Back to Nature

Andy Wheatcraft.
March 17, 2014

A childhood dream just came true for Andrew Wheatcraft ’80. As a new critical lands director for The Nature Conservancy in New York, he protects and manages more than 100,000 acres – 156 square miles – of forests and other lands.

What’s more, he’ll be on the lookout for more land and water to preserve in his central and western New York territory, which includes the Finger Lakes, Allegheny Highlands, Zoar Valley, and Lake Erie and Lake Ontario regions.

“I knew that I wanted to manage forests from the time when I was growing up in inner city Baltimore,” said Wheatcraft in a phone interview from his Rochester, N.Y., office. “That’s why I chose a program that led to a master’s in forestry.”

Wheatcraft brings to the conservation nonprofit more than 30 years’ experience as a consultant and planner for private, government and not-for-profit agencies, most recently serving as Educational Facilities Planner for Rochester City School District – a position he held since 1996.

Both his experience and education will come into play in his new role with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) at what is a pivotal time for the organization, according to the Conservancy’s central and western New York director Jim Howe.

“To continue to protect and connect our region’s critical lands, we’re going to need traditional land protection strategies and innovative new partnerships and methods for leveraging protection,” said Howe. “Andy’s got the mix of experience and creativity needed to tackle this challenge.”

It is a challenge that Wheatcraft relishes.

“I’m excited to be putting all my efforts toward The Nature Conservancy’s mission of protecting nature for people today and for future generations by conserving lands and waters on which all life depends,” said Wheatcraft, who was the first in his family to attend a four-year college. “It’s an honor to be joining one of the most respected conservation organizations in the world.

“This is the kind of work I want to do.”

After majoring in Biology at Western Maryland (now McDaniel) and earning his forestry degree at Duke, Wheatcraft worked as a senior agriculturist at Oklahoma State University’s department of Forestry and as a forest researcher at University of Minnesota’s department of Forestry. There, he says he gained hands-on experience analyzing forest management policies and the impact of the forest industry on local economies and ecosystems.

Respect for protection of open space and diverse wildlife drove Wheatcraft to be one of the founders and a past president of the Genesee Land Trust to conserve land in the Rochester area. He and his wife Suzanne remain members of the trust’s advisory board.

True to his educational roots in the liberal arts, he also sings tenor in the Eastman-Rochester Chorale, which will perform May 7 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra on stage in Carnegie Hall.

He looks back on the variety of courses that are required as part of a Bachelor of Arts program, including economics, accounting, non-western religion, theatre appreciation and others, as exposing him to new ideas and perspectives.

“Not only did Western Maryland prepare me well for Duke, it expanded my knowledge and helped me become a broader-thinking person,” he said. “That’s the value of a B.A.”