This would be no small achievement even for a large conservation organization, and for the Dutchess Land Conservancy is a real feather in their cap. The voluntary acceditation is not administered by the IRS, as this article erroneously reports, but by the Land Trust Alliance as a self-regulatory mechanism to recognize land trusts that meet the highest standards in our industry. DLC deserves full marks for earning this designation.
The Land Trust Alliance requires that its more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide agree to adopt LTA's overarching Standards and Practices as "guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust, which is run legally, ethically and in the public interest and conducts a sound program of land transactions and stewardship." 37 indicator practices within the S&P form the basis for accreditation, but it is a much more complicated task than merely agreeing to abide by these standards of governance. There is an accreditation commission that provides independant verification and the process is long and involved. Dutchess Land Conservancy is just the 55 Land Trust to receive accrediation since the the first two rounds in 2007 and 2008 were announced.
The Dutchess Land Trust operates out of Millbrook, New York and since 1985 has conserved more than 30,000 acres, especially in the north and eastern sections of the county. It has nine paid staff, a generous cadre of supporters, and is particularly skilled with Geographic Information Systems and at conserving land through the development process. It is a well established regional land trust with a strong local base. Even with these resources, accreditation took a full year of very hard work.
There are many local land trusts, and even some larger ones, that would have a tough time coming up with all the documentation and the track record of compliance that this standard requires. As long as it remains voluntary, some will choose not to seek accrediation because of the time and resources required. There is likely to come a time when being accredited will be a grant stipulation and will force some land trusts to face some difficult decisions aboyut their long-term viability if they do not go for accreditation. They will need extra capacity and outside resources to successfully complete the accreditation process. Some will find those resources (and in my line of work, I hope the program I direct will be able to provide assistance). Some may consider merging. Some will stagnate and some will wither away, like the Mohegan Land Trust in Tolland, CT which is now dissolving.
Dutchess Land Concervancy works in a county with only a handful of other land protection organizations. The Litchfield Greenprint, which covers an adjacent area of comparable size, has a local land trust operating in nearly every of the 27 towns it serves. Over the years these entitities and various state and federal conservation entitities have in aggregate protected more than 20% of Litchfield County. Some are clearly stronmger than others, but most have a clear identity and local mandate. I would much prefer to see them stronger and working more closely together to raise the bar on what we can collectively aspire to conserve in this region. Accreditation may be the wake up call that some of us need to pull together as well as to make our organizations as sound and effective as they can be.