A Landmark Accreditation

A Landmark Accreditation

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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.​​

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Special Places, The Trustees' member magazine. To subscribe, join The Trustees today.

 

Last year The Trustees consolidated their entire 120-year history into a room full of boxes and binders containing 370,000 pages of legal documents and historical records for every one of the Trustees’ 105 reservations, 345 conservation restrictions, and numerous assist projects.

By Matt Heid  

The event marked a crucial step in The Trustees’ effort to gain accreditation through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the national Land Trust Alliance that certifies land trusts’ adherence to best practices for land protection and conservation.   

“It was a hugely reassuring moment,” says Chris Rodstrom, Deputy Director of Land and Community Conservation, who chaired The Trustees’ accreditation task force. “Every one of our properties represents a deep commitment by many people to protecting a special place. It’s so important not only to protect these properties, but also their stories and the record of how they came to The Trustees.”
   
Gathering critical documents is only one requirement for successful accreditation. Land trusts must meet a series of rigorous standards to qualify. Annual field surveys must be completed on every property and conservation restriction; internal processes need to be optimized for efficiency and transparency; contingency plans must be in place in the event that a land trust goes bankrupt or dissolves itself. These requirements, along with many others, are designed to ensure the long-term health of land trusts and the properties they protect.
   
“We need strong land trusts that can protect the land they’ve conserved from potential threats, both legal and environmental,” Rodstrom explains. “Accreditation shows that all our policies and procedures are up to highest standards and follow best practices. Donors can feel reassured that their gifts will be safe and that the transaction will be done right. It gives them the confidence to know that we are equipped to protect their property forever.”
   
The Trustees hold 26,000 acres under direct ownership, with another 19,000 acres in conservation restrictions. With 120 years of experience protecting and managing natural and cultural landscapes, The Trustees have long operated with well-established systems and processes in place. But the accreditation process, reflects Rodstrom, has made the organization even stronger. “Even good organizations can make changes to significantly improve,” he explains. “We’re now in a much better position to thrive for the next 120 years.”
   
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