Rally ‘Round the Rally

Every year, the land trust community comes together for the annual Rally, sponsored by the Land Trust Alliance. This year’s conference, the final one for stalwart retiring president Rand Wentworth, was held in Sacramento, California.  As usual, it featured the typically rich array of field trips, seminars, workshops, and – perhaps most importantly – plenty of informal time for land trust practitioners to meet and learn from each other.

All in all, Rally is the best way to keep current with nationwide trends in the field, to learn from others what works and what doesn’t, to recharge your batteries by being surrounded by an astounding and diverse number of people dedicated to protecting the natural land jewels of our nation. That’s the reason we attend every year. And that’s the reason we offer scholarships to our land trust grantees in both the Chicago region and the Lowcountry.

Most every year, some of our grantees are included among the featured speakers.  Representing our Chicago grantees, Openlands – with project partner the Liberty Prairie Foundation –presented on its efforts to build a more robust local food system through increasing access to land for local food farmers.  More land for local food complements the natural land conservation work that Openlands and other Chicago region land trusts pursue. For these and many other efforts over the course of its 50 year history, Openlands received the National Land Trust Excellence Award: http://www.landtrustalliance.org/blog/benefiting-community.

Representing our other region, grantee Lowcountry Open Land Trust hosted a panel on how public-private collaborations can produce decisive land protection results. With their partners – The Nature Conservancy SC (another grantee), Boeing, the SC State Ports Authority, The US Forest Service and Open Space Institute – more than 5,000 acres of land vital to the health of the Francis Marion Forest has been protected. This collaboration is a great example of how the business and conservation communities can work together towards common goals.

This Rally was also a great opportunity to celebrate some of the major accomplishments during Rand Wentworth’s tenure as president of LTA. Rand was instrumental in greatly expanding its breadth and scope, including the launch of an accreditation program (for which one of our staff served on the oversight body), and Terra Firma, an insurance program to help land trusts offset the costs of legal challenges for lands they own or ease. The Foundation, which has long supported LTA for its efforts nationally and in both of our regions, thanks Rand for his years of dynamic service and wishes him well in his next adventures.

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