By Casey Therrien, Associate Director of Philanthropy
Another staffer celebrating a milestone anniversary at TLC this year is Matt Rutledge, Associate Director of Stewardship. Matt joined TLC as a Conservation Fellow in 2013 to work on comprehensive management plans for our public nature preserves, assist with and lead volunteer workdays and trail building, and for many years (before we hired a Grants Manager) he managed our grants program to further our work in restoration and management of protected land. In his current role, he oversees our easement program with annual monitoring, supports our Land Stewardship East and West teams, and helps with programmatic grant implementation.
An eye for Loblollys, Longleafs, and Shortleafs
Matt, a Greenville, SC native, came to the Triangle when he enrolled at the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment. He earned his master’s degree in environmental management and forestry – and he’s often my go to when I’m interested in learning more about that tree over there. “Is that a Longleaf Pine?” “No, that’s a Loblolly.” “Is that a Shortleaf Pine?” “No, that’s a Loblolly.” “What about this one?” “You can safely assume they’re [mostly] all Loblolly but look closely at the pinecones.” (This was a real exchange we had when walking at Brumley over the summer).
Anyone who knows Matt will agree that while he’s generally quiet, he’s incredibly kind and generous. And his laugh is super contagious! Even though I try my hardest to remember the Blackjack Oak tree, or what type of pine tree that one is, Matt eagerly takes a minute or two to show me special details, so not only can I learn, but I can share with our members on walks or hikes. I remember one time going on a walk with a group of people from the Museum of Natural Sciences and they asked me what that tree is, and I covertly texted a photo to Matt, who named it, and then I was able to share it with the group (and yes, I gave credit to Matt).
Restoring ecosystems and managing trails at all TLC preserves
Matt has been instrumental in so much of the work that you see every time you walk at Johnston Mill, White Pines, Horton Grove, and Brumley, including restoring ecosystems through prescribed burns and helping to manage trails by rerouting and or adding new ones to existing preserves. He’s helped plant thousands of seeds and hundreds of plant plugs over the years at many of our preserves to set the stage for improved habitat. He’s also walked hundreds of miles monitoring our eased properties to ensure they are abiding by the easement rules.
Matt was also a key member of our team who led the Land Trust Alliance Reaccreditation effort. In the article John McAdams wrote celebrating Sandy Sweitzer’s tenure, you can read more about the accreditation process Sandy led the team through – and Matt’s efforts helped to reaffirm TLC’s reputation for quality conservation, fiscal accountability, strong organizational leadership, sound transactions, and lasting stewardship of protected lands.
Matt is currently working with the Stewardship West team on planning and implementing a long-term restoration project at Brumley North. There is so much Matt has gifted to TLC and the Triangle through his work. The next time you’re on a trail – thank Matt. He has made significant impacts on the quality of the preserves you know and love. I’m so lucky to not only call him one of my colleagues, but a friend. Cheers to 10 years, Matt. We can’t wait to see what unfolds in the next ten.