A partnership for posterity: Delaware Highlands Conservancy and Eagle Institute take wing
Brad Orey, a board member of the Eagle Institute and 13-year volunteer, set up a scope and offered views of a bald eagle perched nearby.
UPPER DELAWARE REGION — Two organizations with complimentary missions have announced they will combine forces, resulting in an even more effective achievement of each one’s long-term work to conserve the natural resources of the Upper Delaware region. The Delaware Highlands Conservancy (DHC) has embraced the opportunity to bring the Eagle Institute (EI) under its wings and into its nest, to the benefit of both highly successful organizations.
The EI is the Upper Delaware region’s premier organization for the protection of eagles and the stewardship of their habitat. The DHC is the region’s foremost organization for the conservation of healthy lands and waters and has protected over 13,000 acres to date. Both share a conservation vision vital for thriving wildlife habitats, for the health and quality of life of the region’s residents and visitors, and for the success of the region’s locally sustainable economies, including its important outdoor recreation and ecotourism industries.
Formalizing the partnership will expand the capacity and leverage the resources of both organizations by combining the efforts of dedicated members, volunteers, and supporters. The partnership will enhance the protection of the region’s iconic eagle and the healthy lands and clean waters upon which eagles depend.
The EI, a non-profit volunteer organization founded by its executive director, Lori McKean in 1998, has reached nearly 50,000 people with its educational efforts on behalf of eagles and habitat stewardship. The DHC, also a non-profit organization, was founded by Barbara Yeaman in 1994 and works in partnership with landowners and communities to conserve the region’s natural heritage and rural quality of life.
At a press conference held on February 10, McKean announced the merger, describing it as an effort to “increase our capacity, leverage our resources and grow both organizations.”
DHC executive director, Sue Currier added, “The expanded role that we’ll be able to play, bringing together the passion, not only of the members and supporters and volunteers of the EI, partnering them up with the support and infrastructure that we have with the DHC, is really going to energize both groups to make a difference.”
Greg Belcamino, DHC president and board chairman described the opportunity as a perfect fit. “We have congruent missions, our members share interests, we’ll be able to combine resources and get more done. One interest of the EI is in protecting eagle habitat and we are in the business of land protection.”
The EI will run as a project of the DHC and become a committee chaired by McKean. It will continue to operate its winter field office in Lackawaxen, PA to offer eagle education programs and to provide on-site assistance for eagle watchers.
Sean McGuinness, superintendent of the National Park Service (NPS) Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River applauded the move. "We are excited to continue to work closely with these good people to conserve our natural resources, and educate the public as to why it's so important to assure our lands, waters, and wildlife habitats are protected,” he said. “Together they will be even stronger in providing leadership in effective and intelligent conservation in our region."
McKean recognized the partnership that EI has enjoyed with the NPS and said that will continue with the shared agreement that currently allows EI to conduct programs from December through March at the winter office. “It’s a great partnership and a wonderful location in the heart of wintering eagle habitat,” she said. “We’re very lucky to have the NPS here and the protected and private lands on both sides of the river.”
To protect land, the DHC uses a tool called a conservation easement (CE). “The terms of an easement allow us to protect the natural resources that are there,” said Currier. “We have a few easements with nesting eagle pairs, and they are designed to continue to protect that habitat. We also do CE’s that protect working farmlands and forestlands, because those are also important to the quality of life here. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and we want to keep the pieces in place.”
“Most easements allow for limited and sensitive development while protecting the most important ecological, scenic or habitat aspects of the property that the landowner wishes to protect,” added Belcamino.
McKean pointed out that the top threat to eagle survival is loss of habitat. “We’re not talking about the one tree or one acre where the eagle has built its nest,” she said. “A species like the eagle needs a very large area of undisturbed trees and clean water. The DHC’s conservation tools help to conserve a part of the habitat. When you put the pieces together, you create corridors for wildlife to move through. Eagles need to live with people, but we need to cut down on fragmentation and provide large areas where they can still thrive.”
Delaware Highlands Conservancy/Eagle Institute Merger FAQs
• Why did you decide to come together?
The Eagle Institute protects eagles, which means protecting eagle habitat. The Delaware Highlands Conservancy protect the lands and waters of the Upper Delaware region, much of which is eagle habitat. We have worked together for years toward common goals, so we decided to formalize our partnership. Together we will be even more effective in accomplishing our missions.
The economics make sense. In these days of doing more with less, we are combining resources and sharing tools while saving valuable dollars, which can then be used toward projects that further our goals.
By combining data resources, we will more efficiently reach greater numbers of people. We will generate more supporters of eagles and wildlife in general and eagle habitat and lands and waters in general, in our region.
• What is the nature of your partnership arrangement?
The Eagle Institute will be from this point forward a “Project of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy,” which means the Eagle Institute will be a special entity of the Conservancy focused on Eagle Institute activities and goals.
• Why is this a positive step for the members and volunteers of the Eagle Institute/ Delaware Highlands Conservancy?
Both organizations are focused on healthy lands and waters and thriving wildlife and biodiversity. This partnership assures that we will be even more successful than they have been in meeting conservation goals.
Sharing of resources means membership support dollars and volunteer time contributions go further. All contributions of funds and of time will go farther in achieving conservation success than ever before.
Members and volunteers of both organizations have common values and priorities. They understand the important connections between people and wildlife in our region. If our lands and waters are healthy for the eagle, they are healthy for people, too. Our members and volunteers also share a philosophy that promotes a connection between people and the land where they live, work, and play. This partnership makes us even stronger in terms of supporting and furthering these common values and priorities.
• Will the Eagle Institute still have its winter field office in Lackawaxen?
Yes. The Eagle Institute will still be located at the same site in Lackawaxen during the winter field season and continue to staff the public viewing areas throughout the region and will also be able to use the Conservancy’s office in Hawley and its new office on the beautiful 119-acre Lemons Brook Farm in Bethel, NY for activities as well.
• Will the Eagle Institute maintain a separate website?
During the transition, the Conservancy website will link to the Eagle Institute website at its “eagles” page and from its “eagles” button on the homepage. The Eagle Institute website will remain at EagleInstitute.org and link back to the Conservancy website. This will ensure a seamless transition for those seeking information about eagles and for accessing the popular eagle information features of the Eagle Institute web site. Eventually, the Eagle Institute will have its own place on the Delaware Highlands Conservancy website.
• The Conservancy focuses on sustaining working forest and farm lands and local economies. Will merging with the Eagle Institute with its focus on the eagle and eagle habitat protection detract from that important work?
On the contrary, this partnership will enhance that work. The Conservancy has the staff, the resources, and the capability to successfully support the Eagle Institute project and remain committed to all our current conservation projects and goals.
Eagles bring tourists to the region. Ecotourism has been a prime focus of the Eagle Institute for years. Educating visitors how to view eagles without disturbing them has resulted in a safe and successful eagle viewing experience for almost 50,000 visitors over the past decade. Winter eagle watchers may come back in the summer months to canoe the river, buy local farm and forest products, purchase second homes and more.
Assuring that eagles and eagle habitat remain healthy contributes to healthy local economies. Visitors to the region support all types of local businesses while they are here, and we will be working to creatively cross-promote the goal of supporting local economies with the goal of protecting eagles and their habitat. For example, a program like our Shop Local, Save Land could encourage visitors to, “Visit our region to see the magnificent eagle and its beautiful habitat, and spend time here shopping for our fresh delicious local farm products and wonderful local wood products.”
Both the Eagle Institute and the Conservancy share a belief that people belong on and are sustained by the lands where they live. People relate to and use different lands in different ways. However, whether land is being farmed, forested, or preserved without farming and foresting in order to protect habitat, both organizations share the belief that people need to live sustainably and act responsibly toward each other and toward the flora and fauna with which we share the planet. Many local residents and our members and supporters share this philosophy, and the success of the eagle in this area is due to their good land stewardship practices that protect the eagle and its habitat.
• Will the Eagle Institute still offer eagle watch programs and other activities?
Yes. The Eagle Institute as a Project of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy will still offer eagle watch programs and other activities. The goal is to build upon current programs, make them even stronger, and attract more and more people to opportunities to learn about and experience eagles and the beautiful habitat where they live.
• Will there be an “Eaglefest this year?”
Though Eagle Institute took part in Eaglefest, Eagle Institute did not organize Eaglefest. Eaglefest was organized and produced by a privately-run organization. We can’t speak on their behalf, but if they decide to reintroduce Eaglefest, we would participate.
• What will be Eagle Institute founder Lori McKean’s role going forward?
Lori will continue to actively oversee the Eagle Institute programs as chair of the Conservancy’s Eagle Institute project committee. A number of Eagle Institute volunteers have already agreed to serve with her on the committee to ensure a seamless and consistent transition into the future. In addition, we are always looking for more volunteers to participate in Eagle Institute and Delaware Highlands Conservancy activities. Check out DelawareHighlands.org/volunteers for more information.
Letter of announcement to members
Lori McKean: I founded the Eagle Institute to support the return of the endangered eagle to the Upper Delaware River region. Nearly two decades ago, I dreamed things would turn out just as they have: The eagles are back in the Watershed and thriving, the Eagle Institute is supported and run by incredible volunteers, members, and contributors who are passionately concerned about the protection of our national symbol and its habitat, and we have educated nearly 50,000 people over the years about the critical role this region’s healthy lands and clean water play in the survival of this magnificent bird. We are ready to open the next chapter in our success story.
Barbara Yeaman: Like Lori, I founded the Delaware Highlands Conservancy nearly two decades ago because of my own love for the beautiful Delaware River and all the lands and waters of this watershed region. As the Eagle Institute has been for Lori, for me the Conservancy has been a dream come true. Since its founding, the Conservancy has protected over 13,000 acres of farms, forests, waters, and wildlife habitats in the Upper Delaware River region. Like the Eagle Institute, the Conservancy is peopled by dedicated members, volunteers, and supporters who are passionately committed to its conservation vision and who have propelled its incredible success.
Lori McKean: Early in 2011, Barbara and I, along with Sue, the Conservancy’s Executive Director, and its Board of Directors, began to envision a new dream. What if these two successful organizations committed to the same vision of eagles thriving in a habitat of healthy lands and clean water came together? We have been partnering for years in educational programs and events, and we have always supported each other’s habitat and wildlife stewardship and protection efforts.
Sue Currier: Like Lori and Barbara, I saw very quickly that bringing the Eagle Institute and the Delaware Highlands Conservancy together would be the perfect partnership. As the Conservancy’s Executive Director and after talking in detail with Lori, I realized that coming together means both organizations will be stronger. In these days of doing more with less, we will share our resources, so those resources will go further. We will combine the energy of dedicated members, volunteers, and supporters, so we can protect more eagle habitat than ever before. We will reach more and more people with the message that the eagle thrives when the lands and waters where it lives are healthy and protected.
Lori McKean: Barbara, Sue, and I along with all of you who support the Eagle Institute know what it feels like to watch an eagle fly freely; to see it dive for its food or perch majestically against a winter blue sky. We all realize that if the eagles are thriving, the lands and waters where they live are healthy for humans, too. Eagles are good for our hearts, our spirits; their healthy habitat is good for our bodies. We need to make sure the eagles and their habitat are protected now and into the future.
Together our two organizations will move into the future more capable than ever of protecting eagles and eagle habitat. We are incredibly enthusiastic by the unlimited potential of this new partnership. With your support, this new chapter in the story of two dedicated conservation organizations will be even more successful than the previous one.
For more information on the perfect partnership, please visit eagleinstitute.org, or delawarehighlands.org email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 570-226-3164 or 845-583-1010.
Come soar with us! We look forward to sharing this new and wonderful journey with you.
Executive Director and Founder, Eagle Institute
Founder and Vice President, Delaware Highlands Conservancy
Executive Director, Delaware Highlands Conservancy