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  • Annie Jacobs

The next generation takes a stand for local forests

Updated: Apr 23

Annie Jacobs, April 18, 2024

For Sophie Schwarz-Eise, a junior at Binghamton University, it isn’t enough to represent her generation in conservation work as a member of RPA’s board of directors.

She wants to give other young people a chance to dig in and make a difference, too. That’s why she’s coordinating RPA’s NextGen Task Force for teens and young adults who love nature and want to help our local forests.

“There are so many reasons to engage the next generation,” said Sophie. If you think about RPA’s work, we can’t keep conserving land and providing access if there is no one stewarding those actions. We need our young people to grow into this work and take on leadership roles.”

Sophie also feels that the concept of land conservation is often left out of the discussion among younger people around climate and sustainability. But, she says, it’s just as vital as other efforts. She wants her generation to see that.

The Task Force just started this past fall with a few Zoom meetings and outings on the land.

“My hope for this year is to build up a solid group of participants who will help shape the mission of the Task Force going forward. We’ll have some planning discussions to hopefully help hammer out some decisions.”

Sophie also envisions lots of fun out on the land together, skill sharing, and group leaders coming out of the group.

This winter, Sophie led two Task Force hikes -- one at Valentino Family Community Forest in Grafton and one at Barberville Falls Preserve in Poestenkill.

The Grafton hike took place on a chilly but beautifully sunny day, one of those perfect December outdoor experiences. They started off with cider donuts and coffee, hiked around the beaver ponds and hopped the streams, and built a bonfire at the lean-to beside one of the ponds. It was a magical day to be outdoors together.

“For a lot of young people interested in environmental action, I think that land conservation is a new avenue to explore. And nationally, globally, and regionally, we need more people thinking about land for our climate and the viability of our planet in the future. We need a community to do this work. I’d like to provide that community,” Sophie said.

When we include our young people -- and people of all ages -- in conservation work, we make a lasting difference for our local environment, joining the hard work of land trusts all across the U.S.

The Land Trust Alliance's Gaining Ground Campaign is helping ensure a brighter future for all. The small things we do here in Rensselaer County are part of that. Together, we can keep gaining ground, nurturing the kind of world we hope to pass on to Sophie -- and to all the generations to come.


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