In honor of Eagle Institute founder Lori McKean’s retirement from the U.S. Forest Service at Grey Towers after 22 years, we asked a few of her colleagues and volunteers to share their thoughts on Lori’s lifelong dedication to bald eagle conservation in the Upper Delaware River region.
The Eagle Institute, a nonprofit volunteer organization, was founded by Lori in 1998 and focused on education about eagles and eagle habitat stewardship. The Eagle Institute and the Conservancy merged in 2012, becoming the Eagle Watch program of the Conservancy.
“Lori’s energy, enthusiasm and creativity have always inspired me. She is so good at finding novel ways to meet people where they are – to instill in them that same curiosity that she possesses for the roots of conservation, the personal histories of people and places and the connections to present-day issues and ideas. Lori is also a great friend who I am certain will face retirement with the same creative spirit and vitality that so exemplified her career.” – Susan Beecher
“As the eagle population started to grow in the Delaware Valley area, Lori saw a need to educate the public who came to see these endangered birds. She single handedly started The Eagle Institute to fill that need. Through trained, dedicated volunteers, people learned how to have the best experience, both for themselves and the eagles. Eagle Etiquette was born. For many years she did it all. Building a volunteer team. Annual training sessions for the volunteers. Working with the National Parks Department in Pennsylvania and the DEC in New York State. When The Eagle Institute was well established, she saw the need for the program to expand. It needed new leadership and a paid staff. After much deliberation she chose the Delaware Highlands Conservancy as the best match. It is never easy to let our ‘children’ go – but Lori knew when it was time. That is true leadership.”
– Patricia Diness
“Lori M. is an intriguing personality. She was the glue ( along with Patricia) that kept the Eagle Institute alive and abreast of the slowly increasing numbers of mature eagles along the Delaware. She had a deep passion that was evident only if you, over the years, watched or joined her in the preservation of the eagles and the education of the public in that pursuit. She is strong, tireless, passionate about the sanctity of the eagle, and quietly unassuming. A true leader!”
– Joel Murphy
“Back in 1997 or 1998, my Wife Denise and I were riding up Rt. 97 in New York looking for bald eagles when we spotted Lori at one of the few spots that was designated as a bald eagle viewing area. We pulled in and Lori was putting pamphlets about eagle watching in a box in the parking area. We struck up a conversation with Lori and she took the opportunity to recruit us as volunteers for The Eagle Institute that she was establishing. Over the years, The Eagle Institute grew as the popularity of eagle watching grew. There was a real need to educate the public about eagles and the proper way to view them. Lori partnered The Eagle Institute with the National Park Service, NYDEC, and PA Fish and Game Commission which was a huge asset with all of their additional resources. The educational programs and services provided by The Eagle Institute over the years have definitely paid off with the number of nesting pairs of bald eagles in the area increasing every year.
Heading up an organization like The Eagle Institute is no small task on top of having a full time job and raising a family. I was fortunate enough to be asked by Lori to serve on the Board of The Eagle Institute for a few years before it merged with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy. The merger was a perfect match for both organizations and has helped to strengthen the core values of land conservation and the importance it plays in providing a safe and healthy environment for the future of our national symbol. I have been a volunteer now for 23 years and it is as exciting as the day we first met Lori on the side of Rt. 97. Thank you Lori for allowing Denise and I to be a part of your ‘Eagle Life.’ Enjoy your retirement!”
– Brad Orey
“I know I’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly.”
“Lori helped make that possible. The connections I made from working with her improved my life immensely. It was through Lori that I met Barbara Yeaman and Pete Nye (both heroes of mine). These connections helped save the Upper Delaware, and its habitat, for the bald eagle’s return. And I have Lori McKean to thank for that.”
– Ken Myett
“I personally was impressed with Lori’s dedication to protecting eagle habitat in the upper Delaware – a passion so strong she created the Eagle Institute. She ran that from her kitchen table – across two states for years. The biggest risk to the Eagles was by the time we met habitat protection.The synergies with the Eagle institute were obvious. I was thrilled by the opportunity to take up the work she had successfully undertaken.”
– Sue Currier
“Lori’s ingenuity, passion, and persistence have benefited Grey Towers and the Milford Experimental Forest (MEF) tremendously. Thanks to her dedication and creativity, we have been able to invite the public to explore MEF’s history, current management strategies and restoration projects. Lori has always gone further than required, making connections, suggesting innovative ideas, and seeing them through. She has been an incredible asset, educating the community about the importance of conservation and stewardship. Thank you, Lori!”
– Leila Pinchot