Go West!

In early October, Gathering Waters Conservancy staff had to the pleasure of attending the Land Trust Alliance‘s Rally: The National Land Conservation Conference in Salt Lake City.  Some of us were lucky enough to arrive early to explore the beautiful (and quite different from Wisconsin!) landscape:

A view of Canyonlands National Park near Moab.

The Salt Lake Temple in Temple Square, Salt Lake City.

Once the conference began, we were eager to take full advantage of this once-a-year opportunity to meet with and learn from our peers from across the country.  Here are a few highlights from our experience:

  • In a session run by the Willistown Conservation Trust, based in southeastern Pennsylvania, we learned about their community farm program - an innovative program that furthers the organization’s mission of preserving land by deepening the community’s connection between food, land, and nature.

A rendering of Rushton Farm, the setting for the Willistown Conservation Trust’s community farm program.

  • Together with our partners at the Land Trust Alliance, we brought together the land trust staff and board members from Michigan and Wisconsin to discuss recent successes and challenges, and share news of upcoming opportunities to benefit their work.

Wisconsin and Michigan conservationists meet over breakfast at Rally.

  •  The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico provided details on their wonderful and inspirational example of integrating their land trust, scientists and citizens to advance research for conservation, improve management decisions and increase community stewardship.  This is quite an amazing program!
  • Marc Smiley of Solid Ground Consulting and Dale Bonar of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust shared their experiences with the merging of land trusts into an organization with improved capacity and conservation results.  We learned about conditions that lead to successful merger, some alternatives to merger, and insight about how to approach the options using the merger of several Hawaiian land trusts.
  • A major theme of Rally was community engagement and the need to develop new strategies to demonstrate the importance of what land trusts do.  On this note, we were fortunate to attend a workshop in which Colorado Conservation Trust and the Metropolitan Group discussed findings of their two-year community engagement pilot program with the Palmer Land Trust and Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust of Colorado.  We learned how to identify new audiences and stakeholders to support conservation and the value of community engagement in every aspect of an organization.  Very enlightening stuff!

We’re already looking forward to Rally 2013.  Save the date: September 17 - 19 in New Orleans!