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As Reta Retires, Her Legacy Lives On

After four decades with Sonoma Land Trust, Reta Lockert reflects, “I’m most grateful for the gift of growing into the awareness of our human place in this earth community.”

Back in 1983, a woman named Reta Lockert took a part-time admin assistant job at Sonoma Land Trust. At that time, the Land Trust had protected just 2,327 acres in Sonoma County. Little did Reta know that she would stay 39 years – helping Sonoma Land Trust grow into an organization that has protected nearly 58,000 acres of land in our beautiful county.

This month, four decades later, Reta will retire from Sonoma Land Trust.

In the beginning, Reta was a quarter-time consultant who used her own IBM Selectric typewriter to type up notes she took at board meetings, then took them to the copy center and mailed them to the board members. A few years later, she became the Land Trust’s first official employee – and in fact the only paid employee for the next four years. She remembers when the Land Trust moved to its first office, on Broadway in Sonoma in 1986. “It was on the second floor of an unreinforced masonry building, and one was greeted at the bottom of the stairs by the scent of guano!”

While her duties have evolved over the years, she has always worked closely with board members, donors and volunteers. Reta’s special gift is engaging the community with the Land Trust’s work. In 1989, she launched our very first hiking program to bring Sonoma County residents onto the Land Trust’s pristine nature preserves, including Secret Pasture, Oak Hill Farm, Laufenburg Ranch and Finley Creek. Over the years, many people were first introduced to Sonoma Land Trust through hikes or programs Reta organized, such as wildflower walks at Tolay Creek and music in the parlor at Glen Oaks Ranch, Glen Ellen.

While Reta is retiring, her legacy will live on. The community engagement programs that got their start over thirty years ago with Reta’s public hikes have grown to reach thousands of children, youth and adults every year, including summer camps, school field trips, family hikes, webinars, and more.

Acquisition and land restoration projects often take decades, and Reta has seen many come to fruition. Looking back, she remarked, “The way the Land Trust’s portfolio of protected lands has expanded since I began in 1983 is so astonishing! And what a privilege to have worked with the smart conservation professionals like Joan Vilms, Wendy Eliot, Ralph Benson, Amy Chesnut and Lois Downy who were absolutely key to shaping the thousands of acres of protected lands we have now.”

Reta wore many hats during her time at Sonoma Land Trust – including as Director of Communications and Membership. For the past decade, Reta has managed the Legacy League, a program for those who include Sonoma Land Trust in their estate plans. Today, this group has more than 200 members.

On learning of Reta’s retirement, donor Beth Harper wrote, “I want to thank you for all the years you have done such good work for Sonoma Land Trust.  It’s possible I would have continued to make donations faithfully even if I hadn’t connected with you, but I’m not sure.  You inspired me and made me feel that even my small part was important.  I think you have done so for many others.”

“The deep relationships Reta has fostered have helped make the Land Trust what it is today,” says Shannon Nichols, director of philanthropy. “We are so grateful for her service, persistence and passion, and we will miss her tremendously.”

As she makes the big step of retiring after nearly forty years, Reta took the opportunity to reflect deeply upon her experience at Sonoma Land Trust. “I’m most grateful for the gift of growing into the awareness of our human place in this earth community, of how essential to our quality of life the protection of the natural world is. When I started with Sonoma Land Trust, I had a very anthropocentric view: land trusts help ensure that beautiful landscapes and places to grow food will remain intact. These last decades have pulled aside the curtain and enabled me to learn about the unmatched environmental services of carbon sequestration, storm surge protection, wildlife and plant migration corridors and so much more as we focus on addressing climate chaos and opening lands to underserved communities. Most heartwarming has been connecting profoundly with so many dear kindred souls who have committed their time and treasure to helping us move forward in this particular place with this mission; it’s a matter of bringing our highest and best selves to the work we love to do.

“One of my favorite writers is Terry Tempest Williams. Among the things she tells us is, ‘Wilderness is not an abstraction, nor our recreation. It is our sanity, our evolution; it is our survival.’ I’ve come to believe she has it right, and we are so blessed to uphold each other in our efforts to serve that truth. May our tribe increase!” 

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