LENOX - The next director of Mass Audubon's Berkshire Sanctuaries is a 30-year-old former employee who's returning to the statewide nonprofit from a post with the Nature Conservancy in Vermont.
Becky Cushing takes over the office at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary today, two weeks ahead of Berkshire Sanctuaries Director Rene Laubach's retirement at the end of the month. Laubach has been director for 29 years.
In addition to the 1,300-acre Lenox facility, Cushing will be responsible for Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield and the Lime Kiln sanctuary in Sheffield, according to an announcement from Mass Audubon headquarters in Lincoln.
Cushing joined the Nature Conservancy in Vermont last year after working for Mass Audubon on Cape Cod and the South Coast. She was not available for an interview prior to assuming her new post in Lenox.
In a prepared statement, she described her introduction to nature "when I would visit my grandparents' home on the Cape, watching shorebirds and paddling through salt marshes."
Cushing called the Berkshire director's post "a homecoming of sorts" as she rejoins Mass Audubon at a site only 90 minutes away from her hometown, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
"I'm really excited to be returning to Mass Audubon, especially in the Berkshires with its rich landscapes, large tracts of forest and, from a personal standpoint, living where you can hike and otherwise enjoy the outdoors so easily," she commented.
"I hope to do that alongside so many other people who love this area as much as I do," she added.
A 2007 graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont with a degree in environmental studies and conservation biology, Cushing's summer jobs during her undergraduate years included posts at Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and the Coastal Waterbird Program.
Later, she was employed at the South Coast Sanctuaries and served in management at Allen's Pond in Dartmouth and Great Neck in Wareham, the Mass Audubon announcement stated.
In 2013, Cushing earned an master's after two years in the University of Vermont's field naturalist program. Her Nature Conservancy work included land stewardship and volunteer coordination in the organization's Vermont office. "We are excited to have Becky coming on board," stated Gail Yeo, the Mass Audubon regional director for Central and Western Massachusetts.
"Becky's passion for the landscape and her ability to create a welcoming environment for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with the land - along with her deep scientific understanding of ecological processes - is just what we need to build on Rene Laubach's lasting legacy."
"This is an ideal next step for Mass Audubon to continue our important work throughout the Berkshires," she commented.
Laubach, 66, announced his retirement last month, telling The Eagle he plans to pursue his own expeditions and adventures while based at his Becket home. His long tenure will be celebrated during a special gathering at Pleasant Valley on May 29.
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