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James Coffin has been named general counsel and vice president for land preservation at the National Park Trust, a conservancy that seeks to reclaim private land for public use. Coffin, 49, leaves behind his job as a sports agent for NFL players and NASCAR drivers, part of his previous post as general counsel for Negotiations Plus Sports Management Inc. How does a sports lawyer come to the conservation business? “There comes a point where you need to reflect on what you’ve added back to society,” Coffin says. “I come from a tradition of people who give of their time to public causes, and I haven’t really had the opportunity to do that.” The National Park Trust seeks to transfer privately held parklands to the public domain. In and around many national parks is private land that stands to be commercially developed. The NPT tries to buy that land and hand it over to the federal government. One of Coffin’s jobs is to facilitate the transactions. He helps identify projects where national parks feel threatened by the prospect of development and, with the help of local counsel, helps the NPT acquire the land. These are complicated deals, though, so Coffin’s duties also include lobbying at the state and federal level and working with state park systems. Of the 50 or so projects Coffin is currently handling, only a few are in the Washington, D.C., area. The NPT is trying to obtain land at the mouth of Greenbelt National Park that is slated for housing development. And the trust just added a new piece to Rock Creek Park, a site near Fort Stevens where Abraham Lincoln personally viewed a Civil War battle. But Coffin’s travel plans are soon going to pick up. Not only does the NPT completely own and operate the national park around Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “little house on the prairie” in Kansas, the group’s projects stretch from Rock Creek Park to 18,000 acres in the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust in Alaska. Last year, acquisitions included Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood log cabin in Kentucky, land in West Virginia and in California’s Joshua Tree National Park and a 900-acre gold mine in Alaska. For Coffin, who holds a master’s degree in nutrition and biochemistry, an M.B.A., and a J.D. — and has also practiced in real estate law — learning different disciplines is a way of life. “I don’t like doing the same thing every day,” he says.

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