Dear partners in conservation,
The end of a year is a natural time to look back and reflect, and 2021 was quite a year for the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art—one that was filled with a mixture of great successes and unique challenges. While we take time to honor this past year and look ahead towards the future, we’d like to first recognize the recent departure of the Conservancy’s Director, Ellen Ferretti. As you’ll read about further in this issue of Environmental Currents, Ellen recently left the Conservancy in November to return to her hometown and lead a small but mighty land trust doing great work in northeastern Pennsylvania. This issue marks our first as Acting Co-Directors of the Brandywine Conservancy.
As we processed the impact of Ellen’s departure, we also began to reflect on the transformative five years of her leadership. Taking a forward-thinking approach, Ellen was always preparing the Conservancy for whatever came next. While leading us through the preservation of incredible new acreage totals, she also focused on staff professional development at all levels of the organization. Most notably for us, that included our advancement to Assistant Directors in December 2019, which prepared us both for our new leadership roles as Acting Co-Directors. Over the last two years we have received incredible mentorship from Ellen, and also from the Brandywine’s Morris Stroud, Chairman of the Board; Virginia Logan, The Frolic Weymouth Executive Director & CEO; other members of the Executive Leadership and Trustees; and members of our Conservancy Committees. Through their leadership and support, they have helped us prepare for the Conservancy’s next chapter. We are honored to be selected for this role and we embrace the opportunity that lies ahead to steward the Conservancy in the interim.
As the new year quickly approaches, we also hope to see you at our next Holiday Subscribers Party, which will finally be returning as an in-person event at the Brandywine River Museum of Art on January 6, 2022. Additional details and RSVP information can be found in this issue below.
It is a privilege to work for such an esteemed organization that has strong roots in the past and a mission for the perpetual conservation of our natural resources that is guiding us into the future. Our work requires partnerships, constituents, visitors, supporters and landowners for success, and we look forward to our continued work with you all.
Stephanie Armpriester & Grant DeCosta
Acting Co-Directors, Brandywine Conservancy
Last month, staff bade a bittersweet farewell to Ellen Ferretti as she left her post as Director of the Brandywine Conservancy. After more than five years as an accomplished champion for conservation at the Brandywine, Ellen returned to her home in Dallas, PA, to begin a new job as Executive Director of North Branch Land Trust—a fellow accredited member of the Land Trust Alliance—where she had helped establish this organization early in her career.
Ellen was highly effective during her tenure as the Director of the Brandywine Conservancy, managing a team of 25 people and developing many key relationships in land conservation and with our stewardship and municipal partners. During her time here she was responsible for 490 easements, developing several preserves throughout southeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania, and led staff in gaining an additional 30 easements and nearly 6,000 acres of conserved land, adding to the Brandywine’s total facilitation of more than 68,000 acres of permanently preserved land.
“Of her many accomplishments while working at the Brandywine Conservancy, Ellen reorganized, reimagined and transitioned the Conservancy’s organizational structure, fostering greater collaboration across the organization and creating paths of advancement for emerging leaders,” said Virginia Logan, The Frolic Weymouth Executive Director & C.E.O. of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. “Staff development was one of her shining accomplishments and we remain grateful for her dedicated and thoughtful leadership during her tenure at Brandywine. We will miss her personally and professionally and wish her continued success in her new post.”
Under Ellen’s leadership, the Conservancy shifted to a more people-centered approach, working with landowners and community members to be more collaborative in preserving vital natural resources. Ellen exemplified this approach and built a mission-based culture of cooperation and respect between staff, easement landowners, and the broader land trust community.
This strategic approach also led to many partnerships united under shared conservation goals. Chadds Ford Township Manager, Maryann Furlong, who worked closely with Ellen, commented, “Although we worked for entirely different entities, many of our goals regarding conservation and protection of the environment were the same. We swapped many letters of support for various grant applications and Ellen was a generous and willing collaborator.”
Amy McKenna, President of the Buck and Doe Trust, stated, “Ellen clearly understood and shared our passion for the land, the history and the community! She had a wonderful ability to quietly and compassionately work together to successfully meet everyone's needs. She has become a dear friend through the years. While we will miss her, she has built a strong, lasting foundation on many levels. We are looking forward to our continued work with the Brandywine as partners in the conservation community!”
With Stephanie Armpriester and Grant DeCosta stepping up as Acting Co-Directors, Ellen’s foundational work will not be lost as staff continue to build and steward Brandywine’s conservation successes and landowner relationships in the future.
Save the Date: Annual Holiday Subscribers Party
Join us on Thursday, January 6, from 5:30–7:30 p.m., for the return of our in-person Holiday Subscribers Party held at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, PA. A brief program will be held at 5:45 p.m., followed by a reception and access to the Brandywine’s galleries and Museum Shop.
A formal invitation with registration links will follow soon. Questions? Call 610.388.8340 or email [email protected]. We look forward to seeing you in the new year!
Over-seasoned: Our Taste for Salt Is Killing Our Freshwater Ecosystems
The American palate has developed a taste for salt, not only in our diets—to the detriment of our blood pressure—but also, in standard consumeristic fashion, in a cornucopia of markets that promise to make our lives easier. We soften our household water with salt, coat our crop fields and pastures with salt-laced fertilizers and compost, and deice our roads, bridges and parking lots with rock salt and brine. In this guest article by John K. Jackson, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at Stroud Water Research Center, learn about how the widespread and intense use of salt is now threatening our streams and rivers, marshes and ponds, and even groundwater—freshwater resources that were never meant to be so salty.
Invasive Species Spotlight: Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) spreads aggressively and forms dense thickets. Once established, Japanese knotweed is persistent and challenging to eradicate. It is also a particular threat to riparian and other low-lying areas because it is tolerant of flooding and quickly populates scoured shores and islands. Learn more about this invasive species, including how to identify Japanese Knotweed in its various stages and how to control its spread.
Some new faces have joined our team! Meet two of the Brandywine’s newest staff members: Liudmila “Mila” Carter and Julia Steiner.
Liudmila “Mila” Carter is the Brandywine’s new Senior Planner in the Municipal Assistance Program. Mila has a B.A. in Geography/Urban & Regional Planning and a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from West Chester University. Her 10 years of planning experience includes positions with ARRO Consulting, Westtown Township, Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association, Delaware Department of Transportation, and Lycoming County. Most notably she spent four years at Westtown Township which ended in May 2021. In that capacity she assisted with the development and implementation of planning programs (including the Township’s Comprehensive Plan, Master Park Plans, and their Open Space, Recreation and Environmental Resources Plan); was a liaison for the Historical Commission; assisted the zoning officer; and ensured MS4 program compliance.
Julia Steiner is the Brandywine’s new Environmental Educator, a position made possible by a grant from The Allegheny Foundation. Julia will be working with staff at Penguin Court, the Conservancy and the Museum to enhance in-person and virtual education programs—both individually in the three programs and as a cohesive and coordinated whole. Julia’s prior experience includes working at Brandywine Red Clay as an Environmental Coordinator and, previously, as an Educational Programs Assistant, as well as serving as an elementary educator at local schools. Julia was also involved in the creation of the Brandywine Creek Water Trail with Conservancy staff. Julia has her B.S in Agricultural Sciences and Postgraduate Certifications in Special and Elementary Education.
Featured Link: River Runner Visualization
Where does a raindrop go once it hits the ground? Click here to try out an interactive "river runner" website where you can "drop" a raindrop anywhere in the contiguous United States and watch where it flows from the “nearest” stream all the way to the sea.
The Brandywine’s Penguin Court Preserve, in Westmoreland County, PA, recently undertook a phased rehabilitation project to the roof of its conservatory, which was built in 1988-89.
In the latest phase of this project, a crane was brought in to remove and then place the cupola on the building, after the windows were replaced and support structures were rebuilt. Interior work will continue this winter.
White throated sparrow. Photo by Jim Moffett Photography