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Land Trust Alliance Approves Strong Accreditation Program

September 29, 2005 | Washington, D.C.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jim Wyerman
Land Trust Alliance
202-638-4725 x 310

New Commission to Ensure High Standards for Land Conservation

Washington, D.C. - The Land Trust Alliance announced today that its governing board has voted to approve a new accreditation program for the nation’s 1500 land trusts—local, state, regional, and national groups that conserve land through voluntary agreements with private landowners in communities across the country. The program is designed to provide independent verification that these groups meet high standards for voluntary land conservation.

“In a year marked by Congressional scrutiny of charities and conservation land transactions, I am pleased that Land Trust Alliance is leading the nonprofit community by establishing a private-sector accreditation program that will recognize the high standards employed by land trusts across the nation,” said Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth. “This accreditation program will maintain the public trust in voluntary land conservation and help build strong and lasting land conservation organizations.”

Accreditation will require land trusts to adopt Land Trust Standards and Practices, the ethical and technical guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trusts. The accreditation process will use 42 of these practices as indicators for independent verification of a land trust’s ability to operate in a sound ethical, legal and technical manner.

“The accreditation program will provide detailed professional and peer examination of a land trust’s policies and land conservation programs,” said Land Trust Alliance Board Chairman Will Shafroth. “Charitable donors, government officials and the public will look to accreditation as a seal of approval in land conservation.”

The accreditation program will be managed by a commission of land trust professionals incorporated as a subsidiary of Land Trust Alliance with independent decision-making authority. The commission will be responsible for the ensuring the highest level of accountability for the accreditation program and operating a system that is fair, consistent and effective.

The accreditation commission will be incorporated and the first commissioners appointed in February 2006. The commission will design the accreditation review process and procedures in 2006, test these with an initial round of applications in 2007, and be fully operational by 2008.

The design of the accreditation program is based on an extensive year-long public involvement process. Over one thousand comments from the land trust community were received during the course of the program’s design and led to the development of a fair, accessible and credible process. Eighty percent of the nation’s land trusts plan to participate in the program and seek accreditation, according to market research conducted this past summer.

Land Trust Alliance is working to make accreditation affordable to all qualified land trusts. With the help of its funders, Land Trust Alliance will provide the financial support to develop the accreditation program and subsidize some of the program’s costs in initial years. Applicant fees will be kept affordable, while creating a program that can be financially self-supporting over time.

Land Trust Alliance will help land trusts achieve success in accreditation by developing a new, affordable curriculum based on Land Trust Standards and Practices with a special focus on the accreditation indicator practices. The first training will be available in spring 2006.

“All in all, the combination of a rigorous accreditation program and extensive new training in Land Trust Standards and Practices provides the land trust community with a strong foundation to assure the public trust in voluntary land conservation well into the 21st Century,” added Wentworth. “We are very proud that the land trust community has demonstrated strategic leadership among nonprofits, by taking on the responsibility of an accreditation system that is developed, funded and run by land trusts themselves.”

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