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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.

By Sandy Long
August 14, 2013

UPPER DELAWARE REGION — An icon of conservation leadership, whose life will positively affect the future of the Upper Delaware Region for perpetuity, is greeting the next stretch of her journey with grace and her characteristic determination to continue making a difference.

Now 88, Barbara Yeaman, who founded the Delaware Highlands Conservancy (the Conservancy) in 1994 at age 70, is relocating her primary residence to Charlottesville, VA, nearer to her daughter, Suzanne and son, Bill. The move is precipitated in part by the development of an autoimmune disorder that is worsened by cold climates, as well as the increasing challenges of managing her lovely old farmhouse and barn in Milanville, PA.

Yeaman, of course, is not about to let such stumbling stones stop her, and has already begun making inroads to conservation organizations in that area. The challenges have, however, altered her course and necessitated a carefully considered decision to sell the beloved property along the Delaware River that spurred her determination to establish the land trust, which has since succeeded in protecting more than 14,000 acres of land throughout the four-county region it serves—Pike and Wayne counties in Pennsylvania and Sullivan and Delaware counties in New York.

Yeaman launched the fledgling land trust, which permanently protects land by working with willing landowners through conservation easements, by placing an easement on her 12-acre property. A young local family will now call the special place home as they abide by the protections of that easement.

Throughout her life, Yeaman has championed land, water and habitat conservation, as well as education, springing from her love of rivers. Born near Pittsburgh, PA, her career took her across the U.S. before bringing her to Milanville. Yeaman served as a water conservation coordinator at the EPA in Washington, DC where she oversaw the production of films and educational materials about water conservation and reuse. During World War II, she earned her pilot’s license to qualify for the Women Air Force Service Pilots.

She credits her partner, Ed Wesely, with introducing her to the river that would become the focus of her most important activist work ever. The pair established the Butterfly Barn at the property to teach families about the natural world through puppet shows and educational programming.