Rally 2010: Celebrating Heritage, Embracing Change
By: Christina Soto, Editor, Land Trust Alliance
Local Heroes Gather
“This is empowering and energizing!,” Congressman Chris Murphy (D-CT) told the crowd at the welcoming dinner of Rally 2010. “Although sometimes it feels like our movement is under assault, it puts steel in my spine to see the gathering here today of folks who are committed to land conservation both at a local and national level.”
More than 1,800 conservation practitioners gathered at the Land Trust Alliance’s National Land Conservation Conference held in Hartford, Connecticut, October 2-5. Congressman Murphy, co-chair of the House Land Conservation Caucus, a bipartisan group of like-minded members, has led the fight in Congress to protect open space and expand resources for land preservation.
“It’s one thing for a member of Congress to say they’re for land conservation, but another thing to make the tough decisions to find the revenue to pay for it,” said Rep. Murphy. “It’s time at the end of this year to make the land conservation tax deduction permanent,” he said to loud cheers in the cavernous ballroom. “Land conservation is one of the few issues that remains bipartisan, and that’s because of the work that you in this room have done!”
Land Trust Alliance Chair David Anderson welcomed everyone to the 23rd Rally, pointing out that Connecticut has 128 land trusts that together have protected more than 100,000 acres, and the Northeast with 600 land trusts has protected over 3.6 million acres. The largest gathering of its kind, this year’s Rally offered more than 100 workshops, 29 seminars, special featured sessions, 12 field trips and four plenary speakers, all touting the “how” and “why” of protecting private land in America.
Conservationists from around the country, including 615 first-timers and a handful of people who have been to all 23 Rallies, as well as representatives from Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Australia and Tasmania, gathered in Hartford to learn from some of the best presenters available to the land trust community.
“You’re going to learn an enormous amount here,” Rep. Murphy told attendees. “I hope that when you leave with new skills and a renewed passion that you’ll go home and tell your members of Congress to call Chris Murphy’s office and sign up to be part of this fight!”
The welcoming dinner began with a Native American blessing by Ed Sarabia of the Tlingit Tribe, who said that through saving the land, “we do something for the people, we do something from our hearts, and we do something for our spirits.”
“We have the same heart.”
Those who received awards at Rally shared the stories from their hearts and showed how all those in the land conservation movement are connected.
•The latest land trusts to achieve accreditation received recognition as they walked across the stage during the opening plenary. The total number has now reached 106 and the proud board members, staff and volunteers waved their “ACCREDITED” pennants together. View the complete list
•President’s Award: Samuel F. Pryor, III – Sam’s six-decade long campaign to protect land is extraordinary. He has chaired or served numerous organizations, including the Land Trust Alliance, The Nature Conservancy and Westchester Land Trust. Unable to attend Rally because of an injury, Sam’s award was accepted by his son, Joe.
•National Conservation Service Award: Anne Codey – Devoted to protecting land in her native Nassau County, New York, Anne maintains trails, monitors preserves and manages invasive vegetation. “The path I have traveled, with the many people I have met, and the many organizations I have worked with has been more fun than I ever could have imagined,” she said.
Read the full release
•National Land Trust Excellence Award: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy – Since 1991, SWMLC has been a leader in the conservation community through its extensive stewardship program, engaging hundreds of volunteers at preserves, collaborating with a wide variety of partners to secure funding, and leading trainings across the country. Executive Director Peter Ter Louw accepted the award, saying: “Our long-term viability, and our ability to create meaningful work in perpetuity, whether it’s scenic or cultural or protecting natural landscapes, is only going to be effective if we become part of this broader community’s fabric.”
Read the full release
•U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service award: Jerry Gibson, Iowa Department of Natural Resources – Saying that this award honors “an individual who has used his skills, talents and dedication to achieve significant results,” Joe McCauley of the USFWS presented the award to Jerry.
•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: Jay Espy.
Jay, current executive director of the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, served 22 years with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, 19 as president of this accredited land trust, and as chair of the Land Trust Alliance. He became a national leader in conservation, collaborating with land trusts in Maine and co-founding the Maine Land Trust Network, but also reaching out to mentor land trusts around the country. Graciously asking his former colleagues at MCHT to stand with him to accept the award, Jay said, “King was a wise and very generous soul who fostered hope. I’m so grateful to you for allowing me to share in the stewardship of Kingsbury’s spirit and memory.”
Read the full release
Highlights of the Speeches
Rally 2010 featured many compelling speakers in addition to Congressman Murphy.
Calling him “our quarterback for conservation,” Alliance Vice President Mary Pope Hutson introduced Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Strickland, who serves with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, was a founder and board member of Great Outdoors Colorado, the lottery-funded program which has invested over $600 million in parks, wildlife and open space programs in Colorado. “We at the Department of Interior now know that the next 100 years of conservation are going to be much more about what you all are doing with private land conservation,” said Strickland.
He described Secretary Salazar’s love of the environment as “the core of his public service,” and described the 30 listening sessions held around the country for the America’s Great Outdoors initiative: “The vision that Secretary Salazar brings right now to the Department of Interior and to this administration, a vision that the president shares, is ‘Let’s make conservation of our landscapes a top national priority.’ Here I am in the ‘cathedral’ of the true believers of that mission, and I’m greatly honored to be here.”
Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, honored his fellow conservationists, telling them, “You are real heroes in the conservation world, and have gotten even better at what you do.” Touching on the big challenges ahead, Tercek mentioned population growth, climate change and broadening outreach. “Polls show that citizens not at the core of our movement are ready to be mobilized for conservation.” In discussing climate change, Tercek explains, “It not only threatens what we seek to do, it threatens to undo what we have done in the past 60 years.”
Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance, spoke about the unity of the land trust movement: “Large or small, east or west, rural or urban: we are drawn together by a common commitment to protecting the places that give meaning to our lives.” He made the connection between conserving land and improving human health, especially for children. “Being active outdoors improves weight control and physical strength, enhances classroom performance and helps children cope with stress.” In order to remain relevant, Wentworth said that land trusts must be seen as “essential to the future of America—an ally for good jobs, education, housing, and, perhaps most important, community health.”
Hear the Rally speeches or watch the plenary videos
Workshops, Seminars and Receptions, Oh My!
Rand Wentworth described Rally as “a feast of conservation learning,” and there was plenty of practical information, as well as opportunities for networking, for the conservation practitioners in attendance.
Want to know how to adapt to climate change? There was a workshop about that. Want to know how to fundraise in the new economic reality? There was a seminar about that. With 100+ workshops, Rallygoers had plenty to choose from among the 16 subject tracks, which included Connecting Land and People, Managing Land Resources, and Technology for Conservation, just to name a few.
Regional receptions gave attendees a wonderful opportunity to mingle and network in a relaxed atmosphere. Two additional receptions, one for the international conservation community and one for the urban conservation community, brought together people from around the globe to swap stories. Rand Wentworth attended both receptions, saying at one: “What we hold in common is vastly more important than what separates us.” At the urban reception, Classie Parker with the Manhattan Land Trust rallied the crowd with her passionate address, saying, “Come to New York City—my garden will feed you, baby!”
A Heartfelt Thanks
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.
David Anderson closed the welcoming dinner by offering the Land Trust Alliance’s thanks to “all of you for taking the time out of your very busy work protecting our national heritage to come to Hartford for these few days of compressed but exciting training, education, networking and fellowship.”