HLT Remembers David MillerSeptember 21, 2023
David Miller, HLT’s first Executive Director from 1991-2006, died on September 1, 2023 at age 87 after a brief illness.
In an announcement to their retirement community, Trudy, his wife of 60 years, shared, “Initially, he worked in Anne Arundel County in land conservation and then in Harford County where David, as Director, and three others formed the Harford Land Trust, the crowning achievement of his career, working with the county, farmers, and other landowners to preserve the land in Harford County from overdevelopment.”
David is dearly missed. With his family’s encouragement, HLT welcomes donations in memory of David to HLT’s Hegeman Land Fund, named after David’s dear friend and HLT co-founder Johnston Hegeman who died in 1997.
David’s retirement announcement in 2006 provides an apt summary of his many contributions to HLT and the wider Harford County community.
In August 2005, David P. Miller, Executive Director of the Harford Land Trust since its founding 15 years ago, announced his pending retirement. He retired officially on December 2005 after the Board of Directors completed its selection of the candidate to succeed him in December 2005. At that time, Mr. Miller commented, “The Trust had three outstanding candidates, any one of whom would be an excellent leader of the Trust. I could not be more delighted with the Board’s decision and I look forward to witnessing the even greater successes that my replacement, the Board and HLT’s volunteers will produce” in Harford County.
David. Miller became involved with environmental issues in Harford County in 1988 when he was a consultant with the Deer Creek Watershed Association working with private landowners on voluntary long-term conservation plans. At that time he was Regional Director for Maryland and Delaware of the Natural Lands Trust of Philadelphia with an office in The Rotunda in Baltimore City.
While with the Natural Lands Trust he initiated, among other projects, the purchase from the Pennsylvania Electric Company of 1,500 acres along the upper Youghiogheny River, a designated Wild River, and their acquisition by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
He moved his family from Baltimore City to Harford County in 1989, left the Natural Trust and continued his work with the Deer Creek Watershed Association as an independent consultant. In 1991 he was one of the founders of the Harford Land Trust along with the late John Hegeman, the late Sidney Kreider, Mildred S. Kreider, Peter A Jay and Dr. Albert Owens of Medical Hall. As Mr. Hegeman said at the time, “If we don’t do it, no one will.”
During his years with the Land Trust, Harford County has become increasingly aware of its diminishing farmland and the beauty and variety of its natural areas. As the only private conservation organization in the county that purchases land to preserve it from development, the Trust has acquired 415 acres by purchase and gift. Its best known projects have been Kilgore Falls of Falling Branch (45 acres), the Forest Greens Lake Preserve (100 acres), the Stifler-Deer Creek Conservation Area at Palmer State Park (34 acres), the Hirshauer Trust’s 32 acres surrounding the Anita Leight Estuary Center, and the late Gertrude Parks’ farmland (46 acres). All of these properties are now owned and managed by state or county agencies.
Less known are the contacts and discussions with hundreds of landowners that have led directly and indirectly to 60 easements through county and state programs on a total of 10,659 acres. The Trust itself holds perpetual Conservation Easements on 17 properties, four of them in cooperation with the Maryland Environmental Trust.
Mr. Miller began his working life with the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant in the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. Then, with an M.A. in History from Columbia University (1961-62), he taught history and Latin at boarding schools in Sedona, Arizona and Watertown, Connecticut.
After earning the Master of Forest Science degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies in 1972, he did land use research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland until 1976 when he became Executive Director of the Maryland Environmental Trust. This was, at the time, one of the few public or private land trusts in Maryland seeking donations of conservation easements. It was from this post that he was led first to the Natural Lands Trust and then to Harford County.
The Millers, who live on Harmony Church Road, have become well-known and active citizens of Harford County. Trudy Miller is an academic advisor at Harford Community College. They have three daughters; Jeanette an M.D. at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore; Sarah, a social worker in the Cambridge, Mass. public school system; and Laura, an artist in Washington, DC.
Their plans for the foreseeable future are to stay right where they are.