Director of the Nature Conservancy, New Hampshire
Daryl Burtnett claims
he wouldn’t be where he is today without the
influence of NOLS.
“There’s just no way that I would be living the life I have today
and have these opportunities to be making a difference on this scale,” he
says. “My experience with NOLS had everything to do with my success at
getting this position at the Nature Conservancy.”
It’s a position that Burtnett has held for a little more than four years,
following his tenure as an employee at NOLS Southwest. Burtnett first came to
NOLS in 1990 as a full-time field instructor. After about five years, he was
hired to be the program supervisor at NOLS Southwest and later the director.
For Burtnett, those years provided a plethora of instructive and informative
experiences against an almost magical background.
“The Gila Wilderness is an important area to me,” he explains. “I
loved being in the mountains and felt like the best version of myself when I
was working with other people and on expeditions. I was reshaped and recalibrated
because of the times that I had there. It became important to me to work with
people and to teach them the skills of having little impact so that future generations
would have similar opportunities.”
After a decade of working with NOLS, Burtnett began
looking for another environmentally responsible
organization to be a part of. As it turned out,
the Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire was looking
for a director. Now he finds himself in charge
of the state’s chapter program, where he leads a 20-member team that seeks
to protect and preserve land in and around the state and its borders.
“I’m the expedition leader here in New Hampshire, and we face all
kinds of challenges and opportunities,” Burtnett explains. “My staff
members are the most capable people I could imagine, and one of the main goals
I have is that we talk about the challenges and the situations we face. Things
that transfer from NOLS to the Nature Conservancy are things like perseverance,
the ability to be creative, calm and prepared in the face of adversity. Those
elements are directly related to the very best NOLS expeditions.”
While Burtnett and his team have realized great successes,
as with the recently completed protection of 171,000
acres in northern New Hampshire, they have also
faced numerous impediments.
“A big challenge has been the loss of wild places,” Burtnett says. “Many
of our remaining wild places near urban and suburban areas are threatened by
conversion as a result of sprawl. We also live downwind of the rest of the country
here in the northeast, resulting in toxins in the wind and rain that pollute
our land. On top of that, the economic climate is also a challenge. I would say
that the incremental loss of our most important natural places, the degradation
of areas not converted, and the challenge of trying to fund our programs are
the biggest issues we face.” Burtnett says that when things become really
difficult, he just goes outside.
“The product of my work is such that you can go walk on it. Whenever I
find myself losing optimism, I make sure I go out to places that we have protected.
Or I go to places that I’m still working on – it’s motivating.”