There are hundreds of land trusts across America. Accredited status conveys to landowners and supporters the message: “Invest in us. We are a strong, effective organization you can trust to conserve your land forever.” The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction.
The public is increasingly demanding accountability from government and nonprofit organizations, including land trusts. Independent accreditation provides the assurance of quality and permanence of land conservation the public and donors look for, and publicly recognizes a land trust’s ability to protect important natural places and working lands forever.
Preparing for accreditation and the application process also affords land trusts the opportunity to review and implement policies that will help streamline their operations and lead to more effective land conservation.
“Accreditation ensures that the special places we have and will conserve in the future will be preserved for the next generation. And we believe if these places are important enough for us to protect, then they are important enough for us to do it right.”
- Freshwater Land Trust (AL)
Conservation Defense Insurance
Accredited land trusts are automatically eligible for the proposed conservation defense insurance program and will receive an automatic premium discount of $11 per insured unit.
Federal Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)
Land trusts applying for GRP funds for conservation easements must meet the provisions outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill and GRP Rule. The new GRP rule also requires a dedicated account (Natural Resources Conservation Service policy calls for at least $50,000) for the purposes of legal defense, monitoring and management for each GRP easement or accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.
Colorado State Certification
In 2008, the State of Colorado passed a law that in order for a donor to receive a tax credit for a donation, the holder of the conservation easement must be certified by the state. Recognizing the rigor of the national land trust accreditation program, there is an expedited certification process for accredited land trusts.
The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation works in the 13-county Chicago region and the nine counties in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina. Because it supports accreditation, land trusts that are based in their area of operation that have already received support from the foundation have been given unsolicited grants of $10,000 each when they earn accreditation.
Accredited Land Trust Survey
The Land Trust Alliance conducted a survey of 113 accredited land trusts in late 2010. Of the roughly 60 responses that were received:
- 96% report the process strengthened their organization
- 63% report it being easier to meet agency/funder requirements
- 51% of those with staff report the sense of teamwork among staff is stronger
“Accreditation is important in showing the communities we serve that our organization has a solid foundation and delivers a professional program. It will give landowners additional confidence to work with us to permanently conserve their land, and assure donors that their support is well-placed.”
- Coastal Mountains Land Trust (ME)