Environment

After more than three decades in preservation, Tim Caufield retires from Peconic Land Trust

Although Orient resident Timothy Caufield came to work with the Peconic Land Trust purely by chance — through a friend of its president, John Halsey — he fit in perfectly from the start.

“John, and I had this mutual friend — he and I had never met — and he just kept saying to John, ‘You got to meet Tim’ and he kept saying to me, ‘You got to meet John,’ so it was really kind of just a chance meeting,” Mr. Caufield said. “At that point, the land trust was pretty young and early in its mission … a lot of the early work was on the South Fork and I grew up here on the North Fork, so it was just kind of a perfect fit and 30-plus years later, it’s been a great ride,” he said.

His retirement as senior adviser of the land conservation organization after more than 30 years of service became official last week.

In that time, he has been involved in many projects that have helped preserve the North Fork’s beauty and natural resources.

Mr. Halsey said Mr. Caufield was a “huge asset” to the Peconic Land Trust because of his knowledge and background on the North Fork.

“[He is] a great thought partner, a great team player … The dedication and love for the communities that we can serve is a given with Tim,” Mr. Halsey said.

Mr. Caufield highlighted his experience with the Peconic Land Trust’s acquisition of the Downs Farm Preserve at Fort Corchaug in Cutchogue. This was made possible in the late 1990s through a partnership among the land trust, the Baxter family, Southold Town, Suffolk County, the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council and conservationist Russ McCall, according to the PLT website.

The deal resulted in the protection of 105 acres of productive farmland, wetlands and woodlands.

Mr. Caufield remembered the importance of the 51-acre parcel at the historic Fort Corchaug site that was included in that purchase because it was a mid-17-century Native American settlement that had remained largely untouched.

“It was undisturbed,” he said. “Of all of the fort sites on Long Island, that’s the one that was undisturbed, archaeologically speaking, so it became very important for the community and for the town.”

Southold Town now operates a nature center there and maintains the trails at the preserve, according to the website.

Mr. Caufield was also very involved in acquiring the 118-acre Ruth Oliva Preserve at Dam Pond in East Marion.

“That was always a very high conservation priority for everybody,” he said. “[The] community, of course, the town, the county, the state was involved, so I was able to negotiate with the landowners, and get most of that into conservation.”

According to the website, the conservation of that land was made possible through the work and cooperation of many, including the land trust, Suffolk County, Southold Town, landowners and partner organizations including the Oysterponds Historical Society. 

The biggest lesson Mr. Caufield has learned throughout his time with Peconic Land Trust is how to collaborate with various different entities to get the work done.

“It’s what we’ve been saying at the land trust forever, really, is that it takes a lot of people, it takes a lot of partnerships in order to get this work done,” he said.

Mr. Caufield said he’s grateful to have been involved in the many different projects that have preserved the North Fork. “I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a lot of those individual projects,” he said. “That’s been great fun and obviously, very rewarding.”

He plans to enjoy more of the North Fork now that he will have the time to but he also hopes to stay connected with the land trust as a volunteer and help with future conservation efforts.

“I want to be helpful wherever I can be helpful, anything I can do to help the organization now and to help conservation out, I’ve let them know that I’m available,” he said. “There’s always a project going on or an activity going on and [I’m] definitely looking forward to staying involved.”

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