Rich Cochran, who started as the lone employee of what is now Western Reserve Land Conservancy and now heads an organization that has preserved more than 22,000 acres in northern Ohio, has been named the recipient of the 2010 Conservation Award by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Cochran, the president and CEO of the Land Conservancy since 1996, was honored during an awards ceremony on Friday (Nov. 19) where he was presented with the award on behalf of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.
Judith McMillan, co-chair of the board’s Awards Committee, cited Cochran’s leadership in the conservation community and the Land Conservancy’s collaboration with the Museum to protect key natural areas in the region, including Big Swamp Preserve in Huron County and Wendtwood Preserve in Lorain County. She described Cochran as “literally a legend in the area of land preservation.”
Under the leadership of Cochran, the Land Conservancy has preserved more than 350 properties and more than 22,000 acres in its 14-county service region. The Land Conservancy was formed in 2006 when eight local land trusts joined forces in the largest merger of its type in the United States.
Cochran, who lives in Shaker Heights and is a graduate of Middlebury (Vt.) College, said he was humbled by the honor and recalled that, as a child, his own love of nature was nurtured by the time he spent at the Museum. He praised Dr. James Bissell, Director of the Museum’s Center for Conservation & Biodiversity, and his colleagues for their work with the Land Conservancy.
The Land Conservancy, which seeks to preserve the scenic beauty, rural character and natural resources of northern Ohio, works with private landowners, park systems, local governments and other conservation organizations to protect land, largely through the use of conservation easements. A conservation easement allows a landowner to permanently preserve his or her property without surrendering ownership.
The Land Conservancy seeks to preserve, along with its conservation partners, 10 percent of the approximately four million acres in northern Ohio to create a 400,000-acre network of interconnected green space.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is one of the finest institutions of its kind in North America. It is noted for its collections, research, educational programs and exhibits. The collections encompass more than 5 million artifacts and specimens, and research of global significance focuses on 11 natural science disciplines. The Museum actively conserves biological diversity through the protection of more than 5,000 acres of natural areas. The Museum, located in University Circle, had more than 274,000 visitors last year.
The award was presented at the Museum before a lecture by environmental ecologist Dr. Ryan W. McEwan of the University of Dayton. The talk was part of the Museum’s Explorer Lecture Series and was co-sponsored by The Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio.