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Land Conservation Groups Join Growing Number Accredited by Commission

August 3, 2011 | Saratoga Springs, NY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Laura DiBetta
Program Manager, Land Trust Accreditation Commission
518-587-3143 | ldibetta@landtrustaccreditation.org

Number of Accredited Groups Reaches 135

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY -- The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, announced today the accreditation of five land trusts, bringing the total number of land conservation groups from across the country that have earned this important distinction to 135.

“This round of accreditation decisions comes at an important time as land trusts and their supporters work to save land in an uncertain economic environment,” said Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn. “Accreditation provides the public with an assurance that land trusts meet high standards for quality and that their conservation work is permanent.”

Conserving land helps ensure clean air and drinking water, safe food, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat and places for people to enjoy nature. Across the country, local citizens and communities have come together to form land trusts to save the places they love. These groups have conserved over 37 million acres of land.

“Congratulations to the 135 land trusts that have been awarded accreditation,” said Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance. “This is a significant milestone and proves that land trusts of every size and from every region have what it takes to earn the public’s trust, as well as the confidence of Congress and the IRS who have granted land conservation special tax incentives.”

The five newly accredited land trusts are as follows:

  • Chestnut Hill Historical Society (PA)
  • Delaware Highlands Conservancy (PA)
  • Genesee Valley Conservancy (NY)
  • Summit Land Conservancy (UT)
  • Winnakee Land Trust (NY)

Each land trust is filling an important niche in their community, and the accreditation program celebrates their diversity and creativity in protecting the special places people love. What they all have in common is their proven commitment to meeting national standards for excellence, upholding the public trust and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent. These land trusts are among the 135 land trusts from across the country that have been awarded accreditation since the fall of 2008. A complete list of accredited land trusts can be found on the Commission’s website, www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

“We are delighted that accreditation has been granted by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission,” said Genesee Valley Conservancy (GVC) Board President Dr. Myrtle Merritt. “This recognition validates our mission ‘to protect the habitat, open space and farmland of the Genesee Valley Region.’”

“The Conservancy believed that we owed it to the donors, the landowners, and most importantly to the open space we protect to be as strong and as efficient as possible,” said Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox. “Achieving and maintaining accreditation demonstrates our dedication to the highest standards of nonprofit management and conservation practices in the nation.”

“The Commission provides a tremendous service to the land trust community,” said Lucy Hayden, executive director of Winnakee Land Trust (WLT). “They have developed an opportunity for land trusts to publicly show that they are operating at the highest level of public service and accountability in protecting the nation’s open space, farmlands, and parklands. Accreditation not only forces a land trust to better know itself, but to show evidence of its compliance with all the field’s best practices.”

Land trusts applying for accreditation submit extensive documentation and make a significant commitment of time and money to participate. In a rigorous review process, the Commission examines each application, interviews the land trust and evaluates multiple sources of information, including comments from the public.

All of the accredited land trusts have made significant investments in their organizations, even as they faced tough choices about how to allocate resources. “Through the accreditation process land trusts have taken the time to conduct important planning and to make their operations more efficient and strategic,” said Van Ryn. “Accredited organizations have dramatically increased the funding dedicated to stewarding and defending conservation land in perpetuity, engaged and trained board members and new citizen conservation leaders, and improved systems for managing land and ensuring that the terms of conservation easements are being upheld.”

“The rigorous accreditation process was immensely beneficial to GVC,” said Eric Grace, Executive Director. “It gave us the opportunity to dive into all areas of the organization, evaluate our procedures and make the changes necessary to be a land trust that operates with the highest ethical and legal standards.”

“The accreditation process is essentially a thorough organizational audit in which you review every file and drawer and binder against an exhaustive checklist that vets every aspect of land trust practice,” said Hayden. Your organization is submitted to a complete physical. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the Land Trust Alliance provides all kinds of support, both before you begin and as you are working through. In the process, with the Alliance’s assistance, WLT upgraded 100 percent of its baseline documentation, revisited critical policies, and was advised on many detailed areas of best practices. That assistance goes hand-in-hand with the audit. It’s a two-way system.”

“We are pleased to expand the list of accredited land trusts with the addition of these 17 land trusts from across the country,” said Van Ryn. “The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation, signifying that the accredited group meets national standards for excellence, upholds the public trust and ensures that conservation efforts are permanent.”


About The Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, awards the accreditation seal to community institutions that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Commission is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. More information is available on the Commission’s website, www.landtrustaccreditation.org.


About The Land Trust Alliance

The Land Trust Alliance is a national conservation group that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation throughout America. It works to increase the pace and quality of conservation by advocating favorable tax policies, training land trusts in best practices and working to ensure the permanence of conservation in the face of continuing threats. 2007 marked the 25th anniversary of the Alliance. The Alliance publishes Land Trust Standards and Practices and provides financial and administrative support to the Commission. It has established an endowment to help ensure the success of the accreditation program and keep it affordable for land trusts of all sizes to participate in accreditation. More information can be found at www.landtrustalliance.org.

Learn more about the five newly accredited land trusts >>

See a list of all 135 accredited land trusts that have been accredited since the fall of 2008
>>

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