Where are they now? | Matt Swain, from Intern to Vice President

August 24, 2023

By Julia G. King


What started out as a summer internship for Matt Swain in 2007 has turned into a successful career at the Peconic Land Trust. Along the way he has learned about mapping, stewardship, and leadership as well as what it takes to maintain and restore the places we all know and love across Long Island.

Matt’s first responsibilities at the Trust involved mowing and trail maintenance under a Trust contract with the Town of Southold. He also worked closely with the Town of Riverhead on monitoring protected lands in those early days. His time as an intern for two summers influenced his coursework, especially his senior thesis on conservation easements, land use planning, and conservation.


Dan Heston, Steve Schider, and Matt Swain in 2007. Matt credits Steve and Dan with teaching him all about the equipment at the Trust that we use to maintain our properties.

Hired for a full-time position as a Land Steward in 2009, Matt helped bring the Trust into the digital age. He spent countless hours scanning decades of files to be added to an easily accessible server and cloud-based project management software. He also took courses on GIS (geographic information system) to improve maps of Trust properties and easements, conservation planning and concepts, and site plans, and the creation of the Trust’s interactive map.

Matt’s desire to go back to school for GIS kickstarted the Trust’s tuition reimbursement program. Since then, three other employees have taken advantage of the program to learn more about their field. Matt commented, “it’s great because it encourages people to go back to school. Encouraging continued, higher education for staff is one of the most important things we can offer to help this organization progress.”


Peconic Land Trust staff and board members at a semiannual retreat along the Peconic River this June.

Having the chance to work closely with Trust President, John v.H. Halsey, and our retired Senior Vice President Pam Greene for many years, Matt looks to mentor the younger staff. “I encourage everyone no matter what department they are in to come to me with questions. Look at what we’ve done in the past as an example of what we can do in the future. As the world changes, the Peconic Land Trust should change. Adaptability is critical to our work.”

From Land Steward to Vice President, Matt realizes that public use and improved accessibility is key to the next 40 years at the Trust. “We need to open our preserves to the public. We have this land, let’s share it. That involves identifying critical habitat and trail building.” Broad Cove is a perfect example of that. In the year ahead we’re working on a parking area, reestablishing roadways and trails, and mapping out emergency access.


Trust Staff taking a breather at the Wolf Preserve in Southold: Matt Swain, Dan Heston, Jessie McSwane, Jackie Wilson, Thomas Corcoran, and Brendan Minogue.

Another area of focus is enforcement of conservation easements and other possible land disputes. “Monitoring of both easements and preserves is so important; the Stewardship Department has to grow as we protect more land.” Each of our stewardship staff is assigned about 70 properties. Every year the Conservation Planning Department completes between two to five major projects, adding to the acreage of land conserved, lands that need to be monitored and maintained. We’re dealing with projects dating back to 1983, all of which need constant attention.

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