Over two thousand people attended the Land Trust Alliance’s Rally 2007 this past weekend. Highlights included an address by Colorado Senator Ken Salazar and a “State of the Alliance” address by LTA’s Director, Rand Wentworth. As the land trust movement has grown, matured, and become mainstream, it is seeing increased scrutiny. Because of the incredible increase in protected lands in Colorado largely resulting from the state’s transferable conservation tax credit, it is at the center of an Internal Revenue Service study of conservation easements. Some landowners in the state have been audited. Land trusts have helped the IRS root out the bad actors so that the good work they do can continue and not be overshadowed by the few “bad apples” looking to take advantage of the process for individual gain. Along these lines, LTA is at the center of an effort to accredit land trusts and to increase the number of organizations who follow its Land Trust Standards and Practices. According to LTA, “accredited land trusts can show the public that they are carrying out the practices that indicate they are operating in an ethical, legal and technically sound manner. This recognition gives the land trust enhanced credibility and respect from donors, partners, members and the public. In addition, the preparation and application process affords applicants the opportunity to review and implement policies that will help streamline their operations and lead to more effective land conservation.”
Other highlights include the increased role public equity is playing in financing land conservation across the country. These groups are using innovative new investment banking models and eco-income streams to bring investors the sort of returns seen in more conventional capital investments, yet with a conservation outcome. With Colorado being at the forefront of land conservation in the West, many other workshops focused on how conference attendees from all over the country could learn from successful Colorado conservation projects, such as the ongoing one in the Laramie Hills, where Larimer County, The Nature Conservancy, and Legacy Land Trust have worked together to protect thousands of acres from the mountains to the plains between Fort Collins and the Wyoming border.
For more on conservation easements, click here.