On Saturday, March 8th Garry Plunkett of Tiverton, R.I. received the Peter Merritt Award for Land Conservation from the RI Land Trust Council. He received the Award at the 11th Annual Land & Water Conservation Summit held at the University of Rhode Island. The award is given to recognize a volunteer – a dedicated “in the trenches” individual – who is making an outstanding contribution to land conservation in his/her Rhode Island community.
In the words of Connie Lima, President of the Tiverton Land Trust (TLT) who presented the award, Garry is our town’s ‘Environmental Renaissance Man’. He is a champion of all conservation and land preservation causes. Throughout his volunteer life, he has served on numerous boards and commissions. When he served on the Planning Board He was instrumental in developing Tiverton’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. He was Chair, then Co-Chair of the Tiverton Open Space Commission (TOSC) and now holds the Stewardship Coordinator position overseeing 850 acres. He spent many years as a member of the TLT’s Land Protection Committee and continues to serve on the Land Trust’s Advisory Board.
His work on both the TOSC and the Land Trust calls on many of his diverse talents. He has authored the majority of stewardship management plans for the town’s open space as well as the Land Trust’s properties. He helps guide and direct projects and grant writing activities which currently include a 3-year, 15-acre meadow restoration project funded by Natural Resources Conservation Services in Weetamoo Woods. For the past 2 years he has been involved in invasive species projects in Fort Barton and Weetamoo Woods. The Land Trust is also the benefactor of his support and skill. His expertise was instrumental in the TLT’s 2012 receiving a site design concept award from the Newport County Fund for Highland Woods, which is adjacent to Fort Barton Woods.
Garry presents talks on natural history and conservation topics to schools, community groups, the RI Wild Plant Society (RIWPS) and the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS). The NEWFS honored him in 2007 for his outstanding contribution to the preservation and management of RI natural habitats. He continues to participate in the RIWPS Certificates Programs. Through the RI Foundation, he helped establish the Pocassetlands Stewardship Fund to ensure funding in perpetuity, regardless of ownership, for any permanently protected, publically accessible open space land in Tiverton. Extending his influence outside of town lines, he currently serves as Tiverton’s liaison to the East Bay Energy Consortium, a wind energy project for East Bay communities.
Garry is the go-to person whenever there are questions about the woods, native flora and fauna; our town’s colonial history or the history of open space in Tiverton. As Lima said in presenting the award, “The work he does speaks for the man. All who know Garry, who are inspired by his devotion to good conservation practices within our town and beyond, who feel comfortable and confident in seeking his advice – we all know what a gift we have in him. We are lucky to have such a generous friend and mentor.”