The Trustees of Reservations paid quiet tribute last week to Barbara Erickson, who had served as president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts conservancy since 2012.

Ms. Erickson died Jan. 15 at her home after battling cancer. She was 42.

“Her tenure will be defined by growth, mission-focus, new leadership, expanded audiences, and renewed philanthropy,” Peter Coffin, chairman of the board of directors, wrote in a email that went out to members.

“Ambition, tenacity,and audacious thinking defined Barbara’s presidency. She will be remembered for her strong vision and aspirations for the organization. Personally, she championed leadership by women in the workplace and especially mothers . . . She contemplated the ‘forever’ part of our work deeply and never stopped thinking about how to make the organization better, more sustainable, and secure for a far-off future that she would not see.”

The Trustees have long been a presence on Martha’s Vineyard, and today own several signature conservation properties, including Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge, Wasque Reservation, Long Point Reservation and Menemsha Hills, as well as holding conservation restrictions around the Island.

Ms. Erickson toured the Vineyard in July 2012, shortly after taking the job. She was the first female president of the Trustees in its 131-year history.

Having grown up on a ranch in Wyoming, she spoke about her appreciation for open spaces.

“You get an appreciation for nature that sticks with you,” she told the Gazette on a walk through Long Point Reservation in West Tisbury. “Then you come to a place like Massachusetts which is 10 times smaller and I really think it’s a call to action to preserve as much as we can.”

She also spoke about the mission of the Trustees.

“I think what makes us unique among all conservation organizations is that we really understand the human component of conservation,” Ms. Erickson said. “That you can protect places, but if you don’t invite people into them, then you’ve lost the cause.”

Jocelyn Forbush has been serving as acting president and CEO while Barbara has been on medical leave, Mr. Coffin said.