Ian McSweeney sees land protection as a future investment
McSweeney, 36, is the executive director of the Russell Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Gordon and Barbara Russell that is tasked with assisting private landowners, organizations and municipalities to work through the complicated process of preserving open space through purchases and easements. From raising funds to navigating the legal negotiations associated with land conservation, McSweeney offers advice and assistance.
"I really have a passion for the working landscape," said McSweeney. "The farm and forest are very important to our way of life in New Hampshire, but there's not a system of support to help landowners who have working land to expand the viability of their farms and forests."
Though he knew in college that his purpose in life was giving back and helping others, McSweeney didn't realize until he was older that his mission would draw him to the land. He studied psychology and was heading toward a career in social work but instead found himself working in real estate.
It was through McSweeney's experience working with landowners and builders that he realized that there is a disconnect between conservation and development - a lack of understanding that the two interests aren't mutually exclusive. But there are few people around to help developers and conservationists see the benefits of working in partnership and exploring how those partnerships could work. In 2005, McSweeney joined the Russell Foundation to assist the organization in building those bridges between developers and conservationists.
Since his time at the foundation, McSweeney has helped to raise more than $6.2 million which has been used to set aside more than 4,000 acres of conservation land in southern New Hampshire. McSweeney said he sees his work as an investment in his children's future and in the preservation of a way of life that makes New Hampshire the place he wants to raise his family.
"There's no greater satisfaction than taking the proverbial Sunday drive and knowing that I've personally taken a role in protecting the land around us for the future," said McSweeney. "It's very important to me."