Growing up in Niskayuna, Henry Tepper’s family vacationed often on Cape Cod.
There, Tepper recalled going bird watching with his father, Clifford, at a wildlife sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay operated by the group Mass Audubon.
Now, Tepper’s career is leading him back to Massachusetts and the organization that oversees that Cape Cod sanctuary and many others. The Niskayuna resident was announced this week as the next president of the Boston-area group that promotes land conservation, environmental education and advocacy. He starts Jan. 15.
“Kind of experiencing the programs and land firsthand growing up made a large impression on me,” Tepper said Friday. “The idea of now having the opportunity to be president of the organization, it’s very meaningful.”
Tepper, 54, takes over a conservation group that claims more than 100,000 members and watches over 35,000 acres of conservation land. It also provides educational programs for thousands of children and adults annually.
Tepper comes to the group after a long career in conservation posts from the United States to Chile. He has served 13 years with The Nature Conservancy, helping to protect thousands of acres of land in the Adirondacks through purchases from lumber and paper companies. He also spent time as a deputy commissioner with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Tepper grew up in Niskayuna, graduating from Niskayuna High School. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and master’s degree from Cornell. He returned to Niskayuna in 1999, when he took over as state director for The Nature Conservancy.
Most recently, he’s served as the chief conservation officer for a group called Patagonia Sur, an organization dedicated to preserving lands in the South American country of Chile through means like land trusts, where they work with land owners to conserve their lands.
Tepper said he was happy with his post with Patagonia Sur, but the move to Mass Audubon came when a search firm helping the group find its new president contacted him.
Tepper talked it over with his wife, Jane Henoch, and family, and they decided to go for it. Tepper and his wife have two children, Katherine, 19, and Miles, 16. The new job will take Tepper back out of the area, with a move near the organization’s base outside Boston.
“Opportunities like this don’t come along very often,” Tepper said. “The opportunity to lead an organization like Mass Audubon is pretty amazing.”
As far as his family’s reaction, Tepper said, “I think everyone’s pretty excited about this.”
Tepper’s father, who first took him bird watching, still lives in Niskayuna and turns 90 next week.
Tepper said he intends to continue Mass Audubon’s record of leadership in conservation, a record that dates back more than a century. While focusing on Massachusetts, the group also has interests throughout New England, Tepper noted, something coming from efforts to protect those birds that Tepper watched as a child.
In a statement issued after the announcement, Mass Audubon board Chairman Jonathan Panek praised Tepper’s work and welcomed him to the organization.
“Henry’s lifetime experience of conservation and environmental advocacy in the Northeast, across the country and internationally provides Mass Audubon with the vision and direction necessary to lead the conservation community confidently into the coming decades,” Panek said in the statement.