More Conservation for More People
What is community conservation?
It’s an approach to land conservation that includes more people. Community conservation begins by listening to many different voices in the community — then responding. Community conservation uses the strengths of the land trust to meet needs expressed by people in the community.
There’s a wide range of community conservation projects. Here’s what most of them have in common. They:
- Respond to a community need
- Connect people with place
- Connect people with people
- Create opportunities for people to get involved
- Energize the community
- Provide some form of public access
- Broaden the land trust’s reach
- Provide lasting and meaningful impact
People, land, and new connections
The best way to show how community conservation can work is to share some stories. Here are a few of our favorites.
- A land trust in Maine offered the local farmers market an attractive, central location on a protected farm — and built an ice skating rink there too.
- A group in Chicago is replacing pavement on school grounds with green space for gardens and playgrounds.
- A land trust in New Mexico returned a sacred hot spring to the tribal people of Taos Pueblo.
- A land trust in Houston is creating a 33-mile urban greenway and bringing local seventh-graders there to learn aquatic science.
- A group in Washington State is promoting urban light rail and bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets, among many community-based efforts.
There are a lot of inspiring stories out there! Check out the success stories below.
Broadening support for conservation
Everyone deserves to live in a healthy community and enjoy a connection with nature. When land trusts include more people, we improve more lives — and in turn, we gain broader support for conservation.
We’re going to need that support. The U.S. population is expected to grow by 100 million people in 50 years — which means we’ll face more pressure to develop land. The population is also growing more diverse — so land trusts need to serve diverse constituents to stay relevant. On top of those demographic changes, today, many Americans are growing up without a strong connection to nature — and if they don’t learn to love it, they won’t act to save it.
To keep saving land, we need people who care about the land. We need their energy and passion. We also need their political support. Ultimately, people make the laws. So, if most people don’t care about conservation, the laws that support it will change — and our legacy could be lost.
What community conservation is not
In some ways, community conservation is different from traditional land trust projects — so there can be some confusion about what it means. Lets clear some of that up. Community conservation is:
- Not primarily driven by scenic or ecological concerns
- Not primarily focused on the landowner
- Not about serving every community need at once
- Not limited to any one group in your community
- Not about having more meetings
- Not necessarily more complicated or time-consuming
Community conservation is also not a new idea. But it usually does mean branching out — meeting new people and trying new things. How do you start?
Community conservation starts with listening
Look for potential by asking yourselves three questions:
- Why do you do what you do? What’s the purpose?
- Who do you serve? Who benefits the most?
- Who in your community could you engage outside of your usual circle?
Those questions can generate ideas that lead to new conversations. The key is to listen. Try having coffee on a regular basis with someone you don’t know. Ask questions more than you give answers. Seek out your natural partners — groups that share some of your values and goals — but keep an open mind. Listen to what people need, even if it doesn’t seem — at first — that you can help. Focus on what you can do for them, rather than what they can do for you.
How the Alliance supports community conservation
We showcase groundbreaking community conservation projects, so land trusts can inform and inspire each other. We’re also making community conservation a focus in our educational and training programs — from workshops and webinars to articles and publications. We plan to start measuring the impact of community conservation as part of the National Land Trust Census. And we plan to support selected pilot projects with the potential to scale nationally.