Anne Murphy, Executive Director of Shasta Land Trust
From the HeartJanuary 2015
By Sue Ralston
Photos: Betsy Erickson
Shasta Land Trust, a nonprofit devoted to protecting open space, has grown steadily since it was founded in 1998, thanks to the dedication of board, staff and volunteers. But Anne Murphy, the new executive director since April, is ready to raise its profile. “I feel like we’re a best-kept secret. Now I think it’s time to take this a little more public and introduce us more to the community so we can get more folks involved in what we do,” she says.
“Our broad mission is to conserve the beauty, character and diversity of the land throughout the region,” Murphy says. “We have 11 properties protected now, just under 22,000 acres, so it’s a lot. We’ve protected working agricultural ranches, and that’s something our organization has said is really important: to make sure these operations can continue for generations to come.”
Being the head of any nonprofit is a lot of work. But Murphy’s Facebook posts will often show a photo of a scenic open space with the lighthearted caption: “My office for the day.” This eagerness to set out on new adventures may be key in leading her to Redding, a town she previously knew little about. She’s spent the months since she moved here exploring the outdoors, refurbishing her 1970s ranch-style house and making new friends. “It feels like there are endless opportunities here to explore the mountains and the lakes. I hike and kayak. I raced sailboats in Minnesota and I’m looking forward to sailing here,” she says.
Murphy hails from a small town in Northern Michigan, where she grew up on 60 acres. “My parents instilled a sense of the land in me from a very young age,” she recalls. She spent her high school and college years studying biology and piano. “I can’t imagine not having the outdoors as inspiration, so that’s the path I went down for both high school and into college, doing both of those and waiting for that sort of divine inspiration to know which way to go and what to do.”
She attended Alma College, a small, liberal arts school in Michigan.
While working on a hydrogeology project she was exposed to a pesticide that got into her hands and her muscles, so she decided against pursuing piano as a career. After college, she worked at the Little Traverse (Michigan) Conservancy, doing environmental education and stewardship of protected lands. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) was just emerging as a valuable new land-use tool and she wanted to study it further. She ultimately earned a graduate certificate in GIS from Cleveland State University. Conservation easements are the most powerful tools used by a land trust. These legally binding agreements stay with the land
and, much like the deeds that transfer from one owner to the next, carry on in perpetuity, no matter who owns the land. Property owners interested in conservation will approach Shasta Land Trust.
“What we hear from ranchers is it’s difficult to find large enough pieces of land where you can have your grazing grounds, you can have your water sources, and you can still carry on other activities that support the ranching lifestyle and business. We ensure that these ranches stay intact, carrying on these activities, and we prevent subdivision. That preserves it for future generations that want to get into ranching,” she explains.
The land trust recently moved to a building with more office space, a spacious meeting room and even a spot for Lucy, Murphy’s 6-year-old golden retriever, a certified therapy dog who has been designated the land trust’s Happiness Director. A part-time development coordinator, Angela Radford, has been brought on to expand membership, fundraise and cultivate more major donors. “Knowing that every dollar raised goes toward conserving the beauty, character and diversity of some really significant lands here in the North State makes it an exciting time for the land trust,” she says.
Change is afoot. The website is newly redesigned, more user-friendly and with more of the region’s beautiful scenery highlighted. An electronic newsletter is being planned. Radford is working with a group of volunteers to organize the Wildways Kickoff Party in February. The signature annual fundraising event includes dinner, drinks, live music and a silent auction. Tammy Douse, a long-time member and volunteer, is helping with the planning. “Wildways is really fun. It’s an opportunity to purchase party tickets that are fundraisers and it’s a way to help support the organization while having a good time,” she says. Funds are raised by selling such events as a catered dinner at a member’s scenic riverside home, or a night camping out under the stars.
Murphy sums up her hopes for the future of the land trust: “We’re a community resource, and we want to help connect people to these amazing natural resources we have around us.”