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Rally 2011: Connecting Communities for the Future of Conservation

In Review

By: Christina Soto, Editor, Land Trust Alliance

“Our cities and many of our suburban communities have places … where the need for what we do is great,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land, at Rally 2011: The National Land Conservation Conference. “I want to talk with you today about a bigger, bolder vision for land conservation that embraces that need … and about what we can do to help create healthy ‘human habitat.’”

Rogers asked the audience filled with conservation practitioners to imagine a place where “we made a deep and lasting connection with nature,” then turned the question on its head by saying, “That memory doesn’t exist for millions of people across America who have grown up with no such connection, no warm and fuzzy feelings about nature, no chance to flex their sense of wonder.” It is these communities that Rogers says we must reach.

Speakers like Rogers and Will Allen, and the chance to learn from the best presenters available to the land trust community, drew 1,400 conservation leaders to Rally 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 13-16. Attendees came from all across the United States and several other countries to choose workshops from 17 tracks including “Connecting Land and People,” “Legal Issues” and “Technology for Conservation.”

Participants also had the choice of multiple seminars, field trips and networking receptions. Commenting on the value of Rally, Kristopher Krouse of Shirley Heinze Land Trust in Indiana said: “We had several board members attend Rally this year. Each of them raved about the knowledge they gained; knowledge that will make each participant a more valuable board member and positively affect the strength and sustainability of the organization.”   

All of the speakers at Rally touched on the “connecting communities” point, and its importance to the future of land conservation. Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth said, “Working together, we are telling a compelling story of why conservation matters. We speak in terms of what people most care about:  the economy, clean water, food and health. We are making the case in Congress that conservation is a smart-money investment that creates jobs and grows the economy.”

Farmer and visionary Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, said, “One thing that connects us all in this room is that we have to eat food. Why can’t that be good food?” Allen promotes the belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious food at all times. Allen is the go-to expert on urban farming, and through Growing Power he trains farmers on easy-to-replicate growing methods through workshops and demonstrations. Located on two acres in a working-class neighborhood on Milwaukee’s northwest side, the Growing Power farm is less than half a mile from the city’s largest public-housing project. Allen is dedicated to reaching low-income communities in Wisconsin, and Growing Power has also established satellite training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Mississippi. Allen told the Rally crowd: “We need everyone at the ‘Good Food Revolution’ table.”

Will Rogers expanded the message of outreach to include a “bigger, bolder vision for a connected nationwide system of parks and open space that stretches from inner city to wilderness. A system that not only protects wild, remote and inspirational nature, not only preserves our forests, farms, and ranches—and the special places we have come to know and love—but that also reaches into the hearts of our cities with parks, gardens, trails, green schoolyards and playgrounds, and creek and river greenways that bring nature within a ten-minute walk or half mile of every child or person in America.”

Rand Wentworth applauded the many accomplishments of the land trust community, saying, “The places that we conserve draw out the best in Americans—they teach generosity, endurance, patience and gratitude. I think the highest purpose of land conservation is that it gives us places where we can rediscover what it means to be fully human.”

Audrey Rust, honored at Rally with the Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award for her many years dedicated to conservation, asked everyone there to do one thing: “Don’t ever forget how important the work is that you do.”

To Rally sponsors, speakers, faculty, host committee, awards committee, program committee, scholarship providers, field trip leaders, regional reception hosts and all participants, the Land Trust Alliance extends its heartfelt thanks. See the Rally supporters and committees listed on the right and find the full versions of Rally speeches (audio and video), at


The Awards

At Rally we take time to recognize the best of the hard-working conservationists out there. The Alliance congratulates these award winners:

The latest land trusts to achieve accreditation received recognition as they walked across the Opening Plenary stage. View the list of all accredited land trusts at

  • Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award and Kingsbury Browne Fellowship at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: Audrey Rust, former president of Peninsula Open Space Trust, California
  • National Land Trust Excellence Award: Scenic Hudson, New York
  • National Conservation Service Award: : Tommy Wyche, founder, Naturaland Trust, South Carolina
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Realty – National Land Protection Award: Alexandra Elias, Department of Defense, Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative, California
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