Preserving land, restoring habitat, and connecting people to nature in southern Indiana since 1990.

aka Sycamore Land Trust   |   Bloomington, IN   |


The mission of Sycamore Land Trust is to preserve the beauty, health, and diversity of southern Indiana's natural landscapes through strategic land conservation and environmental education. Vision: Sycamore Land Trust envisions a future in which southern Indiana has diverse and abundant habitat for native plants and animals, as well as clean air and water, working lands that are productive and sustainable, and people who embrace the connection between a healthy environment and our quality of life.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Mr. John Lawrence

Main address

PO Box 7801

Bloomington, IN 47407 USA

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NTEE code info

Forest Conservation (C36)

Land Resources Conservation (C34)

Water Resource, Wetlands Conservation and Management (C32)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Sycamore was founded in 1990. Since that time we have been preserving the unique and valuable landscapes in 26 counties of southern Indiana, including hardwood forests, native prairies, family farms. wetlands, and critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. We build nature preserves that are free and open to the public. Our Environmental Education Program helps thousands of people of all ages learn about, appreciate, and experience nature, and helps create the next generation of conservationists who will care for the land. The landscape that enriches and sustains us is disappearing. Indiana has lost most of its natural lands, leaving the state 46th in the nation in the amount of land protected for public enjoyment. Protecting land and trees improves the environment. One tree can absorb as much as 26 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Land Management and Stewardship

For land that we own, we manage for ecological health. With input from experts in ecology and environmental science, and the help of volunteer land stewards, we plant trees, eliminate invasive plants remove built structures and refuse. We also transform certain properties into wetlands, prairies and other healthy habitat. We do not allow commercial timbering on properties that we own.

We have created and maintain sixteen free public preserves in eight counties in southern Indiana. To facilitate visitation, there are parking areas, trails, viewing platforms and interpretive signage to encourage responsible use without damaging the conservation value of the land.

On private properties for which we hold conservation easements, we thoroughly monitor and report on each property through regular site visits to ensure that conservation protections and development restrictions are enforced.

Population(s) Served

Sycamore permanently protects the beautiful natural heritage of southern Indiana by owning land and holding permanent conservation easements on private properties.

As of May 2020, Sycamore has completed 118 land acquisitions and protects 10,070 of forests, wetlands and grasslands, including formerly mined or farmed land.
Sycamore protects more land than any other regional land trust in Indiana. We do not do commercial timbering on the properties that we own.

We have also invested time and money to protect another 10,000 acres of land that is owned by the government or other conservation organizations.

On some of the properties that we own, we have created and maintain 16 public nature preserves in 8 Indiana counties, that include parking, 35 miles of trails, interpretive signage, and some include observation decks and educational kiosks. These preserves and other properties that we own are free and open to the public.

Population(s) Served

Building an understanding of and appreciation for nature is critical to our mission of conserving land and creating a healthy environment.

Each year, Sycamore Land Trust's award-winning program connects thousands of people of all ages and abilities to nature through our public hikes and other programs; free lessons at schools and outdoors and the building of native plant gardens and green spaces at schoolyards; and free programs for community groups and other organizations.

And each year thousands of people visit our nature preserves to hike, bird watch, take photographs and enjoy the many health and other benefits of spending time in nature.

We also provide environmental educational articles and other information in Sycamore's Twig magazine published three times a year, website, e-newsletter, social media, and articles in newspapers and magazines and on radio.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Sycamore Land Trust believes that the quality of life is connected to the quality of place, and the choices we make about Indiana's natural environment today will impact the quality of life for future generations. We are working to create a future for southern Indiana that includes an abundance of:

- Clean water and air;
- Healthy, productive forests;
- Diverse habitats for plants and animals;
- Farms to provide food, fuel and fibers; and
- Citizens who feel a sense of pride and responsibility towards our Hoosier environment.

Our goals are to:
- Permanently protect important natural areas in southern Indiana;
- Ensure the conservation values of protected lands while providing appropriate public access opportunities;
- Provide environmental education to thousands of participants each year;
- Engage the public in private land conservation and the mission of Sycamore Land Trust; and
- Build the capacity of Sycamore Land Trust.

Goal 1: Permanently protect important natural areas in the southern Indiana region:

- Identify and prioritize land conservation opportunities across Sycamore Land Trust's coverage area.
- Proactively implement permanent protection for high-priority lands.
- Respond to other conservation opportunities that arise for lands with conservation value but which are not considered high priority.
- Cultivate and expand partnerships to support private land conservation in the region.

Goal 2: Ensure the conservation values of protected lands while providing appropriate public access opportunities:

- Manage properties owned by Sycamore Land Trust to maintain and enhance their conservation values.
- Managed properties owned by Sycamore Land Trust to offer public access and recreational opportunities where appropriate.
- Ensure conservation easement permanence through management and monitoring.
- Cultivate and expand partnerships that support restoration and management of Sycamore Land Trust properties.

Goal 3: Engage the public in private land conservation and the mission of Sycamore Land Trust:

- Engage with local communities and key constituent groups to understand their conservation needs and priorities.
- Identify and cultivate relationships with key audiences that can help promote private land conservation in southern Indiana.
- Inform landowners and professional advisers about ways to conserve private property.
- Provide high quality environmental educational programs through a mix of school-based and public programming.

Goal 4: Build the capacity of Sycamore Land Trust:

- Recruit and support a diverse group of volunteer leaders, including Sycamore Land Trust's Board, Advisory Board, committees, and network of advisers.
- Expand the professional staff.
- Build stable and adequate funding to support Sycamore programs.
- Ensure a system of sound organizational management and internal fiscal controls that reflect the highest standards of the land trust community.

In 2019 Sycamore became an accredited land trust by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. This nationally recognized seal of approval demonstrates Sycamore's long-term commitment to upholding the highest standards of accountability and conservation excellence. To earn accreditation, Sycamore prepared for years and provided extensive documentation, and were subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation in order to achieve this distinction. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that the lands under Sycamore's care will be protected forever.

Sycamore Land Trust's professional staff has decades of experience and expertise in land acquisition and conservation, environmental education, finance, communications, administration, volunteer management, and development. Our Executive Director, John Lawrence, has been on the staff of Sycamore since 2006.

Our Board of Directors and Advisory Board are made up of a diverse group of individuals with extensive environmental, business, academic and governmental experience. They have been committing their time and financial resources to Sycamore Land Trust for many years.

Our volunteers, members, and supporters are enthusiastic supporters of our mission and many have been involved with Sycamore since its founding in 1990.

Sycamore is not a political or advocacy organization, and we welcome and work with people and organizations to protect and take care of land and connect people to nature in southern Indiana.

Some of our accomplishments as of May 2023:

- After a multi-year process of work, documentation and a third-party evaluations, Sycamore was awarded the Accredited designation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission in 2019, signifying its confidence that the lands under Sycamore's care will be protected forever. And we are currently completing work to be recertified.

- Completed 138 land protection projects to permanently protect 11,265 acres of land in seventeen counties in southern Indiana. With 425 acres added during 2022.

- Protect dozens of rare and endangered species that are found on our protected properties, including the Indiana bat, barn own, bald eagle, and bobcat. We hold conservation easements on important bat habitat to protect them from being developed.

- Over 126,000 trees planted, including 26,000 in 2022. Many thousands of native plants planted onto our preserves. Creating wetlands along Beanblossom Creek to protect water quality and enhance biodiversity.

- Each year, thousands of participants of all ages and abilities take part in our free inclusive environmental education programming, while thousands more visit our free public nature preserves on their own. We also provide robust free environmental education materials on our website.

- Our membership is strong at 1,321 households and businesses.

- We maintain 13 public nature preserves in eight counties, with over 30 miles of trails. Our newest preserve, on Lake Monroe in Monroe County, was established in December 2016. And we plan to open another public access nature preserve at a wetland in 2024.

- We partner with numerous other organizations including government agencies, nonprofits, community groups, companies and foundations to accomplish our work.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 05/04/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Judy Stewart

Retired Brown County Circuit Court Judge

Term: 2023 - 2024

Board co-chair

William Weeks

Chair, Conservation Law Center

Term: 2023 - 2024

Jim Eagleman

Retired Park Naturalist, Brown County State Park

Brian Besser

Rabbi, Congregation Beth Shalom

Elaine Caldwell Emmi

Co-Chair, Bloomington Multi-faith Alliance

Bill McCoy

Retired, Refuge Manager, Patoka River NWR

Maria Viterisi

Trust Administrator II and VP, Old National BankO

Jenny Stephens

Director of Financial Aid, Indiana University

Andrea Lutz

Real Estate Agent, RE/MAX Acclaimed Properties

George Huntington

Co-owner, Goods for Cooks, Bloomington, INer

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 5/4/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 05/04/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.