2010 BLT Founders’ Award

Rob O'LearyPresented to Senator Rob O’Leary

for bringing to public service his strong belief in protecting the local environment.


As a longtime professor of history and government, Barnstable resident Robert O’Leary has witnessed dramatic changes on Cape Cod. In 1987, he was elected County Commissioner; in 2000, he was elected to Beacon Hill, serving on the state Senate’s Joint Committee on the Environment, and was on the Advisory Council to the Cape Cod National Seashore.

He favored and supported the non-binding referendum in 1988 to establish a building moratorium and growth caps on Cape Cod; he worked hard on behalf of a second 1988 non-binding referendum for the Cape Cod Commission Act, helping build a 76 percent voter approval across Cape’s towns. He was actively involved in the 1990 Cape Cod Commission Act, which became a national model for a strong regional land use management agency. Rob was a key person in the formation of Cape Cod Light Compact with its green energy incentives and was instrumental in the creation of the Cape Cod Pathways Project. He was closely involved in the federal/state conversion of the Mass. Military Reservation away from land-abusive, polluting activities into peaceful preservation.

Rob has consistently fought for legislation to bring back the Cape’s offshore fish stocks, including championing the commercial role of small Cape Cod boats and fisheries. He was a key architect and advocate of the creation of the Cape Cod Land Bank, regularizing open space acquisitions in every Cape town; as funding ran out, Rob was instrumental in the Land Bank’s evolution into the Community Preservation Act, which allowed for open space acquisitions to continue in step with affordable housing and historic preservation.


Barnstable Land Trust annually honors an individual, organization, business or governmental organization who has acted in the spirit of our Founders. The award is given “for having the vision to empower the people of Barnstable to preserve the essence of Cape Cod – its open spaces and natural resources, wetlands, woodlands and wildlife.”