Laura Johnson Receives Kingsbury Browne Award and Fellowship

By Jon Gorey, September 8, 2023


Laura Johnson, a lifelong conservationist with more than 35 years of experience in nonprofit management, has been named the 2023–2024 Kingsbury Browne Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and winner of the Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award from the Land Trust Alliance.  

The Kingsbury Browne award and fellowship—named in honor of the Boston tax lawyer and former Lincoln Institute fellow who inspired the Land Trust Alliance’s founding in 1982—have been bestowed annually since 2006 to honor people who have enriched the land conservation community with their outstanding leadership, innovation, and creativity.  

Johnson’s impact on the conservation world spans decades and continents. She served as the president of Mass Audubon for 14 years, leading the country’s largest independent state Audubon organization until 2012. Prior to that, she spent 16 years at The Nature Conservancy working as a lawyer, Massachusetts state director, and vice president of the northeast region. She is also a past chair of the Land Trust Alliance board of directors. And the fellowship will be a homecoming of sorts for Johnson, who cofounded the Lincoln Institute’s International Land Conservation Network (ILCN) in 2014 along with current ILCN Director Jim Levitt and 2012–2013 Kingsbury Browne Fellow Peter Stein.  

After Johnson studied how conservation easements and other conservation tools that had been developed in the United States were being adapted abroad, she and her colleagues realized that a growing global movement of private conservationists were eager to learn from one another. They founded the ILCN with a mission to connect organizations and people around the world that are accelerating voluntary private and civic land conservation.  

“Laura Johnson has been an invaluable contributor to the land trust movement in the United States and across the globe,” Levitt says. “Her energy, her personal dedication to the cause, and her remarkable diplomatic skills have been key to the recent evolution of the practice of private and civic sector land conservation from Canada to Chile and China. We very much look forward to the insights she will share as the 2023–2024 Kingsbury Browne Fellow at the Lincoln Institute.”  

Johnson received the award and fellowship at Rally 2023: The National Land Conservation Conference, a Land Trust Alliance event. “I have been so privileged to work with great people from all over the world, and certainly here in the US,” Johnson says. “And while every organization and geographic area has unique issues and challenges, there are also remarkable similarities—and we share a tremendous sense of urgency in the face of climate change. We all know we need to do more, better, faster.” 

As a fellow with the Lincoln Institute in 1980, tax attorney Kingsbury Browne studied the needs and opportunities of private land trusts in the United States; he discovered there was no national effort to track or share the best land conservation ideas and practices. So with support from the Lincoln Institute, Browne and several others started the Land Trust Exchange, which grew over the years and eventually became the Land Trust Alliance—a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance now represents approximately 950 member land trusts protecting over 61 million acres.  

Kingsbury Browne fellows continue in that tradition by engaging in research, writing, and mentoring, and facilitating a project that builds upon and shares their experience with the broader land conservation community. 



Jon Gorey is a staff writer at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. 

Lead image: Laura Johnson. Credit: DJ Glisson II / Firefly Imageworks.