Archived entries for accreditation

Driftless Area Land Conservancy Earns National Recognition

Strong Commitment to Public Trust and Conservation Excellence

At a time of political change, one thing is clear: Americans overwhelmingly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 2001 Driftless Area Land Conservancy (“Driftless”), one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States, has been doing just that for the people of Southwest Wisconsin.

Now Driftless is pleased to announce it has achieved national recognition, joining a network of only 372 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.

To be accredited demonstrates our commitment to permanent land conservation in Southwest Wisconsin,” said Mike Van Sicklen, Driftless’ board president. “Financial supporters, conservation partners and landowners should all feel comfort in the knowledge that we’re a strong, ethical and fiscally responsible organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program.

Driftless Executive Director, David Clutter, and his son are seen here at the 220-acre Erickson Conservation Area in Argyle Wisconsin, which is open for public enjoyment.

Driftless had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation application. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s lands will be protected forever. Over the past 16 years Driftless has conserved 42 different sites covering nearly 7,000 acres of farms, forests and natural areas, including the 220-acre Erickson Conservation Area in Argyle Wisconsin, open for public enjoyment.

Over the years Driftless has also conserved unique historic lands and resources like the Thomas Stone Barn outside of Barneveld, high quality trout streams, productive farmland, critical wildlife habitat for declining grassland birds and endangered species, old-growth woods and native remnant prairies, massive rock outcrops and geological features, and lands that provide buffer unique Wisconsin River backwaters that support threatened and engaged fish.

“It is exciting to recognize Driftless Area Land Conservancy with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes Driftless Area Land Conservancy has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

The National Land Trust Census, released December 1, 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance, shows that accredited land trusts have made significant achievements.

  • Accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not yet accredited.
  • Accredited land trusts also have stronger systems and more resources to steward and defend their conservation lands forever.
  • As a result, the public’s trust in land conservation has increased helping to win support for federal, state and local conservation funding measures.

A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed at

About the Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s purpose is to maintain and enhance the health, diversity and beauty of Southwest Wisconsin’s natural and agricultural landscape through permanent land protection and restoration, and improve people’s lives by connecting them to the land and to each other.

A student birding on one of the properties that is protected by Driftless and free for the public to enjoy.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and 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. For more, visit

About the Land Trust Alliance

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. Based in Washington, D.C., and with several regional offices, the Alliance represents about 1,000 member land trusts nationwide.

The Alliance’s leadership serves the entire land trust community—our work in the nation’s capital represents the policy priorities of land conservationists from every state; our education programs improve and empower land trusts from Maine to Alaska; and our comprehensive vision for the future of land conservation includes new partners, new programs and new priorities. Connect with us online at

This blog post was copied from Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s blog

A Spiritual Haven Saved

We all know that Wisconsin is something special. Just drive north of Highway 29 and you’ll see trees and undeveloped land for miles.   In fact, few places hold the same place in people’s hearts as the northwoods of Wisconsin – a place where people come together or get away; and reconnect with with old friends, traditions, and the land.

Roland Rueckert is a landowner in Oneida County who knows that his land is a special place and wants to keep it that way for generations to come. When speaking about his land, Roland says, “It’s a spiritual place. I come here for sustenance.” By looking at the picture below, we clearly see what Roland is talking about!

Photo of Pelican River from NWLT

Photo of Pelican River from Northwoods Land Trust

Northwoods Land Trust (NWLT), a recently accredited land trust, helped Roland protect this land on Pelican River. In addition to Roland’s property, the land trust has protected almost 10,000 acres of woodland and shoreland in northern Wisconsin to benefit people and wildlife alike, this generation and the next.

“People are looking at the land as a long-term family legacy,” says Bryan Pierce, the Executive Director of the NWLT. And by working with their local land trusts, that is exactly how people like Roland are making sure their land is preserved for forever.

You can watch and read the full story by Ben Meyer and WJFW TV-12 and see for yourself how a family’s legacy has been honored.


Our Hats off To You!

Northwoods Land Trust and Ozaukee Washington Land Trust are accredited!

North Woods bw logoOzaukee Washington logo

After a rigorous review and verification of their practices, procedures, and documents, two Wisconsin land trusts have been newly accredited by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission. This “good housekeeping seal of approval” is a big honor in our industry and we’re incredibly proud of the efforts of these organizations!

These two land trusts join six others in Wisconsin and are among only 207 nationwide.

Both Northwoods and Ozaukee Washington were participants in our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program (LEAP) last year. Through the support they received through this program, together we conducted a guided organizational assessment, created recommendations for improvements and developed a plan to meet them, offered coaching and mentoring to implement these new practices, and awarded each land trust a cash grant to tackle one or more of their highest priorities.

While the credit is entirely in the hands of the staff and boards of these two land trusts, we’re sure proud to have been a part of the process! Seeing land trusts reap rewards like the accreditation seal is music to our ears at Gathering Waters.

Our heartfelt congrats to the staff and board members at Northwoods and Ozaukee Washington Land Trusts!




Kettle Moraine Land Trust Earns National Accreditation

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission announced last week that 23 new land trusts around the nation have earned the accreditation seal, with one Wisconsin land trust among them.

Kettle Moraine Land Trust (KMLT) has become just the fifth Wisconsin land trust to earn this coveted recognition!  A Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program participant, KMLT joins Bayfield Regional Conservancy, Caledonia Conservancy, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, and Mississippi Valley Conservancy.  The Nature Conservancy, which works internationally and has a very active Wisconsin Chapter, was also awarded accreditation last week.

President Jerry Petersen with KMLT’s Accreditation Files

Why is this a big deal?  The accreditation seal is truly a mark of distinction for land trusts because it recognizes that they have met strict national standards for excellence, upholding the public trust and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.

Sue Heffron, a board member for the KMLT, expresses how important achieving accreditation is: “We learned that the steps to protecting and preserving land are not trivial, and must be done correctly. By achieving the seal of excellence through national land trust accreditation, we embrace the serious work of permanently preserving important lands in our community.” Operating with nonprofit excellence is increasingly important as Kettle Moraine Land Trust increases its pace of conservation work in Walworth County.

Congratulations on this supreme achievement!


Three More Wisconsin Land Trusts Receive National Seal

As we previewed last spring, we’re pleased to announce that Mississippi Valley ConservancyBayfield Regional Conservancy, and Caledonia Conservancy are officially accredited!  Our hats are off to you!

See a video we made about the process and hear testimonials from these land trust leaders.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission was incorporated in April 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance to operate a land trust accreditation program to build and recognize strong land trusts, foster public confidence in land conservation and help ensure the long-term protection of land. The Commission is governed by a board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. Commissioners volunteer their expertise to verify that a land trust is carrying out specific indicator practices from Land Trust Standards and Practices.

The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation. It recognizes organizations for meeting national
standards for excellence, upholding the public trust, and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.

The invitation to apply comes after many months, often years, of work revising policy, updating records, and fund-raising to ensure perpetual agreements are upheld.

Previously there had only been one accredited land trust in WI, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, so these three additions are significant!  Each of these organizations has had connections with and received services from GWC and the Land Trust Alliance as recently as this year.  As we look ahead to meeting our goals for the Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Program (LEAP), we’re proud to share with you these accomplishments that align so squarely with our commitment to land trust excellence.

Rally Training – It’s the Real Deal

We’re home and recovered from a long weekend of intensive seminars, workshops, field trips, and receptions at Rally, the Land Trust Alliance’s annual training event.  This year, we were proud to host the thousands of participants in our great state and enjoyed the opportunity to learn from land protection experts from around the country.

We got the latest information from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, participated in conversations that will help us take climate change into account with our work, were joined by several top attorneys and land trust leaders to ask ourselves, “are we doing the right thing” with perpetual conservation easements, and convened our Wisconsin land trust council to discuss future programming for our community.

We were especially excited to celebrate our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program with a reception sponsored by our board member Art Harrington and Godfrey & Kahn.  We are nearly one year in to this signature partnership program with the Land Trust Alliance and are proud that it was highlighted at Rally this year.

Rally is always a unique opportunity to learn from those around us.  The workshop sessions were incredibly useful as were the conversations in the hallway.  The energy was palpable in the conference center and though we left exhausted, we left filled with a sense of elation for what we do.

Next year’s Rally is in Salt Lake City on September 29-October 2.  See you next time in the mountains!

LEAP is Underway!

By Kate Zurlo-Cuva

In January we kicked off the Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Program and are pleasantly surprised by the tremendous positive momentum we have garnered in the land trust community.  Our two years of preparation and development are coming to fruition this summer – we’ve kicked off our first round of customized services grants and have made new trainings universally available to Wisconsin land trusts.

MaryKay O’Donnell from the Land Trust Alliance (our program partner) and I have been furiously aligning our resources for services with the six land trusts receiving an assessment, implementation plan, and a grant to reach a major goal.  Just this past week alone we had the pleasure of beginning an implementation plan on a gorgeous sunny day for the Green Lake Conservancy with a porch-side view of Green Lake itself, began the guided organizational assessment process for the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, and initiated a path to accrediting the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

Green Lake Conservancy board members, Kate, & MaryKay celebrate planning success over lunch

Each of these organizations is the recipient of a multi-year commitment from GWC and the Land Trust Alliance for mentoring, coaching, and improvement activities – these services total nearly $20,000!  The land trust community has collectively pledged a commitment to perpetual land protection and we take this very seriously.  We feel striving for excellence is the key to our future success.

We’ll continue to develop new opportunities to learn from experts in the field as well as our peers in the Wisconsin land trust community.  And, we’ll open up a new period for applications to the customized suite of services for land trust excellence at the end of the year.

Later this year, we’ll head to Lac du Flambeau to tackle a few goals with the Northwoods Land Trust. We’ll also carry out guided organizational assessments with Natural Heritage Land Trust and the Prairie Enthusiasts.

Please support our efforts to strive for excellence in the land trust community.  Your contribution can make the difference in a land trust becoming nationally accredited, contribute to vital trainings to bring land trusts up to industry standards, and assist us with meeting our mission of protecting the places that make Wisconsin special.

We’re Awarding Six Wisconsin Land Trusts with Capacity-Building Grants

On May 11th, we announced that we’ve awarded six capacity-building grants to land trusts in Wisconsin as part of our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program (LEAP).

LEAP, a three-year initiative carried out with our national partner the Land Trust Alliance, provides universal and customized services to every land trust in Wisconsin (50 independent organizations) to grow their capacity and sustainability, ensure that they are legally and financially sound, and ultimately, speed the pace of private land conservation across the state.

Beyond the universal services, these six land trusts will receive customized services in the coming year including a guided organizational assessment, implementation plan, individualized mentoring and coaching, and a discretionary grant for use on a major project such as preparation for national land trust accreditation status.

The six land trusts receiving grants include:

For 17 years, we have provided a variety of universal services to land trusts.  LEAP builds on and enhances this tradition of quality support to land trusts.  In fact, next Thursday all land trust staff and board members are invited to attend a Webinar on board member evaluations, and an in-person workshop on Tax Benefits for land trust work will be held on June 21st in Madison.  We will be unveiling more of our universal services through LEAP in the next year.

Our next round of customized services applications will be announced later this fall and we’ll continuously update and refine our universal services to land trusts.

We are thankful to the following organizations for their support of LEAP: The C.S. Mott Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation , The Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Energy Foundation.

Three WI Land Trusts in the Running for National Honor

We’re pleased to announce that Mississippi Valley Conservancy, Bayfield Regional Conservancy, and Caledonia Conservancy have submitted applications to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.  Our hats are off to you!

See a video we made about the process and hear testimonials from these land trust leaders.

This status demonstrates proof that a land trust is operating beyond reproach in a series of operational and programmatic standards and practices. Independent accreditation provides the assurance of quality and permanence of land conservation the public is looking for and publicly recognizes a land trust’s ability to protect important natural places and working lands forever.

The invitation to apply comes after many months, often years, of work revising policy, updating records, and fund-raising to ensure perpetual agreements are upheld.

There is currently only one accredited land trust in WI, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, so these three applicants are significant!  Each of these organizations has had connections with and received services from GWC and the Land Trust Alliance as recently as this year.  As we look ahead to meeting our goals for the Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Program (LEAP), we’re proud to share with you these accomplishments that align so squarely with our commitment to land trust excellence.

More information on the Land Trust Accreditation Commission can be found here.

Gathering Waters • 211 S. Paterson St. Suite 270 • Madison, WI 53703 • PH 608-251-9131 • FX 608-663-5971 •