A Message from our President

December 22, 2021

A year full of transition and reflection, 2021 will soon be in our past. For many of us, we are ready for the new year! I know that I had hoped COVID-19 would be behind us. But alas, it is still here, but thanks to vaccinations, testing, and perseverance, its presence is less daunting as we seek a new normal. Throughout the year, you have made it possible for the Trust to conserve and steward the land and water upon which we depend as we transition to better, healthier times. All of us at the Trust cannot thank you enough!

Among the transitions that my family and I experienced this year was the passing of my mother, Emily van Heusen Halsey, at the age of 98. What an incredible life she had with a tremendous love for birds, gardening, food, friends, and family. As the one person who has known me the longest, she taught me how to love, forgive, persevere, and celebrate life in all of its forms. She lived her life to its fullest and encouraged her children to do likewise – she remains an inspiration to all who knew her.

Another transition of note this year was the passing of one of our longest and beloved donors. In terms of longevity, Marillyn B. Wilson, a devoted conservationist, supported the Trust since its inception. Living in her home on what is now our Wilson’s Grove Preserve in East Hampton, Marillyn supported conservation locally, nationally, and internationally. A dedicated annual fund donor, she entrusted us with her land when she was among the first to move to Peconic Landing on the North Fork. She also generously included us in her will for which we are most grateful. Her passion for conservation continues to guide us. (To read a reflection on Marillyn Wilson, please see our Spring 2021 newsletter.)

Two long-time staff members, Julie Zaykowski and Pam Greene, represent a different type of transition, from full-time leaders of the Trust to retiring veterans of the Trust. Julie has fully transitioned, but Pam will remain part-time through the end of January 2022 as she completes her transition to her new life in her home state of Indiana. Both Julie and Pam dedicated over 25 years to the Trust and rose to key leadership positions given their commitment to our mission, incredible work ethics, and their ability to work with all sorts of people. We truly appreciate their dedication to our cause and the community at large.

Last, but not least, is the transition of the summit of Sugar Loaf Hill back to its natural state. As a ceremonial burial site over 3,000 years old, this is the most sacred land to the Shinnecock people, and the highest point within Shinnecock Hills. The Trust has worked with the Shinnecock Graves Protection Warrior Society and Southampton Town to acquire and protect this ancestral site. The ultimate transition will be to return this sacred land to the Shinnecock people once the existing house is demolished and the property is restored.

As we reflect upon all that we have accomplished together in 2021, let’s recognize the continuing challenges ahead of us to protect and restore the land and water that sustain us. Let’s honor all who embrace conservation including the Shinnecock people and our other Indigenous partners – there is much we can learn from their traditions and practices.

Thanks again to all of you who make our work possible!

Please stay safe and be well.

John v.H. Halsey

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