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Western Pioneers Forge Path for Collective Defense

November 17, 2010 | Washington, D.C.

As we reach another milestone in the creation of the Conservation Defense Insurance Program, we wanted to thank those individuals and organizations who were instrumental in developing the framework for this program. These pioneers opened a door through important research, setting the stage for the critical work marshaling in the insurance defense program.

Image in November 2010, Conservation Defense eNews article Leading off in 1998, Dan Pike of Colorado Open Lands requested that Jessica Jay research options for Colorado Open Lands' individual and collective easement defense, which culminated in the seminal article: Land Trust Risk Management of Legal Defense and Enforcement of Conservation Easements: Potential Solutions, published in 1999.

Image in November 2010, Conservation Defense eNews article The Bay Area Open Space Council sponsored Darla Guenzler, now the Executive Director of the California Council of Land Trusts, to undertake research on collective defense resulting in publication of Creating Collective Defense Resources in 2002, and

Image in November 2010, Conservation Defense eNews article
The Heart of the Rockies land trusts, led by Paul Sihler (left) and then Mike Whitfield (middle), retained Montana attorney Andy Dana (right) to analyze the conservation defense insurance idea.  

Image in November 2010, Conservation Defense eNews article Credit is also due to former Alliance staff members Liz Bell, now with the Wilburforce Foundation, and John Bernstein, now with the Northern Sierra Partnership, for helping move the insurance effort onto the national stage.


Land trust leaders have talked about some form of collective defense for over twenty years, but it wasn’t until 2000 that viable national solutions appeared from the western efforts.  We owe these visionary leaders and thinkers a huge ‘thank you’.

It is inspiring to see 454 land trusts, so far, from 47 states join together to uphold conservation permanence.  Almost 70% of the conservation easements in America are committed to the proposed conservation defense insurance program with the exception of the easements held by the 10 largest self-insured land trusts. That collective action is a formidable defense to the numerous and increasing challenges to conservation.

Funders are impressed with this commitment and having even more land trusts join will make raising the necessary $4 million dollars to capitalize the program possible.  So if your land trust is looking at committing to the proposed program, you still have time to join your colleagues across the country.

Questions?  Need help talking with your board about this idea?  Call or write to:
Leslie Ratley-Beach
Conservation Defense Director
Land Trust Alliance
44 Deerfield Drive
Montpelier, VT  05602
802-262-6051 phone and fax


Photo Credits
Dan Pike/Photo by Cecelia Thomas
Jessica Jay/Photo by Travis Clark
Darla Guenzler/Photo by Jean Cotton
Paul Sihler/Photo courtesy of Paul Sihler
Michael Whitfield/ Photo by Kisa Koenig Photography
Andy Dana/Photo courtesy of Andy Dana
John Bernstein/Photo courtesy of Northern Sierra Partnership
Liz Bell/Photo by Tim Greyhavens

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Support from land trusts

Christian Freitag, attorney-at-law and executive director at Sycamore Land Trust (IN), says "I view Conservation Defense Insurance as another step the land trust community is taking to keep our promises. We claim that we will help people protect their land in perpetuity. With this program, the public can be more confident than ever that we take that commitment seriously."


Greg Gamble, executive director at Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (CA), says that "this is one of the most helpful things that the Land Trust Alliance could attempt for its members, and I have greatly appreciated the professional, thoughtful, fair and inclusive process that you have led."


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