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Conservationist wins award

Barbara Yeaman receives Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award

By SANDY LONG

HAWLEY, PA — The highest recognition the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) provides to a person who has distinguished themselves in the cause of conservation was recently awarded to Milanville resident Barbara Yeaman, who founded the Delaware Highlands Conservancy (DHC) in 1994 at the age of 70.

Established in 1991, the award pays respect to the conservation legacy of Ralph W. Abele by recognizing citizens of Pennsylvania who have made outstanding contributions to the protection, conservation and enhancement of the aquatic resources of the Commonwealth.

The selection was unique for its recognition of the importance of land conservation in preserving the state’s water resources. When Yeaman realized that in order to protect the Upper Delaware River, she would need to first protect the lands comprising its watershed, she set to work establishing the land trust that would become the DHC.

To define its territory, Yeaman focused on her beloved river and the boundaries of its watershed— Pike and Wayne counties in Pennsylvania and Sullivan and Delaware counties in New York. Today, the DHC works with landowners to protect the natural and cultural heritage—including forests, farms, water, scenery and open space—of the Upper Delaware River region. Since its founding, the DHC has protected more than 10,000 acres.

Though they never met, both Abele and Yeaman were born in Pittstburgh. Of Abele, the PFBC has written, “Ralph W. Abele led, inspired, encouraged, motivated, supported and commanded the fight to save our natural environment. He believed strongly in the right of everyone to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment.”

Abele is described as an uncommon leader of the Commonwealth whose motto was, “Do your duty and fear no one!” This spirit is personified in the dedication Yeaman has brought to preserving the natural resources of the Upper Delaware River region in one of the fastest-growing areas of the country. Like Abele, Yeaman has become a champion—for land, water and habitat conservation, as well as rural and scenic preservation.

Gary Moore of the PFBC presented the award to Yeaman, who received a framed print featuring a watercolor painted by Ed Parkinson of Browndale, PA, which depicts an angler on the West Branch of the Delaware River on a glorious autumn day. The painting was selected as the winner of Pennsylvania’s 1998 Trout Stamp Art Competition and became the fish and boat commission’s 1998 Trout Stamp.

The presentation was followed by a seminar with land expert and author Stephen J. Small, who provided information for landowners about the use of conservation easements in protecting family lands. Information on local conservation resources was also made available for attendees.

“If you have a piece of land you care about, I guarantee you that someday it will be paved over or developed,” said Small. “If you care about your land, you must plan and act accordingly.”

“Conservation easements extinguish development rights forever,” said Small, who stressed that this doesn’t necessarily eliminate economic opportunities, such as timber harvesting or farming. Participants learned that an easement can be included in a will to take effect after death, and that heirs can join together in a post-mortem easement. Other tax specifics were shared and attendees received a copy of Small’s first book, “Preserving Family Lands: Book 1.”

Small urged the audience to gather information and to take action on behalf of their family properties. “Landowners do conservation easements for three reasons: they love their land, they love their land, they love their land,” he concluded.

For more information visit www.delawarehighlands.org or www.preservingfamilylands.com .

TRR photo by Sandy Long
Barbara Yeaman, founder of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, displays the Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award she received from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). Presenting the award was Gary Moore of the PFBC. (Click for larger version)