By Bert Thomas

The Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy, an all-volunteer non-profit charity focused exclusively on this city, imagines a future of exceptional natural beauty. It envisions acres of protected forests girding the hills facing the river and sheltered between the ridges and secured from development in perpetuity through easements donated by landowners who understand the importance of conservation measures in preserving our natural heritage. It sees deep woods of shade and serenity where native plants and trees abound and wildlife flourishes.

The Conservancy is not an organization of dreamers. It knows that changing the way people think about their natural environment, moving them from “why bother” to “count me in”, will take time especially in a community that does not embrace change very easily. And it seems a natural condition of mankind is dedicated to maintaining the status quo. Our job is to whittle away at that mindset where conservation principles are concerned. It takes just a few landowners to get the ball rolling. That will happen. We are certain of that. It just makes too much sense, takes so little effort and results in so much good to set aside some portion of one’s land for conservation purposes.

The Conservancy is perhaps best known for its more public activities rather than for its land protection program. We have sponsored and organized the city’s only garden tour for four years in a row with the event in June being our most successful one so far. Four years ago we started planning for our Model Native Garden, a showcase for plants, flowers and trees native to this section of the city and now it is reaching maturity. And we have been badgering people about the scourge of Amur honeysuckle, even organizing events of honeysuckle marauders to remove that nasty plant from our forests. We believe these events are as important in gaining recognition for our broader mission of conservation as in the good they do for the community as a whole.

What most people do not see is the work we are doing behind the scenes toward our primary mission of land protection. After all, we are incorporated as a land trust and that means we can hold land outright or in the form of conservation easements. For example, over several years we have developed guidelines and procedures for our land program and have even held public meetings to explain what we do. Late last year we mailed to several landowners in the city packets of information specifically tailored to their land and including maps that placed their property in perspective. That has not yet gotten the results we hoped for, but we will keep trying and maybe change our approach.

We got a huge boost late last year with an outright donation of about 3.5 acres of forested land bordering Burnet Ridge from Dave and Terri Hill. The property is strategically positioned to become part of a corridor of protected land stretching from the high school all the way to the river. We are not there yet, but we think big. We are also working with the city administration to hold a conservation easement on part of Rossford Park where we will continue our work to repopulate the area with new trees and maintain it as a natural paradise. And we are well along in a plan to create a private nature preserve in the city that will be a very special gem for the community. These are plans right now and good ones and we fully expect them to succeed.

I am always encouraging people to help us reach our goals. To do that we need to know that people want to help either by volunteering or donating money through membership or both. You can do that right this moment by going to our website, www.ftfc.org, and signing up to volunteer or contributing by donating or joining. We are tax exempt and your contributions are tax deductible.

And so we come to an end with this 44th edition of Conservancy Matters. The owner, publisher, writer, editor and paperboy, Bill Thomas,  has decided for good reasons to bring the paper to a close after many years of serving the city. It is a sad moment for us to lose this platform and for the city to lose such an excellent journal of local news. The Conservancy thanks him deeply for allowing us this space and wishes him and Sidney the happiest life imaginable as they move into retirement.