2014 Gulf States Assembly of Land Trusts
The Partnership for Gulf Coast Land Conservation Annual Meeting was held on May 12-13 in conjunction with the 2014 Gulf States Assembly. More than 90 land trust professionals, board members, natural resource managers and state and federal agency leaders worked together over the two day event to strengthen land conservation policy and practice in the region.
On Monday, the Partnership held a brief business meeting during which the Partners and allied organizations discussed recent accomplishments, as well as goals for the coming year. Participants made recommendations regarding communications, capacity-building, and organizational structure for the coming year. Bob Stokes, Chair of the Executive Committee, reported that $57,450 in matching grants has been awarded to Partner organizations.
Liz Barber unveiled of the Partnership’s draft Conservation Vision, which represents the shared priorities for voluntary land protection and conservation of the Partnership members. The Conservation Vision was developed with the help of the Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy using a science-based strategic conservation planning model. The document and a longer more detailed report will be available as a planning and decision-support tool in the Fall of 2014 after further editing by Partners.
Monday’s proceedings concluded with a conversation with Tom Kelsch, Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund is working with the Gulf States to identify and fund $2.54 billion in projects designed to remedy harm to natural resources hurt by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill or to reduce future risk. Kelsch encouraged the attendees to consider the following:
- Visit with state officials about our priorities;
- Listen to other conservation partners and find consensus;
- Realize that political considerations are real; and
- Organizations that are good partners will be most successful.
On Tuesday, Erin Heskett welcomed the participants and encouraged everyone to be realistic about economic and demographic trends. He stated that land trusts and conservationists must demonstrate that there are tangible economic benefits to conservation and that land conservation is critical to healthy communities.
Justin Ehrenwerth, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, discussed the opportunities and challenges of the RESTORE Act. He stated that the Council will take a Gulf-wide view as the Partnership has done in its Conservation Vision. Ehrenwerth advised that there is great uncertainty regarding the amount of money that might eventually be available to fund the RESTORE Act. Also, no funds can be disbursed until the Treasury Regulations are finalized and he cannot be sure when they will be issued. The Council is developing a priority funding list and creating a public engagement structure.
Workshops and seminars were offered, including:
- Community Resilience Funding Opportunities for Conservation Professionals
- Measure to Manage: Fundraising Metrics
- A Conservation Vision for Land Protection in the Gulf of Mexico Region
- Overview of Conservation Finance (Parts 1 and 2)
- Bold Leaders, Effective Boards: Growing from Good to Great (Parts 1 and 2)
- USDA Programs for Conservation
- North American Wetlands Conservation Act Program
Thank you to our sponsors!
Knobloch Family Foundation
US Forest Service
The Conservation Fund
Atlantic Coast Conservancy/Pelican Coast Conservancy
Alabama Land Trust
Land Trust for Louisiana
Weeks Bay Foundation