What land is most important to protect?
You can’t protect everything. No land trust can do as much outreach, as much conservation or as much stewardship as it would take to protect all of the land worth protecting in its service area. So, how do you decide where to focus your efforts?
That takes planning. A strategic conservation plan can help your land trust identify the most valuable resources to protect. It can also help you think about conservation on a larger scale. Rather than taking a scattershot approach, how can you link protected lands to make a difference for a whole landscape, community, watershed, or ecosystem? Planning may also reveal opportunities for partnerships that can expand your impact.
With a strategic conservation plan, you may be able to protect more land, because you’re more focused and proactive. The National Land Trust Census shows that land trusts with a strategic conservation plan save twice as much land, on average, as land trusts without one.
In the course book Strategic Conservation Planning, Ole Amundsen points out, “Land trusts that focus on strategic priorities and create conservation visions typically raise more funds and protect more land more efficiently than those who jump at any opportunity without an overarching plan.”
How to create a strategic conservation plan
It takes time and effort to create a strategic conservation plan — but ultimately, it should result in more effective and impactful land conservation. You can find extensive resources in The Learning Center to assist you in creating your plan. The process usually involves these steps:
- Review your mission.
- Establish your land conservation goals.
- Identify and map resources that you want to protect.
- Assess threats to those resources.
- Analyze this information and use it to designate focus areas.
- Research land ownership in your focus areas.
- Develop strategies for outreach to these landowners.
- Consider potential partnerships to help achieve your goals.
- Develop an action plan.
- Decide how to evaluate your progress.
- Adopt the plan, by a vote of the full board.
- Implement your plan!