, CLCC expanded its programming, services, and assistance for land trusts in ways I had been striving for since I accepted the Executive Director position in 2010.
It was an exciting and impactful year, especially when land conservation has never been more critical. I’m continuously thankful for the chance to collaborate with you, your land trust, and so many other inspiring individuals and organizations I’ve encountered across the state.
Whether lobbying at the Capitol, networking at our summits and roundtables, meeting on Zoom to support conservation transactions or organizational sustainability, or hiking the trails, our time together was important. I sincerely appreciate these opportunities. Thank you!
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy New Year with ample opportunity to explore the lands you love.