Land Trust Alliance Celebrates 30 Years of Service-Leadership to the Land Trust Community

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Organization’s Roots Shape the Path Ahead

Land Trust Alliance staff gather for a retreat to discuss both its leadership and service to the land trust community.

According to the Alliance’s 2010 National Land Trust Census, local, state and national land trusts have protected 47 million acres through private, voluntary conservation.

The Land Trust Alliance (Alliance), the national conservation organization whose members are land trusts, turns 30 today. Formed by the land conservation community in 1982 to coordinate communication among land trusts and to act as a clearinghouse of information on land conservation, the Alliance today strengthens conservation through service-leadership to the 1,700 land trusts in local communities across America.

To set the stage for a national network of conservation knowledge-sharing, a meeting of 40 conservation leaders took place in 1981 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, organized by the late Kingsbury Browne. “Participants avidly endorsed Browne’s notion of better communications,” says Jean Hocker, former president of the Alliance. “They saw the need for collective action—in marketing and building public support, in influencing public policies, and in refining land-saving techniques and strategies.”

A land trust is a nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land through land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easements. The Alliance helps its land trust members in meeting national quality standards, offers training on operational and programmatic topics, and unifies the political voice of the land trust movement. According to the Alliance’s 2010 National Land Trust Census, local, state and national land trusts have protected 47 million acres through private, voluntary conservation.

Initially called the Land Trust Exchange, the Alliance launched with a three-person staff. Thirty years later, it has more than 50 staff members and several regional offices. The group’s accomplishments include championing federal tax incentives for landowners who wish to conserve their land, formation of an independent accreditation program for land trusts to ensure public trust, and creation of a charitable risk pool owned by participating land trusts that insures its members against the legal costs of defending conservation.

“With our mission being ‘To save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America,’ the Alliance benefits all Americans,” says President Rand Wentworth. “We increase the pace of conservation, so more land and natural resources are protected; we enhance the quality of conservation, so the most important lands are protected using the best practices in the business; and we ensure the permanence of conservation by creating the laws and resources needed to defend protected land over time."

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Peshie Chaifetz
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