By Eric Erler
Dan Cushman and Tom Wynne were each born on the South Sound farms where they recently passed away. It’s difficult to imagine anyone having a deeper sense of place or a greater commitment to conservation.
The Cushman property (now Maple Leaf Ranch) is framed on three sides by Gull Harbor and Budd Inlet. Rolling pastures and mature forests slope gently down to an estuarine paradise below. There are few settings more spectacular. Dan Cushman spent nearly all of his 93 years here, tending to the cows, llamas, goats and horses, growing trees, and watching the tides slip in and out each day.
Fellow Capitol Land Trust board member Paddy O’Brien and I began working with Dan Cushman and his family in 1992, shortly after I joined the Trust’s board of directors. Dan would invite me out to discuss the conservation easement process, “meetings” that frequently started with a walk through the vineyard and a visit to the wine cellar.
It would take five years before Dan and Capitol Land Trust finally settled on the terms of a conservation agreement that “protected” the farm. I realize now that Dan wasn’t just being cautious, but that he was patiently helping Capitol Land Trust (and me) to mature and become an organization worthy of his trust.
Not so long ago, many considered harvesting timber and plowing fields to be activities incompatible with environmental protection. But through their exemplary stewardship, Tom and Charlene Wynne demonstrated not just the potential, but also the necessity of balancing productivity and environmental health.
Wynne Farm has been logged, grazed and plowed for three generations – providing income that has sustained Tom’s family from the beginning of one century well into the next. Yet while much of the surrounding landscape has been depleted and fragmented, Wynne Farm remains home to bears, cougars, foxes, raptors and songbirds. Tom’s timber management practices have been recognized statewide as a model of sustainable forestry.
Tom and Charlene worked with Capitol Land Trust from 2004 to 2014 to conserve their 530-acre farm. Due to their generosity and commitment, the farm will remain productive into the future while providing rich habitat for fish and wildlife.
Tom and Dan ensured the health and future of their farms throughout their entire lives, then trusted a small nonprofit organization to sustain that investment in perpetuity. That is the true definition of selflessness. These places are not here because Capitol Land Trust “protected” them. Capitol Land Trust is here because of these places – and because of people like Dan Cushman and Tom Wynne.