In the winter of 2001, I moved to the island of Nantucket approximately 30 miles out to sea off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I was eager to get my hands and feet dirty, doing my part to protect and preserve the open space of my new home. I had the good fortune to start with one of the best: Jim Lentowski, a legend in the state's conservation community.
Jim was executive director of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation for 47 years, retiring in 2018. Jim's passion for protecting open space was paramount. He had grown a small land trust to one with 9,000 acres under protection — over one third of the island. He was highly regarded by others, not only throughout the state but throughout the nation, for managing to build a successful land trust in a community facing some of the greatest development pressures in the country. With Jim's influence and guidance, additional conservation projects spearheaded by other organizations brought the total land under protection to more than half of the island.
Jim was an unabashed believer in community, including the land conservation community, regularly making the trek off "the Rock" to "America" to take part in meetings, retreats and conferences. He brought a smile to everyone's face, not only in recognition of his accomplishments, but also for the manner in which he readily converted colleagues into a community of friends.
Jim passed away July 6 at home on Nantucket, following a long battle with cancer. He was a mentor and a friend who inspired all around him, and he will be deeply missed by so many. He joins a select group of island individuals whose legacy has had an unparalleled impact on our community and whose gifts will be felt for countless generations to come.