About Us

Our Mission is to Preserve and Protect Open Space for Wildlife Habitat, Fresh Air, and Water Quality in Sanctuaries on Cape Cod and throughout Massachusetts.

We own or manage 50 sanctuaries covering over 650 acres. Orenda also partners with other land trusts in the protection of many additional acres via conservation restriction.

The word "Orenda", in the language of the Iroquois Indigenous people, means "extraordinary, powerful, life energy within all beings and their environment" and is illustrated in the Orenda Song of Praise. Orenda was founded in 1986 by Barbara Birdsey, a nationally-acclaimed philanthropist, and advocate for wildlife.

We share our mission through innovative public education, special events, and policy forums on issues related to wildlife.

We are gratefully supported by private donations, grants, innovative private-public conservation partnerships, special events, and our endowment.

Bee collects pollen on a dandelion flower

History of Orenda

1986: Philanthropists Charles “David” and Barbara Birdsey establish Orenda Wildlife Land Trust dedicated to preserving open space for wildlife habitat. The first sanctuaries are in New Hampshire (later donated to The Humane Society of the United States) and The Ledges, a 4-acre sanctuary in Southbridge, Massachusetts.

1987: Orenda adds 110 acres to its portfolio with the acquisition of the Dana S. Winham Memorial Sanctuary in Marlow, New Hampshire (later donated to The Humane Society of the United States.)

1988: Orenda expands its work to include the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured wildlife at a clinic in West Barnstable on Cape Cod. In the same year, the 10-acre Cedars Sanctuary is added to the Orenda Family.

1992: Orenda acquires three sanctuaries: the 86-acre Makepeace Wildlife Sanctuary in Mashpee, the 15-acre David Nelson Wildlife Sanctuary in Plymouth, and the 2-acre Scudder Bay Sanctuary in Centerville.

open field

1993: Orenda’s wildlife rehabilitation clinic moves to a larger facility to accommodate its significant growth and need for its services.


1994: Orenda grants its West Barnstable wildlife rehabilitation clinic to The Humane Society of the United States, an organization that’s able to keep pace with the demand for rehab services. Orenda selects HSUS because of the organization’s reputation and demonstrated commitment to the care and protection of wildlife and domestic animals. Also in ’94, the 46-acre Mary De La Vallette Sanctuary in Phillipston, Massachusetts, is added to the Orenda family.

1995, Orenda officially changes its name to Orenda Wildlife Land Trust to reflect a more focused and strategic mission. This is the year that Orenda donates two sanctuaries in New Hampshire to The HSUS so we can concentrate on land protection on Cape Cod and other parts of Massachusetts. This is the year Orenda becomes a founding partner of the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge on Cape Cod.

bird hovering on flower

1996: Orenda adds two Cape Cod-based sanctuaries, the 28-acre No Bottom Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, and the one-acre Nalebuff Sanctuary.

No Bottom Pond Sanctuary

1998: Orenda hires its first professional Executive Director to advance its land protection programs and policies. During this year Orenda also provides the Town of Mashpee with short-term financing assistance in acquiring a six-acre parcel threatened by imminent development in the Bufflehead Bay/Jehu Pond area. This enables the properties to be incorporated into the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. This is the year three more sanctuaries are added to the Orenda Family: The Austin Smith Wildlife Sanctuary in Eastham/Orleans, the Smith’s Dock Wildlife Sanctuary measuring 9 acres in West Barnstable, and the 2-acre Mashpee River Woodlands Sanctuary.

1999: Orenda purchases four acres of land in the Santuit Pond area to avoid development and protect the Santuit River watershed, and the property is subsequently sold to the Town of Mashpee as conservation land.


2000: Orenda partners with the Falmouth 300 Committee, a private land trust, and The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Inc., to protect 8 acres of critical wildlife habitat on the Childs River in East Falmouth, providing short-term financing for the property which will ultimately be purchased by the state or the Town of Falmouth. The year 2000 sees two additional sanctuaries joining the Orenda portfolio, the 35-acre Ashumet Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Mashpee, and the 34-acre Fowler-Eames Sanctuary in Washington, Mass.

Ashumet Pond Sanctuary

2001: In the first quarter of 2001, Orenda partners with the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, the Town of Mashpee, and The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Inc., to protect 18 acres in Mashpee to protect a critical link within the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. Orenda also begins a campaign to protect 50 acres of upland wildlife habitat to add to Orenda’s 86-acre Makepeace Sanctuary in Mashpee. Orenda helps to protect a total of nearly 800 acres of land for wildlife habitat with the addition of these sanctuaries. Orenda partners with The Town of Mashpee Open Space Committee to protect the last remaining stretch of Quashnet River, 2000 feet long and 18 acres in size.  The Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge Partners collectively identified this property as one of the highest priorities for protection in the refuge because of its river frontage, continuity with other large tracts of protected open space and fisheries resources (native sea-run brook trout have been reestablished here.)

2002: Santuit Pond Sanctuary is created, formerly the largest contiguous tract of unprotected open space on Cape Cod.  A partnership was formed with the State and the Town of Mashpee. Cape Cod’s Senator Robert O’Leary was the force behind the state’s decision to spend the $3 million at Santuit Pond.  Lindsey Counsell of Barnstable’s Land Bank Committee (currently an Orenda Conservation Advisor) and David Leveille of Mashpee’s Open Space Land Bank Committee worked many hours to negotiate and complete this project. Ralph Herbst assumes the role as President of Orenda Wildlife Land Trust replacing Dale Porter.  Mr. Porter stepped down from the position after several exemplary years as leader. First Back to the Wild Event held at the Wianno Club in Osterville.   Fashion Designer and animal lover Oleg Cassini was the guest speaker for the event that raised funds for the Cape Wildlife Center and Orenda.  Over 200 guests enjoyed dinner, auctions and Monte Carlo entertainment. Orenda wins National Award for Membership Growth.  Orenda Director Ellen Gugel accepts the Allen Morgan Award for Excellence in Membership Development from the Land Trust Alliance.

2003:  Orenda acquires the Red Brook Land parcel in Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. Ken Marsters of Mashpee donated his one acre with 300 feet frontage on the stream and thus created a link to acres of protected open space.  It is a great spot to start a walk into the refuge.

Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge

2004:  Tom Fudala receives the first annual Orenda’s Founder’s award.  Tom was the Mashpee Town Planner for 19 years and a keen supporter of open space in one of the fastest growing towns in the state.   Tom has steered Orenda towards opportunities to preserve critical habitat.


2005:  Orenda endorses the partnership of the Barnstable Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy in protecting Sandy Neck and the Great Marsh ecosystem within the town borders of Sandwich and West Barnstable.   More than 300 acres have been preserved. Orenda honors past president Carl Monge', with the Founders Award at the annual members meeting, held at the Craigville Conference Center. Carl was the President of Orenda from 1992-1999 and still remains an advisor. The evening was also spent taking in the beautiful views and taking stock of all Orenda has accomplished during the year.

2006: Orenda celebrates 20 years of wildlife habitat protection.  With the help of generous members and supporters, Orenda has acquired over 300 acres that are preserved as sanctuaries on Cape Cod and in western Massachusetts.  Orenda also holds conservation restrictions on parcels or charitable trust agreements with other land trusts. Dave Tately assumes leadership of Orenda as Ralph Herbst steps down to pursue other interests.  Dan Morast becomes Vice President and Liz Lewis assumes his former position as Clerk.  Linda Bound is the new administrator as Leah Stapleton leaves for a teaching position.

2007: Barbara and Dave Birdsey (founders of Orenda) are honored as Conservationists of the Year by Harwich Conservation Trust.


2008: Orenda moves to new location at the Cape Wildlife Center in Cummaquid.  Orenda also starts proceedings to acquire almost 200 acres of land in Western Massachusetts near our Fowler-Ames Sanctuary.  By the fall of 2008, a purchase and sale agreement is signed for 20 acres of woodlands held by the family of Tom and Georgia French.


2010: Fashion Untamed event held at the Wianno Club to raise funds for Orenda and the Cape Wildlife Center.  Over 160 friends of Orenda and the Wildlife Center enjoyed tea and a fashion show.  Mindy Todd of the local NPR station was the mistress of ceremonies.  Ashumet Pond Sanctuary was rededicated to the memory of Linda Bound, Orenda’s administrator who passed away in February.  Linda’s friends and family attended the ceremony. Orenda board members attend the dedication of the Tom and Georgia French Sanctuary in Middlefield, Massachusetts.  A large gathering was hosted by Jan Dicey (daughter of Tom and Georgia French) at a local Bed and Breakfast after the dedication. The Carl Monge' Sanctuary is dedicated in October.  Carl’s widow Ellie attended along with Barbara Birdsey, several state conservation representatives and Orenda board members.  The sanctuary’s former owner Patricia Weeden speaks about the history of the land and her family.

Carl Monge Sanctuary

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