Across America, citizens and communities have formed more than 1,700 land trusts and worked with willing landowners to conserve more than 47 million acres of farms, forests parks and other open spaces. They are actively involved in countless trail and rail trail projects, as well.
However, only 342 land trusts in the United States are accredited, which means they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust and ensure conservation efforts are permanent. The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction. Accreditation renewal, which must be completed every five years, provides the public with an assurance that accredited land trusts continue to meet exceedingly high standards for quality.
As I recently stepped aboard as executive director of Winnakee Land Trust based in Rhinebeck with an operating area in Northern Dutchess County, one of my first challenges has been to work closely with the Board and take the organization through the renewal process to re-up accreditation for another five years. Our full application is in and we await word on the final steps toward renewal. Accreditation renewal has been an opportunity for Winnakee Land Trust to engage in continuous improvement, to be sure that we stay strong and vibrant and worthy of the confidence and resources our community entrusts to us “in perpetuity.”
This achievement demonstrates our commitment to permanent land conservation that benefits the entire community. While Winnakee Land Trust has established itself as a leader in local land protection, we are stronger today having gone through the rigorous accreditation renewal process.
We are in good company. For those considering a move upstate into the Mid-Hudson region, you should know that there are a preponderance of accredited land trusts including Columbia Land Conservancy, Dutchess Land Conservancy, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Mohonk Preserve, Oblong Land Conservancy, Open Space Institute Land Trust, Orange County Land Trust, Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson Land Trust, Wallkill Valley Land Trust, and Westchester Land Trust. Others such as the Kingston Land Trust and the Woodstock Land Conservancy are taking steps on the way to accreditation. If you are looking for a great way to immerse yourself in the long-term vitality of the place you live, I urge you to get involved with your local land trust!
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 1,100 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, based in Saratoga Springs, New York, inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing land trust organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and that strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country.