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December 09, 2016
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Barbara Yeaman: legacy of a lifetime

Photos by Sandy Long After falling in love with the Delaware River, Barbara Yeaman realized that protecting it would require protecting the lands that comprise its watershed. “One of the most satisfying rewards is the sense of awe and gratitude that comes from seeing the natural beauty and unspoiled views that still exist along the river and within its surrounding counties,” she notes.

In the early 1980s, when Yeaman bought her home, the National Park Service (NPS) was drafting its management plan for the Upper Delaware River and encountering strong private property rights opposition. Some residents feared their properties would become worthless. Yeaman believed that preserving special lands, wildlife habitats and prime scenic parcels would make the region more attractive, but sensed the need for a unique preservation tool. While serving on the Citizens’ Advisory Council for the NPS, she felt that starting a land trust could be the right alternative.

In order to define the territory, Yeaman focused on her beloved river and the boundaries of its watershed—the area of land that surrounds and drains into the Upper Delaware River. Over time, Yeaman has seen a positive change when it comes to land conservation. “People are more aware of the need for it, of what can be lost,” she said.

While the Conservancy has received its own set of awards, Yeaman herself has been recognized with an Environmental Partnership Award by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and is one of only two women to receive the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award. Most recently, her work was acknowledged with the prestigious Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award from the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.

On receiving the award, Yeaman shared a fitting quote from “When Women Were Birds,” by Terry Tempest Williams. “The world is already split open and it is in our destiny to heal it, each in our own way, each in our own time, with gifts that are ours.”