The Sempervirens Fund (CA) signed a contract with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District to purchase the 1,340-acre San Lorenzo River Redwoods for $10.9 million, incurring the biggest debt in its 100-year history to protect land that has the ecological characteristics of an old growth forest. The land trust intends to convey the forest to the state park system as an addition to Castle Rock State Park. The land trust hopes to obtain half of the purchase cost from the state funding of Proposition 12, a conservation funding initiative approved by voters on March 12, 2000. At the same time, the land trust will undertake a major fundraising campaign to complete the deal, which must be finalized by October 2003.
A year-long effort by the Land Trust Alliance, a coalition of land trusts and other conservation-minded organizations resulted in tremendous funding increases for key conservation programs in fiscal year 2001.
Although Congress did not adopt the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), which would have provided assured funding for a variety of conservation programs for 15 years, the effort to pass CARA did bring about significant increases for a number of key conservation programs.
The Forest Legacy Program, which gives matching funds to states for the purchase of conservation easements from landowners of working forestlands, received $60 million, double its allocation of $30 million in fiscal year 2000. Grants to states from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which help to purchase state and local lands, received $90.5 million, up from $40 million in the previous fiscal year.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which provides grants to government and nonprofit organizations—like land trusts—for wetlands protection and restoration, received $40 million as compared to just $15 million in the previous fiscal year. LTA President Jean Hocker is a member of the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, which recommends projects for funding. In recent years, land trusts have received unprecedented support from the NAWCA grants programs.
The widespread support for CARA garnered the attention of Congress and the President, and led to increased funding for conservation. Conservation-minded Members of Congress put new funds into the Farmland Protection Program for the first time since 1996, and made land trusts eligible for the program’s matching grants to purchase conservation easements on farmland. They also changed the law affecting payments to counties from revenues earned on nearby National Forests to allow those funds to be used for purchase of conservation easements.
THE VOTERS HAVE SPOKEN
In 2000, LTA solidified its reputation as a leading research center on state and local referenda regarding open space by collecting the results of every local and state election to raise funds for land protection. The research project was conducted in 1999 and 1998 as well.
There were a record-setting 209 such measures on ballots in 2000; voters approved 83 percent—or 174—of them, providing more than $7.5 billion of public investment in open space. The election results, a foreword by California Gov. Gray Davis, two case studies of elections in which land trusts played key roles, and an analysis of the results were published by LTA as “Voters Invest in Open Space: Referenda Results 2000.” Land trusts across the country have used LTA’s public policy information and statistics from LTA’s referenda research to help their own state and local officials understand the public pulse on land protection.
Essential to LTA’s Public Policy work is the support of its ADVOCATES, a nationwide network of conservation supporters who voluntarily voice their support for land conservation to members of Congress. In 2000, the ADVOCATES network grew by nearly 30 percent.
ADVOCATES receive regular electronic updates from LTA, helping them to keep abreast of legislative issues that affect land trusts and land protection. Those voices help reinforce and add a local perspective to LTA’s voice in Washington, D.C.Spreading the Good News
As the spokesman for the land trust movement, the Land Trust Alliance is the first line of inquiry as reporters write more feature and news stories about sprawl and the solutions offered by the private land conservation movement.
LTA has developed a strong strategy of communications to engage a variety of publications and reporters in covering one of the most important and emerging facets of conservation.
In 2000, LTA succeeded in spreading the news about land trusts by issuing periodic press releases and opinion pieces to a variety of media, including the nation’s largest daily newspapers, broadcast journalists and reporters from specialized media.
LTA worked with the media to place stories in such diverse places as
House & Garden magazine, CNN Financial Network, forbes.com, stateline.org, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Rotarian.
In today’s age of electronic communications, the Internet is often the first stop for information. In response, LTA in 2000 redesigned and updated its Web site, www.lta.org, to expand the scope of information available and to make that information as accessible as possible.
One of the page’s most popular features is one of its newest: a searchable map that instantly connects landowners and others with a land trust in their community.
LTA increased its Web traffic from an average of 16,000 user visits per month in early 2000 to more than 25,000 user visits by December. As a result, hundreds of landowners called LTA or used its Web site to identify a land trust with which they could work to protect land.
The impact of LTA’s work can be seen on the land. One land trust wrote, “We had a visit with a landowner. Her husband and family wanted to think things over. With the help of your article in Personal Finance, their thinking was done.”