Kate Ireland — leadership with passion and vision
By Kevin McGorty, Director Tall Timbers Land Conservancy
The best example of leadership is leadership by example.
Whether saving a farm or the landscape of a distinct region, it takes leadership with passion and vision. Kate Ireland certainly had that passion and vision. Due to her outstanding organizational and people skills, she was asked to lead the effort to save her beloved Red Hills.
She led by example. Over the initial objections of her legal and financial advisors, she placed over 4,000-acres of her Foshalee Plantation under conservation easement with Tall Timbers. With that permanent protection at hand, she worked tirelessly to convince other landowners to do the same. Now more than half of the 300,000-acre region is conserved. These lands protect critical upland wildlife habitat and wetland ecosystems that improve water quality in the region’s lakes, rivers, and Floridan Aquifer. She led the effort to secure designation of historic Sunny Hill and Old Centerville Roads as official Leon County Canopy Roads.
Very dear to her was speaking to young people and the future leaders of Tallahassee and Thomasville. For many years she hosted Leadership Tallahassee’s environmental day at Foshalee Plantation or Leadership Thomasville at Pebble Hill Plantation. She would enthrall the classes with stories of life growing up on the plantations.
Most important, she stressed the need for each individual to develop a stewardship ethic for protecting the Red Hills. She often remarked that beyond land conservation, it was equally important to promote, “…good land use planning and smart growth. It is a fact that communities and regions grow. It is how they grow that is important. One of the challenging tasks we have is balancing growth with conservation. Each issue we face in this area takes forward thinking, creativity, compromise, sound planning and discussion….Solutions often are not far away if you look hard and long enough.”
At the end of each Environmental Day at Foshalee, the classes would be divided into crews and compete for the best prescribed burn. Armed with drip torches and flappers, the young city dwellers marveled at how a fire could be controlled for good land management purposes. With a twinkle in her eye as she watched the burn crews from her picnic cabin called “Tranquility”, Miss Kate knew another good stewardship lesson was learned by example.
Leadership Tallahassee Class 22 tries their hand at prescribed burning at Miss Kate's Foshalee Plantation, 2004. Tall Timbers Game Bird Research biologist, Shane Wellendorf at right, was the burn boss, giving directions and keeping a watchful eye. Photos by Rose Rodriguez