The Journal Gazette
Monday, April 22, 2019 1:00 am

Five Questions for Jason Kissel

Executive director, ACRES Land Trust

1 Your organization was incorporated in March 1960 – 10 years before the first Earth Day – when 12 founding members each contributed $5, which included $2 in dues. Do you think they'd recognize the organization today?

Our founders were ahead of their time. They saw a need that our collective society didn't – and they were rebellious enough to act on it.

Yes, our founders would recognize ACRES – our mission and values haven't changed – but we're more wildly successful than they ever imagined. I had the chance to speak to several of them and they admitted they never envisioned we'd be protecting so much land in our first 60 years.


2 The trust's latest acquisition, announced last week, was the23-acre Philip and Jean Ross Preserve in the Wabash River valley in Huntington. What happens when a preserve becomes part of ACRES?

Its future is known. When ACRES acquires a property, it will always be a natural place, it's no longer subject to other uses. Like the Wabash River itself, the people of Huntington, of our region, can count on this new preserve, all of ACRES' preserves, to always be part of the landscape. We'll manage it in the context of the local land and nearby preserves, so it will only improve with age.


3 Forever is a long time. How do you ensure the beautiful lands ACRES protects today won't fall prey to developers or government planners in the future?

ACRES does everything within its ability to ensure forever: financially, by growing our endowment; operationally, such as how we manage the land; and legally, including writing strict legislation in the Indiana Nature Preserve Act of 1967. We're relentless in seeking more protections, but, we know in the end, only people who value nature preserves can protect them. So our biggest defense is in building love for place, a community of people who value land.


4 Some of your preserves are open to hiking, canoeing and the like. Are such things still popular in this digital age? Do you find that young people today are more or less environmentally minded than other generations?

What I see is that real experiences are being sought out: People are looking for something alive, unexpected, unscripted, immersive and sense-engaging.

My impression is this younger generation has a greater awareness and are more likely to be hands-on. They seem to tie their own life to the health of the landscape more quickly than even I do and they inherently understand themselves as part of the whole system. Regardless of generation, there's a natural draw to land, to nature.


5 What's the best way for those of us who don't have any land to donate to ACRES to help?

Ninety-nine percent of ACRES supporters aren't land donors, so they join as members, give as donors, volunteer and tell people about why it is important to them and to the community to protect land. The very best way to help is for people to connect with why they value land, to recognize it and to articulate that. All the rest – support, volunteering – will follow.

ACRES GreatAmerican Cleanup

When: Saturday, May 4, 10 a.m.

Where: Mengerson Nature Reserve

5895 Stellhorn Road, Fort Wayne

Celebrate the volunteer spirit and support the preservation of this high-foot-traffic, urban, forested wetland. We'll pick up garbage and debris, sharing in Fort Wayne's citywide efforts. Gloves provided.

For more information about ACRES, go to

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