Once slated for 87 condominiums and an expansion of the nine-hole Tanglewood Lakes Golf Club, a 41-acre parcel in the heart of Anchorage will be a natural, undeveloped city park, thanks to the work of the Great Land Trust, which received some money from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to purchase the land in late December 2000. The land trust donated the land to the city of Anchorage with a conservation easement that ensures the land will remain in its natural state forever. The land includes the headwaters of Furrow Creek. The land trust purchased the property from a real estate investment group at the urging of local residents, who valued the land as a quiet and untouched area to ski, walk dogs or watch wildlife. Working with local biologists, the trust identified the wildlife values of the site, where diverse species of songbirds and shorebirds, eagles, owls, wolves, moose and bears have been seen.
That’s the Land Trust Alliance’s ready reply to more than 3,000 inquiries, panicked calls and “shot in the dark” searches from land trusts, individuals and landowners concerned about the increasing loss of open space.
As in past years, LTA’s Information Services department is “information central” for land conservationists. The department answers calls, letters and Web inquiries from landowners interested in protecting their lands, attorneys, appraisers and other professionals allied with land conservation field and, most frequently, from land trusts that seek the expertise that only LTA has at its fingertips.
LTA’s regional programs are often the frontlines of inquiry for land trusts that have come to rely upon the experience and insights they can find nowhere else. On average, each regional office answers several hundred inquiries each year.
In 2000, the department completed LTA’s third Salary and Benefits Survey to help land trusts gauge how competitive they are in the employment market. LTA is the only source of such information, central to helping land trusts recruit and keep the best staffers on behalf of land protection. The survey found that executive directors’ average annual salaries rose a solid 35 percent from levels in 1998, and that the number of land trusts offering retirement benefits doubled.
LTA also laid the groundwork for the creation of LTA Net, a searchable Web site to allow land conservationists to access essential documents, archival information and LTA publications and a service that will revolutionize research for LTA members. LTA Net will become operational in late 2001.
LTA expanded its seminal library of land conservation texts and videos by issuing the Third Supplement to The Federal Tax Law of Conservation Easements, the nation’s most comprehensive text on the subject. LTA remains the single most reliable and authoritative source of comprehensive information for the land conservation field.
Exchange, the quarterly journal for the land conservation movement, is relied upon by those in the field for its in-depth and timely coverage of issues that are of most currency to the movement. Landscape, LTA’s color newsletter, helps make the issues and successes of land trusts understandable to land trusts’ supporters across the nation.
CIRCLING THE GLOBE
LTA continued in 2000 to spread the word on land trusts beyond the borders of the United States. Several staff members made presentations to international conferences on land conservation:
LTA President Jean Hocker traveled to the University of Guelph in Ontario for the first Canadian Land Trust Conference, to conduct a workshop on land trust Standards and Practices and participate in a Panel for International Conservation. LTA also participated in other land trust meetings in Ontario and British Columbia during the year.
At the Third Inter-American Congress on Private Land Conservation, held in Costa Rica, LTA/Northeast Program Associate Anthony Colyer-Pendás spoke on conservation easement monitoring and the past, present and future of private land conservation in the United States. Nearly 20 countries from North America, Central America and South America were represented.
LTA Eastern Region Director Tammara Van Ryn spoke on “Land Stewardship: A New Paradigm in Nature and Land Conservation” at a meeting co-hosted by two Spanish nonprofit organizations and held in the Catalonia region of Spain.
LTA Vice President for Programs Andrew Zepp traveled to Slovakia for a meeting of Eastern European conservationists organized by Cornell University. He spoke about the history of land trusts and the increasing use of conservation easements.
Making Quality Count
During 2000, LTA completed the design of an ambitious Land Trust Quality Initiative, an effort to provide every land trust with the tools it needs to ensure their effectiveness as well as an opportunity to achieve true excellence in land conservation. Through the Initiative and over the next few years, LTA will provide each of its Sponsor members with assistance in implementing land trust Standards and Practices.
The Initiative also will institute a staff exchange program that will provide experienced land trust practitioners with the opportunity to exchange ideas and techniques with their peers. In its early stages, the program will focus on increasing assistance to land trusts on organizational development and implementation of land trust Standards and Practices, designing and implementing an organizational self-assessment process, conducting research into options for collective conservation easement defense, and piloting a peer exchange program.
To inform the design of the Initiative, LTA undertook an assessment of some New England land trusts and public agencies to identify common factors contributing to strong conservation easement stewardship program.
In researching its report, How Strong Are Our Defenses:
The Results of the Land Trust Alliance’s Northern New England Conservation Easement Quality Research Project, LTA conducted detailed interviews with land conservationists from three public agencies and 15 nonprofit land trusts in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. “If self-examination is a stepping stone to maturity, this report marks a significant step in the maturing of the land trust movement,” noted LTA President Jean Hocker in the report’s foreword.
LTA, in cooperation with the Bay Area Open Space Council (CA), launched a project to assess various options for strengthening the collective defense of conservation easements. Although land trusts strive to build strong easement stewardship programs and the financial resources needed to defend easements, LTA, in undertaking the project, recognized that a collaborative approach could provide yet stronger assurances.
LTA continued to offer comprehensive insurance at a very competitive rate, a program in which more than 450 land trusts took part. The “Conserve-A-Nation” Insurance Program, by Franey, Parr & Muha, Inc., provides sound coverage at a good price, obviating the need for land trusts to waste time shopping for insurance rather than conserving open spaces.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) purchased 940 acres on Frenchboro Long Island for $2.1 million, helping residents to protect more than half of their island. The project also included restoring the community school, expanding the library, creating a town-owned boat launch, providing land for affordable housing and an endowment to make payments in lieu of property taxes. The town, with a year-round population of 45, called on MCHT and two other nonprofit organizations—the Island Institute and the Maine Sea Coast Mission—to step in when the land was listed for sale.At a Location Closer to You
In June 1998, LTA embarked on a four-year odyssey to expand its network of field representation from three regional programs to eight, eventually serving land trusts from coast to coast.
LTA made substantial progress toward that goal in about half that time.
In 2000, LTA added two new regional programs—in the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic—and vastly transformed its New York Program to become the Northeast Program. By the end of 2000, LTA had five regional programs that served more than 960 land trusts in 35 states.
While each regional program’s approach is tailored to the specific needs of land trusts in the area, all regions offer training and conferences to further the education of land conservationists. They also all provide technical assistance, organizational development help and coordination and grants to further land protection work across the country.
The results of LTA’s work are telling.
The Land Trust Alliance Northwest Program, established in 1995 with offices in Seattle, WA, has delivered services to a region heralded for the explosive growth in acreage protected. Since 1997, the first year for which reliable figures are available, northwest land trusts have increased protected acreage by 17 to 20 percent annually. As land trusts demand more services, LTA/Northwest has accommodated. In just the first six months of 2000, LTA/Northwest staff visited 45 of the 63 land trusts in the six-state region.
But LTA did not rest there. In 2000, it laid the groundwork to launch a Pacific Program in 2001 to serve more than 125 land trusts in California, Nevada and Hawaii. In anticipation, LTA convened land trust leaders from the region and completed a preliminary needs assessment in 2000.
In the northeast, the program has been fashioned to provide direct services to the approximately 80 land trusts in New York and to work with the six statewide service centers and coalitions in the New England states to give support to the approximately 420 land trusts in the region.
Headquartered in Saratoga Springs, NY, the Land Trust Alliance Northeast Program in 2000 began the essential research and feasibility study for a ground-breaking policy initiative—to be introduced in the New York Legislature in early 2001—that would provide tax incentives for greater land protection. LTA/Northeast met with the key New York state officials and members of the governor’s staff to present the concept of what LTA began calling the Private Land Conservation Incentive Program.
The new Land Trust Alliance Midwest Program, launched in September to serve a dozen states, provides technical assistance to land trusts as well as capacity-building grants and education programs, among other services. Headquartered in Portage, MI, LTA/Midwest will initially focus on the Great Lakes region, where development pressures have been greatest. In just the first few months on the job, Director Renee Kivikko traveled more than 4,800 miles and met with more than 35 land trusts and several foundations in the region.
The Land Trust Alliance Mid-Atlantic Program, launched in May 2000 and based in Wilmington, DE, forged an early partnership with the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association (PALTA). LTA assisted PALTA in hiring its first executive director. The two organizations are working in concert to build land conservation capacity in a state with more than 80 land trusts. The two organizations will work to provide land trusts with the information, training and outreach to government agencies and the public to ensure that land protection efforts are their most effective. LTA/Mid-Atlantic also provides services to land trusts in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia.
Among a host of projects undertaken in 2000, the Land Trust Alliance Southwest Program began a systematic public outreach program to provide accurate information to the ranch and farm communities about conservation easements and land protection techniques. Agricultural periodicals, previously unaware of the strides made by land trusts, began to report on land conservation.
Additionally, LTA/Southwest facilitated a series of three meetings for a dozen land trusts and conservation organizations in New Mexico to improve coordination among the organizations and develop a statewide plan for land trusts services. The work is expected to continue in 2001.
In the southeast, LTA planned the launch of a regional program. A series of meetings helped LTA gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the land conservation community, information that will be used as guideposts as LTA expands its efforts in 2001.