Henry Fuller: A Lifetime of Conservation

21 Feb 2019

Henry with daughter Susanna and son Michael, during the Expedition for the Earth trek to Iceland in 2016.

By Andrew Robinson, Nature Trust Volunteer Writer

“I would say my awareness of, and interest in land conservation has evolved through a lifetime of experience,” says Henry Fuller – the Nature Trust’s longest serving board member.

“My mother was a pioneer in the land trust movement in the state of Maine. She helped found the York Land Trust in Maine in 1986 to protect and preserve our old family farm.” She was appointed to the board of the committee entitled “Lands for Maine’s Future Use” in 1989. Henry explained that many US land trusts often preserve open space landscape, such as their family farm with an unchanged profile in 150 years.

“My father was a small city lawyer in Portsmouth NH before the outbreak of WW II. My parents bought Ram’s Head Farm located in York, ME in 1945 at the end of WW II. My father loved working the farm in his spare time. Sadly, he was killed in a farming accident in 1962 at age 47. My mother was left with the land and a young family. She embarked on a career as a Maine state legislator. The farm was never actively managed after my father’s death. We had a local farmer cut the hay and graze some beef animals on the pastures. My mother always had an interest in conservation. This led to her decision to place an easement on a portion of the farm property in 1986 held by the York Land Trust. Today, the whole farm (300 acres) is fully protected from future development. In December 2017, 220 acres was purchased by the York Land Trust to create the “Fuller Forest” as a publicly accessible forest reserve.”

After University, Henry spent time studying the ethnology of indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest, an experience which deeply touched him and sowed a seed of conservationism. He returned to the US and then to Canada where he bought 65 acres of land at Big Harbour, a short distance from Baddeck. Henry took a couple of years out for graduate studies in England and Newfoundland before returning to Baddeck, where he was employed by Pinaud’s Yacht Yard. In 1976 the boatyard was purchased, and he set about making a challenging living in Cape Breton.

“My understanding of the essential balance between man and nature blossomed when I took over the management of my grandfather’s 2,200-acre cow-calf enterprise in Missouri in 1991,” Henry explained. “My grandfather purchased the initial 900 acres during the Great Depression at a bank foreclosure sale in Kansas City. He died just a few weeks after my father. The management of the farm passed between family members who had not much knowledge about operating a large farm. When I volunteered to manage the farm in 1991, the farm had atrophied, and the land was poorly cared for. I dived in. I found a passionate operator to run the day to day operations. We began the transformation of Thompson Ranch into a holistically managed grass-fed beef operation. In the process, I learned about the power of nature to heal herself, and the essential nurturing ‘light touch’ balance that allows us to live in harmony with nature.”

With a strong interest in the natural world, and an abiding belief in the importance of conservation and preservation, Henry helped found the Bras d’Or Stewardship Society in 1997. “That was what brought me to the attention of one of the great pioneers in Nova Scotia land conservation – Rudy Haase,” he explained. “Rudy knew of the Bras d’Or Stewardship Society and he came to me looking for a buyer for his Washabuck property. He had placed the Nature Trust’s first conservation forever wild easement on that land. He now wanted to find a new owner as he was 75. That’s when I first learned about the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. I found a partner – Dr James O’Brien – and we did a deal on the land. I joined the Nature Trust Board in 1998 and I’ve been here ever since! A few years ago, I bought O’Brien’s share of the 167 acre Birch Point property. In December 2018, I donated that land to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust to be designated as the “Martin Rudy Haase Conservation Lands.”

Knowing the vital role of sustainability for a land trust, Henry founded the Nature Trust’s endowment fund in 2006, with a generous donation. He recently added another $26,000 to this fund, through the Bras d’Or Stewardship Society. He has been an active board member, fundraiser and volunteer for 20 years, including being a team member for all three Expeditions for the Earth. He also recently donated the Washabuck property, which he had acquired from Rudy, to the care of the Nature Trust.

Henry is a passionate traveler having tramped the Southern Alps in New Zealand, as well as a recent trip to China, and trips to Patagonia, Iceland and Ecuador as a participant in the Nature Trust ‘Expedition for the Earth’ campaigns.

Henry is directing his life towards conservation for one simple reason: “If you enjoy nature, you have a responsibility to help support its protection. Don’t leave it for someone else. Government has so many pressing responsibilities that conservation efforts often remain low on their list of priorities. The private sector must take a leadership role. Take personal ownership and help organisations like the Nova Scotia Nature Trust preserve and protect the places you love, forever.”

Get the latest conservation news in your inbox