H William Sellers

Services Provided

  • Holistic land and water conservation designs
  • Conservation easements and conservation purchases
  • Innovative stormwater and wastewater management
  • Landowner centered solutions
  • Conserving multiple resources-water, natural, agricultural, forest, historic, and cultural
For over 23 years I directed environmental programs at the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, PA where I built an organization from a staff of 3 to a staff of 20. Starting at a time when environmentalism and private land conservation were considered radical notions, we built our organization on the basis that preservation of natural, agricultural, scenic, and historic resources deserved to be considered part of every community’s economic development and not mutually exclusive objectives. We were convinced that the long term stability and attractiveness of a community required protection of these resources and most importantly, the protection of the quality and sustainability of its water resources.  The Conservancy approached this challenge on two fronts by: 1) developing a subscription based consulting program that offered municipalities state of the art environmental planning and ordinance development assistance; and 2) creating a program to assist landowners with planning the conservation and limited development of their properties and to provide assistance and tools for long term management of preserved land. As an elected municipal official for 23 years, I have had a laboratory for testing new planning and regulatory concepts.
Assuring sustainable water resources requires the preservation of large land areas; a feat that would only have been possible in our area by extensive use of conservation easement donations which left the land in private ownership, but subject to development limitations. We knew that unless we addressed the financial needs of some landowners by helping them with limited development or purchased easements, we would be unable to achieve the large scale preservation required. When we started, few people in this area or the country knew what conservation easements were or how to use them effectively, so we developed the United States’ premier conservation easement program and promoted a variety of initiatives at the national level to advance the state of the art. 
Our efforts were not widely recognized or understood until the mid-‘80s when we planned and organized a private investor-funded conservation buyout of the 5400 acre Chester County division of Texas’ King Ranch.  The investors donated a 770 acre nature preserve to us and restricted all of the remaining land to 3 houses per 100 acres. I structured the partnership so that every investor’s return on investment (ROI) included a piece of land that they wanted, tax deductions for their share of the value of the conservation easement and the nature preserve donations, and their share of the proceeds from the sale of restricted tracts comprising almost half of the remaining land. With this ROI, most of the investors ended up paying nothing for their land which is now some of the highest price land in the area.  Prior to that coup, we had protected about 4000 acres using conservation easements.  Following this project, easements and land donation offers flooded in so that there are now over 30,000 acres under easement and 3000 plus owned outright.
After the King Ranch project, many landowners and organizations from around the country asked us to assist them with various land conservation projects.  The Conservancy’s Board took a dim view of the staff diverting their primary attention from this area, but agreed that I could take on projects on my own time during vacations, holidays, and weekends. 
Over a period of years, I built up a private consulting practice assisting large landowners in the South and North Carolina’s highlands, the Hill Country of Texas, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, Georgetown in DC, Tidewater Virginia, the Bluegrass of Kentucky and elsewhere; a practice that became full time in 1998 when I left the Conservancy.  My clients have included duPonts, one of the founding families of IBM, the family who owned the largest U.S manufacturer of dinnerware, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other individuals and organizations with high profiles. In a number of situations, I had to help organize or reorganize a local conservation organization in order to provide a recipient for land donations from my landowner clients.
My strength is in developing and refining creative land and water conservation concepts and finding practical and innovative ways to get them done. To do what my colleagues and I do, you have to know a lot about many things.  My education and backgrounds in law, land use planning and regulation, biodiversity, historic preservation, landscape design, water resource issues, land development and local government have made it possible for me to craft what I call holistic design solutions. For example, to preserve land and sustainable, clean water supplies, I have developed a specialty in stormwater recharge and reuse and spray irrigation of treated wastewater. My associates provide technical and design competencies in a number of fields. The solutions reflect a highly integrated and interrelated design that marries people, land parcels, and their natural, physical, economic, and social communities so that the whole is greater than the sum of all of the parts.  That may sound like “country preaching goes to college”, but those who have benefited from this design process will back me up that it works.
Many land conservation organizations have been such purists that they were willing to forego an opportunity to preserve most of a property if it meant that some part would be developed. I have found that you cannot expect to protect large landscapes if you only have one solution for every landowner. The key is to tailor solutions to the unique aspects of each individual property and the local community and most importantly, to the individual landowner and his or her family’s tax and financial situations.  If the preservation of a property with little or no additional development is important to the community or to the protection of its unique assets and the landowner cannot benefit from tax deductions alone then a community-based solution or a conservation investor, limited partnership (we developed five of these at Brandywine), or a combination of sale parcels, conservation donations, and partnership lands may need to be developed. The key is a good overall design concept and plan and that is what we do.

Contact H William Sellers

H. William Sellers and Associates
910 Denton Hollow Rd.
West Chester, Pennsylvania  19382
Phone: 610-299-7171


Service Area

Statewide service provider in:
  • Pennsylvania

To request additions or corrections to this entry email the Administrator