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Growing up in Sharon, Massachusetts, Andrew W. Kendall (MBA 1988) developed a natural affinity for the outdoors from family trips to the beach and from hiking, snowshoeing, and camping in New England's mountains and forests. It wasn't until the Amherst graduate went to work at Lincoln Electric in Cleveland after HBS that he realized how much those experiences had meant. "There is no wilderness within easy driving distance of Cleveland," he notes. "I had gotten to the point where I took that aspect of my life for granted. When you lose access to nature, you really gain an appreciation for it."

As much as Kendall loved the nuts and bolts of manufacturing — he even trained on the company's assembly line and became a certified welder — he decided that the demands of a career in manufacturing would leave little time for community activities and outside interests. "I knew there was a real need for management experience in nonprofits, and I decided to try to combine my business skills with my commitment to the environment," says Kendall. He embarked on a "classic business school analysis of the industry," talking to the leaders of many local, regional, and international environmental organizations to determine how he would best fit into the field.

Since that time, Kendall has brought innovative and pragmatic leadership to conservation efforts ranging from the protection of Costa Rican rain forests to Massachusetts Audubon's development of a seventy-acre nature education facility geared to inner-city Boston youth. In his current role as executive director of The Trustees of Reservations, he oversees a revered, 109-year-old Massachusetts institution dedicated to protecting properties of exceptional ecological, historic, or scenic value.

In 1993, you left a locally focused job with New Hampshire Audubon to work on global conservation issues in Costa Rica. What are the keys to success in working on environmental issues in a developing country?

Costa Rica is known for its environmental ethic, but even there you have to be especially sensitive to low income levels, health issues, and basic survival needs. You need to be able to show people how preserving the environment can help them economically. For example, we created a buffer zone around a national forest by establishing an "extractive reserve." We started a business using local labor to harvest the valuable hardwoods that routinely fall in that region because of excessive rainfall. By leaving behind the trees' branches and leaves — which is where most of the soil-building nutrients are — by using water buffalo instead of large hauling machinery, and by using portable sawmills, we were able to supply wood to local artisans and the timber trade without degrading the land.

Are there similarities between your work in Costa Rica and the Massachusetts Audubon project you tackled after returning to Boston?

The plan in Boston was a high-profile, $10-million effort by Mass Audubon to redevelop a portion of an abandoned state hospital site in the city's Mattapan neighborhood. I became involved in what were for me new aspects of conservation, education, and state and local politics.

Massachusetts is a world away from Central America, but the successes of both projects do have something in common: In Boston, as in Costa Rica, we were able to build a strong connection with the constituents who stood to benefit the most. When the people in Mattapan saw what we wanted to do and believed that we could do it, their support helped break political logjams.

What takes up most of your time as director of The Trustees of Reservations?

Since I started only last April, much of what I'm doing now is getting to know the organization. Eventually I will probably spend about half my time fundraising, because I think I can be a persuasive advocate, and supporters always want to talk to the person in charge. The other half will be split equally between general administrative work and being out in the field. We are a decentralized operation, with over eighty reservations and one hundred staff members scattered throughout the state, so communication is very important.

How do you identify the properties you want to protect?

That's complicated, but I'll try to give you the short answer. We've identified over a million acres in the state that should be protected, and many are in places, such as the Buzzards Bay area, that are currently at high risk for development. We work with the state, individual landowners, and local land trusts to prioritize these properties and come up with workable plans to protect them.

Many people know our showcase properties — such as Crane Beach — that we own and operate. However, much of our land conservation work is behind the scenes in partnerships with the state and other organizations. Massachusetts, for example, has a program to buy development rights on agricultural lands. This ensures that farming will always have a place in the state. However, it takes up to three years for a project to be completed under this program, and farmers often can't wait that long. So we provide a bridge loan from an internal revolving fund, thus allowing the farmer to receive cash immediately. We, in turn, pass the restriction along to the state when the funding becomes available. It's a win-win for the farmer, the state, and us.

What's more difficult, acquiring properties or providing for their stewardship?

The age-old question! One of the biggest traps organizations like ours can fall into is acquiring property even before developing a stewardship plan, out of concern that further delay might mean that the property is lost. Once you acquire a property, however, you are committed to maintaining it forever. Over time, that cost will far exceed the acquisition price. We've got to be ready to invest significant resources to endow the preservation of these properties so that my successor, and his or her successor, will not be put in a bind.

You advocate putting the Trustees' properties to work to support themselves. Why?

Some of our properties are available for weddings and other events, and we now operate two bed-and-breakfasts. Even if these operations only broke even, we would come out ahead, because using these historic buildings is one way of making sure they are maintained.

Another benefit is that these activities attract people who might otherwise never visit our properties. There's a nice cycle here: We acquire a property, develop a long-term management plan, and make this resource accessible to the public, who thus become more aware of our work and help us identify new places to protect.

You are a trained commercial pilot. Is that useful in your work?

Over the years, I've been a volunteer pilot for many conservation organizations. With aerial photography, surveys, looking at land-use patterns, or even counting bald eagles, flying is a great way to gain the long view on much of the work that we do.

To learn more about The Trustees of Reservations, visit www.thetrustees.org.

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1988, Section I

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