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Q&A with Janelle Jones, New York Land Steward

Northeast Wilderness Trust is thrilled to welcome Janelle Jones to the team as our New York Land Steward. In her new role, Janelle will look after the wildlands that Northeast Wilderness Trust protects in New York.

We are delighted to introduce you to our newest team member! We talked with Janelle to learn about her love of wild places and what brought her to the Wilderness Trust; read the interview below.

NEWT: Tell us a little about your love of nature.

Janelle: My love for nature started with my grandparents—I was their first grandchild, so I spent a lot of time in their sunroom watching birds for hours on end. They kept lists of who was visiting the feeders. Spending that long, slow time admiring nature with them fostered the need for wildness in my life.

Since those early years I’ve always been trying to find ways to be outdoors, and that hasn’t always been easy. My mom and stepdad like to remind me that on my first trip to the Adirondacks all I did was complain about the mud and bugs. And I had a miserable time on my first trip into a designated wilderness area in college—we were backpacking in deep snow the day after Halloween, under-prepared for the wintery conditions. I’ve come a long way since then! What kept me coming back was a continued curiosity about nature, and desire to see more places and understand them deeply.

NEWT: What makes the Adirondacks such a special place to you?

Janelle: After graduating high school in my hometown outside of Rochester, NY, I went to SUNY Potsdam and attended their Environmental Studies program. During that first semester, all the classes were geared towards the Adirondacks, which took the spark of curiosity about wild nature to a whole new level. At that point, I had only been to the Adirondack Park once or twice before. I fell in love with the Adirondacks on field trips and camping excursions in college, and now live in Saranac Lake. Recently I completed a graduate program, and my thesis focused on trail use in the Adirondack Park.

NEWT: What was your path to Northeast Wilderness Trust?

Janelle: I have worked in the Adirondacks in conservation-related fields my entire adult life. I began with the Friends of Mount Arab, where I was an environmental interpreter at the fire tower. Many of the conversations I had with people started out with the question “Do you know what this mountain looked like 50 or 100 years ago?” We’d discuss how the landscape had changed over time—the forest and mountain summit had experienced  a wildfire and since then has completely recovered through a natural rewilding process. It was special to be able to show people that and see their awe, which taught me about the importance of connection to place and the role of that in environmental education and land stewardship. Since then, I’ve had experience in outdoor recreation work, field work for water quality research, and marketing and communicating environmental messages.

NEWT: What are you looking forward to in your new position as Northeast Wilderness Trust’s New York Land Steward?

Janelle: Everything, to be honest! I’m excited to help bring more attention to northern New York in the Wilderness Trust’s work, and vice versa—to expand the awareness of and interest in Northeast Wilderness Trust’s work and philosophy here. I’ve really enjoyed being able to share the appreciation I’ve gained for wild nature with others who haven’t yet been immersed in wilderness, and I’m looking forward to doing that as a Land Steward.

NEWT: How do you connect with nature these days?

Janelle: In the summer, I’m pond-hopping in a canoe trying to explore hard-to-access ponds. On the other side of the calendar, I’m out on my skis every chance I can get.

NEWT: Is there a plant, animal, or fungus that’s been capturing your attention and curiosity recently?

Janelle: Yes! A friend has recently shared his fascination with moths, and I’ve caught the moth ‘bug’ from him this summer, taking pictures and learning to identify them. At my last job we had a BioBlitz, and a local expert led the moth and insect identification module. It was amazing to talk with the instructor, learn some new things from her, and get to see some gorgeous moths up close.
I’m also really excited about the recent news of the largest known Eastern white pine in New York, which was recently discovered right here in the Adirondacks. I’m looking forward to finding big trees on Northeast Wilderness Trust Preserves!