Thanks to you and your generous support, 2016 was the Land Trust Alliance’s most successful year yet. We are eager to share the highlights of the last year, accomplishments that would not have been possible without you.
The 2015 National Land Trust Census found that land trusts have protected more than 56 million acres, or double the size of all land in national parks within the lower 48 states. Our community is coming together to empower land trusts and help them conserve more land — forever.
Building Public Support
Building on momentum from 2015, the Alliance continues to champion the land trust community. The federal government is a critical source of conservation funding and the Alliance has helped steward federal as well as state and local tax policy to encourage donations of funds, land and conservation easements.
The Alliance also works to help more than 1,100 land trusts build strong relationships with their public officials. The Alliance’s Ambassador Program has nearly 200 participants from across the country. Ambassadors take center stage during Advocacy Days, a spring event that provides land trust leaders with hands-on training in Washington, D.C., as well as time with their key legislators to brief them about the most important issues of the land trust community.
In 2016, the IRS took the important step of making conservation easement tax shelters a listed transaction. This requires investors and “material advisors” in certain highly overvalued conservation easement transactions to file a report with the IRS. The Alliance has determined these tax shelters significantly undermine public confidence in the important conservation work of land trusts across America. In the year ahead, we will seek additional clarification to confirm that individual donors, family partnerships and those who have held their property for many years are not included in this notice.
Providing Tools for Success
The Alliance provides land trusts with the tools they need to grow in strength and impact. Our online Learning Center, conservation and risk management curriculum, 100+ webinars and 300+ workshops served 4,500 people in 2016. We have worked with land trusts to provide communication toolkits to increase community engagement. The Alliance was mentioned in the media nearly 1,000 times over the last year, bolstering recognition for the entire land trust community.
Our commitment to expanding our transformative Leadership Training and Land Trust Excellence Programs now has an added emphasis on strategic communications, conservation planning with climate in mind, community conservation and public engagement. We are focused on continuing this work in 2017 to serve more land trusts, their staffs, and their board members across the country.
By the end of last year, 357 land trusts were accredited. These organizations represent more than 75 percent of the land conserved by land trusts across the country.
Delivering on the Promise of Perpetuity
Through the Alliance’s Conservation Defense Initiative, land trusts are more prepared than ever to overcome threats endangering protected land. Terrafirma, the charitable risk pool launched by the Alliance and owned by land trusts, insured over 26,000 properties and almost eight million acres in 2016. That means that 89 percent of the land conserved by land trusts is now safely insured by Terrafirma or held by organizations capable of self-insuring.
Last year, we continued our efforts to make conserved lands relevant to future generations and diverse socioeconomic communities. This included the moving plenary session at the Alliance’s Rally: The National Land Conservation Conference where Robyn Carlton and Umar Muhammed of the accredited Lookout Mountain Conservancy shared their story about engaging the next generation in conservation. We launched the inaugural Land is My video contest where 75 videos received over 42,000 votes. These videos along with the stories shared through the Land Trust Census allowed us to build a diverse collection of community conservation examples.
As the Alliance begins its next chapter with new leadership, we look forward to tapping into the expertise and creativity of our supporters and our 1,100+ member land trusts. The land trust community does best when we work together toward a greater goal. We are working to make land, land conservation and land trusts relevant to many more Americans. In the year ahead, we will highlight the myriad ways we can proudly say that land is the answer, not only to helping the environment, but to improving our connections to one another.
Your generous support truly makes all this possible! Click here to donate now!
Sarah McGraw is annual fund manager for the Land Trust Alliance.