Maria Rieders, Heritage Conservancy’s new Board Chair.
With the start of 2023, Heritage Conservancy has named Maria T. Rieders, Ph.D., the new Chair of its Board of Directors. The Board of Directors assists Heritage Conservancy in achieving its mission, and its members’ combined extensive experience and commitment help bolster efforts in preservation, reaching financial goals, and maintaining regional prominence.
Heritage Conservancy is thrilled to have Rieders continue in this new role and further strengthen the organization’s mission while implementing new goals for 2023.
Q & A with Maria Rieders
How did you first discover Heritage Conservancy? From there, how did you end up becoming a board member?
“I first learned about the organization more than 20 years ago when Heritage Conservancy hosted an event in our township. We had moved to Bucks County and were living in one of HC’s Lasting Landscapes: ‘The Forks of the Neshaminy’, one of the few remaining open areas in a township that had experienced aggressive growth.
The HC team gave a compelling and smart presentation, sharing their vision of contiguous green spaces between the two tributaries of the Delaware, the Neshaminy Creek, and the Little Neshaminy. It was a strategic argument, one very much aligned with our values. My husband and I signed on and put easements on our properties, thus getting to know Jeff Marshall and the conservation staff. The passion and the knowledge of the staff members were intriguing, and I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to join the board some years later.”
Could you provide a brief overview of your time as a board member?
“I have served on the board since 2012, with one year off in 2018. By participating in different committees, I got to know Heritage Conservancy’s talented staff and learned a lot about the details of conservation. As Vice-Chair, I had the opportunity to work closely with our previous chair, Stephen Phillips, assisting in the transition to new leadership and navigating Covid.”
What are some of your proudest accomplishments as a board member so far? Are there any achievements that you’ve been particularly proud of witnessing/being a part of from your time on the board?
“As a board member, I celebrate every new easement as another gift to our community and to future generations. On an organizational level, I am proud to have had an active role in bringing in new leadership after Jeff Marshall’s retirement. Bill Kunze is a visionary and highly strategic leader who will serve the organization well.”
What are some goals for the board that you are particularly interested in focusing on in the upcoming months?
“As an organization, we will be working on implementing a new strategic plan that shifts the focus to tying our conservation work to the community, with respect to both preserving land and understanding history. We will continue to preserve open spaces but will put more energy into answering the question: ‘For whom?’ as well as learning to become good stewards of the land in the face of climate change – knowledge that is to be shared with community members at large.
So, the board’s focus will need to be two-fold: to secure the financial means to implement our conservation work and to strengthen our voice to reach demographics that are vital to our perseverance into the future.”
How has your experience working as an adjunct professor at the Wharton School influenced how you approach your role as a board member for Heritage Conservancy?
“My work at Wharton is highly analytical and focused on quantitative tools for strategic decision-making. This analytical mindset is applicable and desirable in the non-profit sector as well. With finite financial resources, we need to be disciplined and strategic in how to best apply these resources to achieve our mission.”
What would you say are some of the keystones of Heritage Conservancy as an environmental non-profit organization?
“Our mission entails that we act as responsible stewards of the lands entrusted to us, that we learn about best practices for a sustainable life in our communities, and that we share our knowledge with the communities we serve, i.e., with private and public landowners.”
Why is Heritage Conservancy an organization that is important to you?
“I grew up in Germany, where zoning laws have open spaces built into them, thus not allowing the widespread dissection of green spaces as we see here.
Coming to America and raising four kids here opened up questions for me: How could a country with such an amazing large-scale National Park System be so deficient in providing open spaces within and surrounding their communities? What can we do to make sure that our children can play in the woods or go sledding (I am still hoping for snow during this warm winter) and that our communities have clean water, clean air, and access to nature? Heritage Conservancy is providing some answers at the local level.”
Kate Klaver, Digital Communications Associate.