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Bridging Our Past, Connecting Our Future

The Story of Rally 2008

“You in this room continue to inspire me, and cause me to be hopeful for my grandchildren’s future,” said Peter Hausmann, chair of the Land Trust Alliance. He was welcoming the more than 1,700 people brought together by Rally 2008, the National Land Conservation Conference held annually by the Alliance.

This year’s crowd of land conservationists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had many learning experiences to choose from, including 33 seminars, 129 workshops, 12 field trips to conserved areas, inspirational plenary speakers, networking receptions and government partner sessions.

“You can come to Rally and get a Ph.D in land conservation in four days,” said Alliance President Rand Wentworth.

Among the many special events at this year’s Rally was the historic announcement of the inaugural group of 39 accredited land trusts. “At a time when the public is demanding increasing accountability from nonprofit organizations and government, including land trusts, the new independent accreditation program provides the assurance of quality and permanence of land protection the public is looking for,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. “Now land trusts can join museums, hospitals, universities and other nonprofit institutions that demonstrate that they deserve the public’s trust through rigorous accreditation programs.” [See the list of the 39 here.]

Also featured at Rally were four prominent plenary speakers, each of whom offered their unique stories of why land conservation means so much to them.

The Honorable Michael DiBerardinis, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, urged the crowd to “connect land conservation to sustainable communities.” He added, “We have to understand the values of the peoplediberardinis-photo we work for. That’s what civic engagement means.” DiBerardinis made this observation about the people he works for: “Here’s what I learned about Pennsylvanians: they care about the environment and conservation, about clean air, open space, protected watersheds, healthy habitats for hunting and birdwatching. There is a deep connection to the land and to the waters.” [Listen]

Timothy LaSalle, CEO of The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, educated attendees about the many benefits of organic farming and healthy soil. “Withlasalle-photoout healthy soils you can’t have healthy people,” said LaSalle. Turning to the subject of global warming, and the fact that soil is an excellent carbon sink, LaSalle stated: “The beauty is the soil wants the carbon.” He worries about world hunger, and offers a path towards a solution: “Improve the soil, feed the world." [Listen]

There wasn’t a dry eye in the ballroom as Martha Teichner finished her story of, as she described it, “some woods on a lake in Northern Michigan and a land trust…a story about memory and love and loss…of rediscovery, suspense, and finally a joy that seems to me like sunlight.” The Emmy Award-winning newswoman woveteichner-photo the tale of her family’s love for Deer Trail Cottage and the surrounding woods at Lime Lake in Leelanau County, Michigan, a place that, she says, “formed my entire identity.” Through a miraculous string of events, Teichner was able to protect the property many years later with the Leelanau Conservancy. Named in honor of her beloved parents, the Teichner Nature Preserve will protect the legacy of her family for all time. [Listen]

Chuck Leavell, a member of the Rolling Stones, an author and a well-respected conservationist, charmed the crowd with his humorous stories, reflected on the many benefits of land conservation, leavell-photothen sat down at the piano to entertain like only he can. Passionate about forestry and the environment, Leavell expressed his deep concern for conservation in America, coming, as he says, “from one of the fastest-developing areas in the U.S.”

“Folks, we’re going to have growth in this country whether we like it or not,” said Leavell. “But the question is:  Will that growth be rapid, rampant and reckless…or can it be smart, strong and sustainable?

Ticking off the list of the benefits of land conservation, Leavell described how it “helps maintain a clean and plentiful water supply; improves our air quality; minimizes flood damage; keeps prime forest and agricultural lands productive; supports our tourism and recreation industries; and preserves our tremendous natural and cultural history.”

His call to action? Educate landowners: “I know this crowd already knows this, but we need to do a better job getting this message out to other landowners:  This is your land, your decision…but consider the legacy you will leave, and consider the options we all have.” [Listen]

All the Rally speakers had one thing in common: their tremendous respect for the people they were addressing. As Martha Teichner put it so eloquently: “To all of you in this room who make happy endings like mine possible, thank you. You’re not just making deals…Land conservation is about so much more than land. It’s about the deepest of emotions; the most powerful of family stories.”

Rally also features a time to recognize the talented conservationists and land trusts that make a significant impact in their communities.

The Land Trust Alliance congratulates these award winners:

Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award and Kingsbury Browne Fellowship at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: Laurie Wayburn, Co-Founder and President, Pacific Forest Trust, CA.

National Land Trust Excellence Award: Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust, Rhode Island

National Conservation Volunteer of the Year Award:  Jane Rau, co-founder of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, AZ

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Realty - National Land Protection Award: Rich Erdmann, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, The Conservation Fund, VA.

With more than 737 first-timers at Rally, we know that there is a growing hunger to learn how to make our conservation work more effective and successful. The Land Trust Alliance has opened the path to learning through our in-depth trainings, conferences and online Learning Center. We hope to see you at Rally 2009: The National Land Conservation Conference next year in Portland, Oregon.

The Land Trust Alliance thanks the many supporters of Rally 2008, including the Host Committee  and our generous sponsors.

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