Stephanie Paine Crossin, our land protection manager, spends her days working to bring more acres under protection. Her work takes her from the quiet of her workspace to the buzz of a conference room table to the splendor of the great outdoors.
This is a side of our work that many don’t see: the business of protecting land. Stephanie serves as a de facto conservation real estate agent—hiring surveyors, looking at appraisals, and working with title agencies. She helps prepare the legal documents that ensure our land protection work will last in perpetuity.
She also represents CILTI when we close on a new property. In a given week, she might be found reviewing county parcel maps, talking with landowners by phone, or visiting a beautiful natural area in need of protection.
Exploring some of the most biodiverse places in the state is a perk of the job. In Hancock County, she visited Founders Fen, a tiny parcel full of incredibly rare plants. The fen, a groundwater wetland, is tucked among farms. Protecting it would safeguard state endangered Canadian burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis) as well as other rare, native plant species, such as white turtlehead (Chelone glabra), Indian plantain (Cacalia plantaginea) and queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra).
She’s explored a cave with partners from the Indiana Karst Conservancy, toured a mosquito-filled bottomland forest in the Muscatatuck River Bottoms, and visited a huge limestone outcrop above Clifty Creek that hosts a remnant population of endangered spreading rock cress.
All the while she learns from botanists and naturalists who inspire her with their deep knowledge and love of the land. She enjoys being out in the field with conservation professionals like our own Cliff Chapman (executive director) and botanist Scott Namestnik (DNR Division of Nature Preserves). Their enthusiasm when identifying rare species is infectious!
“It’s exciting for me,” she says, “to observe people doing what they love and genuinely engaged in the science.”
She also appreciates talking with landowners and learning their stories. A naturally curious person, she’s fascinated by people’s history with their land.
And, of course, having first-hand knowledge of a place helps her do her job even better. The extra care she takes ensures that when we undertake a project, we are able to say, “This land is protected…forever.”