Brendan hanging a bird box, Walt’s Farm 2021

WLCT’s Tuesday Trail Team turns 10 in 2024 and we’re reflecting on the various people who have made this spectacular volunteer crew such a success. We’ll be sharing our conversations throughout the year.

The Tuesday Trail Team has had 2 terrific Land Stewards at the helm. Brendan Buckless began as a volunteer, became WLCT’s Land Steward and Outreach Manager, and is now at the RI Department of Environmental Management. We’ve asked Brendan to reflect on his time at WLCT and how the Tuesday Trail Team has shaped his career.

QUESTION: How did you get involved with Tuesday Trail Team?

Brendan: I’d seen the Shorelines article about Mill Pond Conservation Area community orchard and garden. I wanted to get involved and maybe even parlay that into a job.

I graduated from UVM in 2013 and bounced around, working seasonally in Wyoming, interning at the old Ocean Explorium, and then as an environmental educator with Americorps-Commonwealth Corps at the Buzzards Bay Coalition.

When I worked at the Buzzards Bay Coalition, I was tasked with reaching out to area land trusts to partner on educational programming. Being from Westport, I reached out to WLCT, but no one got back to me. As a part of my job, I also monitored water quality. In Westport, I was paired with a long-time Stewardship Committee member. She was the first WLCT person that I met.

I had a part-time job at Osprey Sea Kayaks. Osprey and WLCT partnered on programs and they were strong advocates for WLCT hiring me. I started to lead kayak trips that focused on birding and local ecology and people were really interested.

Q: So you knew about WLCT–What was your first Trail Team project?

In the summer of 2015, I volunteered for a few months at Herb Hadfield Conservation Area, as the Trail Team created the meadow. I’m from North Westport and I’d never driven on Cornell Road when I first showed up. The work at Herb Hadfield was very labor intensive and I almost gave up. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be!

Q: What was your most challenging project?

The most challenging project was working with Ross on the transformation of the former St. Vincent de Paul Camp which included demolition of dilapidated structures and extensive invasive species. We faced intense community scrutiny. As a local, I wanted to do the right thing and see the property turned into a public park where people could go for a walk and learn about different species of trees and birds and be immersed in nature. I have always valued wilderness, vast landscapes, and traditional forest uses.

Q: What was the most fun project?

The most fun was working with Mass Wildlife on habitat restoration projects. My favorites were those that involved machinery to improve the landscape. Whether it was stormwater control or field seeding or logging, these projects look ugly on the landscape at first but become more beautiful when they are completed. Every Trail Team volunteer brings a wealth of personal experiences. Working so closely with so many different people has stretched me and taught me a lot. I also learned a lot (and had a lot of fun with) from natural resource professionals who have their hands in the dirt, like Tucker Manley, Clem Desjardins, Danny Moniz, Josh Lebreux, Chris Fortier, Mike Finch, Andy Ferry, Andy Orr, Chris Cotta, Kevin, Arthur and Norman Santos, Skip and Lenny Potter and many others. Regular salt of the earth people who make magic with a little diesel and hydraulic fluid. These local professionals volunteered their expertise and their knowledge, helping me to be a better land steward.

Q: What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to?

I’m really grateful to the years I spent working with the Tuesday Trail Team. Working with a diverse group of individuals to complete sometimes monumental projects has been an excellent base for my work in environmental management. The conservation foundation that the Trail Team helped me build is taking me to Montana in June, to attend the US Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program annual meeting. I’ll be appointed as the Chair of the NorthEast MidWest State Forester’s Alliance Legacy Committee. I was in Washington, DC last fall in this role and it’s amazing to me how big the conservation world is outside of Westport.

There are so many stories to tell about people all over America who care about forests and farms and wildlife and traditional ways of rural life.

Q: When you hear “Tuesday Trail Team” what comes to mind?

I think of the many faces of the men and women who helped WLCT and me. I would not have been very useful to the Westport Land Trust if I hadn’t started with volunteering each Tuesday. I owe the Trail Team volunteers a lot more than a thank you. With the Tuesday Trail Team, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get a job doing conservation work. I try to pay it forward every day, and I hope that each acre I help conserve is good enough thanks for all their help!