Honoring Great Work During Hard Times
Rally 2009 Wrap-Up
By: Christina Soto, Editor, Saving Land Magazine
“Welcome to Rally!”
“You’ve got important work to do,” Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said to the crowd at the welcoming dinner of Rally 2009: The National Land Conservation Conference held in Portland, Oregon, in October. Congressman Blumenauer, a lifelong Portland resident, is a leading voice for land conservation on the House Ways and Means Committee.
“We could not be more thrilled to have you here in our community as we all learn together about how we’re going to protect some of our most special places, how we mobilize citizen advocates to be able to do the job right, and how we understand the power of thoughtful, comprehensive planning,” said the Congressman.
Rep. Blumenauer’s address was just one of the many highlights of the 22nd Rally. The premiere training event of the Land Trust Alliance, this year’s Rally offered 1,700 participants 127 workshops, 31 seminars, 11 featured sessions, 10 field trips and five speakers, all touting the “how” and “why” of protecting private land in America.
Alliance board chair Peter Hausmann welcomed Rallygoers with these words of honor: “Here in this very room are many unsung heroes who have played significant roles in protecting the natural lands that have defined the character of who we are as Americans. We all should be very proud of what we have accomplished, while acknowledging the significant challenges that face us still.”
Conservationists from around the country, including 577 first-timers and nine people who have been to all 22 Rallies, as well as representatives from Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, China and Chile (the last honored for its first land trust), gathered in Portland to learn from some of the best presenters available to the land trust community.
Honoring Great Work
Congressman Blumenauer, who was called “Congress’s chief spokesman for livable communities” by Hausmann, explained that “Since we were last in Portland, there have been some very serious challenges to the environment. The land conservation effort shone through as a beacon of hope, providing positive energy and keeping progress going.”
“The land trusts around the country were able to cut through the static, build local coalitions, mobilize resources, and get people to come together to make real, measurable progress, and I would like to thank you,” said Representative Blumenauer.
Several awards were presented throughout Rally, including the following:
- The latest accredited land trusts received recognition.
View the complete list >>
National Land Protection Award – The Nature Conservancy’s Southeast Region won this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service award for its “vision, leadership, organizational skills, teamwork, personal commitment, and ability to think outside the box.”
National Conservation Service Award – Dr. Howard A. Corwin, volunteer for the Greater Lovell Land Trust in Maine. Corwin said, “This came as a big surprise. I can only accept this award on behalf of each and every volunteer here and throughout the land trust movement. I consider them most special. They bring their idealism, devotion, inspiration, vision, and oftentimes their sheer courage to their work.” Read press release >>
National Land Trust Excellence Award – the 108-year old Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests won. Upon acceptance of the award, president and forester Jane Difley said, “One of the reasons the Forest Society is being recognized is because of our collaborative efforts, and one of our greatest partners is the Land Trust Alliance, not only the staff and organization in Washington, but all of you here in this room.” Read press release >>
Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award given annually with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to an outstanding individual whose vision and creativity have resulted in extraordinary accomplishments for land conservation and the land trust community – The winner is Jamie Williams, The Nature Conservancy’s Northern Rockies Initiative director, who helps Montana, Idaho and Wyoming achieve large-scale conservation projects protecting major landscapes and critical wildlife linkages. Williams said, “I can’t imagine an award that would mean more to me than one for community-based conservation from my friends in the land trust community.” He described his entry into conservation as a river guide 20 years ago, a time when he came to the conclusion that “conservation could only be successful if it were done in a manner that would support the needs, the traditions, and the visions of local communities.” Talking about the nature of voluntary private land conservation, Williams revealed: “The true magic of the [project in the Yampa Valley] was not just that it was collaborative, but that the landowners were in front and the rest of us were behind. And that has been the defining feature of every collaborative I’ve worked on for the last 20 years, and the real power of why they’ve been successful.” Read press release >>
Rep. Blumenauer had good company as a speaker at Rally. Also appearing were author Gary Ferguson, author and political strategist Michael Shellenberger, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Will Shafroth, and Alliance President Rand Wentworth.
Gary Ferguson shared the moving story of how natural places helped him begin to heal after the death of his wife of 25 years. “I know on a very very personal level the power of the places you are saving… Because of your work, there are still places to catch us when we fall.” Ferguson likened three common qualities evident in folklore to those evident in land protection: natural beauty, community and mystery. “If you stay in touch with these three qualities as you go through your life, and these three qualities being offered most easily and fully through nature, you will learn how to live well in the world.”
Michael Shellenberger has been published in numerous magazines and is well known for his provocative essay, “The Death of Environmentalism” that circulated online several years ago. He spoke about the birth of the conservation and environmental movements, the birth of what sociologists call the “risk society,” some of the benefits and consequences of living in a risk society, and the implications for the land conservation movement of moving away from risk and toward resilience. Shellenberger said that in conserving the land there is “a path to our own salvation” and made a call for us to do whatever it takes to get kids active and families outdoors, to partner with each other, and to advocate for policies for conservation.
Will Shafroth, who comes from an extensive land trust background, explained that “While these times are tough, they are also times of great opportunity for conservation,” and how we have “a president and secretary of interior devoted to the cause of conservation.” Shafroth suggested that land trusts “be strategic, be smarter, and be better; set priorities and learn to say ‘no.’” He said landscape-scale conservation is key, and that land trusts must also do their work “through the lens of climate change; must engage young people; and must participate in our public policy system.” Read an interview with Will Shafroth >>
Rand Wentworth, speaking at the welcoming dinner, told the touching story of Nancy Russell, a pioneer for the Columbia River Gorge who spent her life following her heart to protect a special place she held dear. “All of us here are lifted up by the same wild winds, the spirit of the mountains, and the lives of those who have gone before.” Discussing the state of land trusts today, Wentworth mentioned hot topics such as the tax incentive and estate tax bills, climate change, renewable energy, advocacy, accreditation and conservation defense. “If we want to go far as a land trust community, we must work together to ensure public trust through accreditation, credible appraisals and easement defense. And it is only by working together that we can build the network of congressional relationships necessary to pass major new funding and tax incentives for conservation.”
The Workshops and Seminars
If the speakers are the heart of Rally, then the workshops and seminars are the brain, full of practical information land trust board members, staff, and other conservation professionals need to do their jobs well.
Want to know about appraisals, selecting projects, grant writing and title review? All were seminar topics, along with many more. And with 127 workshops, Rallygoers had plenty to choose from among the 17 subject matter tracks, which included stewardship, finance, land use planning and partnerships and collaborations, just to name a few.
A very big part of Rally’s success is the dedicated faculty; the experts who volunteer to teach and therefore help the Alliance keep costs down. We are eternally grateful to our faculty.
Several Rally speakers mentioned the challenges of 2009 and those that still lie ahead. Rep. Blumenauer, who is championing conservation funding in Congress, said, “We’re going to need you to act immediately… we need each of you with your networks to get engaged.”
Rep. Blumenauer discussed full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and planning now for the next farm bill. “We routinely shortchange the conservation titles.” He asked people to focus on the big picture for the future: planning, transportation, agriculture, energy, and how these things work together for conservation.
“Getting this right is absolutely essential for the future of the planet,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “You are helping to save the world.”
To Rally benefactors, supporters, speakers, faculty, host committee, awards committee, program committee, scholarship providers, regional reception hosts and participants: the Land Trust Alliance extends its heartfelt thanks. View the lists of Rally supporters and committees at www.lta.org/rally.
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