Matt Heid is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in AMC Outdoors, Yankee, and other publications. He is the author of AMC’s Best Backpacking in New England.
The Trustees received accreditation in 2010, one of only four land trusts in Massachusetts – and 130 nationwide – to earn the distinction. Now The Trustees are using their experience to help other Massachusetts land trusts meet the challenge through its Massachusetts Land Trust Acceleration Program, a grant-funded partnership of The Trustees’ Putnam Conservation Institute (PCI), the Open Space Institute, and the Land Trust Alliance created to help other Massachusetts land trusts prepare for the accreditation application process.
Applying for land trust accreditation is a difficult undertaking, especially for small land trusts. “We have 1.6 staff,” explains Jane Calvin, executive director of the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust. “And I’m one of them.” Calvin’s organization is one of 14 land trusts around the state participating in the Acceleration Program, which is managed by PCI. Each receives a $15,000 grant to help them prepare to apply for accreditation. “The funding is critical for providing the motivation and capacity to undertake such a large project,” Calvin notes. “We wouldn’t have been able to tackle it without The Trustees’ support.”
“The Acceleration Program is a three-year process to help these land trusts prepare for the accreditation application,” explains program leader Andrea Freeman, PCI and Doyle Community Park and Center programs director for The Trustees. “Once accepted, each land trust receives part of the grant to complete an organizational assessment and create a work plan and budget. Once this is approved, they receive the remaining funds to help complete their preparation. Our goal is to strengthen our fellow land trusts so that the land they care for here in Massachusetts will be protected permanently.”
For most organizations, just preparing to submit the application is hugely beneficial. “The process is the reward as much as the final accreditation,” Freeman notes. Calvin echoes the sentiment. “The program has helped us get organized, develop a timetable, and engage our board. What’s really great is that there’s a team of other land trusts going through the same process. We’re all able to get together, bat ideas around, and overcome obstacles as a group.” She expects to submit her application for accreditation in spring 2013.
With The Trustees’ accreditation application process now behind him, Rodstrom reflects on its positive effects. “We’ve demonstrated that even one of the oldest and largest land trusts can make substantial improvements and become an even stronger organization,” he says. “Now we’re helping other groups improve their practices, get accredited, and increase the capabilities of land trusts across the Commonwealth.”