Sunset at Litchfield Land Trust’s fall fundraiser at Arbutus Farm. Photo by Amy Blaymore Paterson, Connecticut Land Conservation Council
Five percent may seem small, but when it refers to the amount of land protected by land trusts in Connecticut, it amounts to quite a bit: 190,193 acres to be exact.
What happens on that land is as varied as the 137 land trusts that exist in the state, but the benefits are real to all of us– from after-school programs and community farms to providing places for recreation, protecting clean air and water, and enhancing important wildlife habitat.
As the state’s land trust service center, the Connecticut Land Conservation Council provides training and education, technical assistance, opportunities for networking and collaboration, and advocacy for Connecticut’s land trusts and broader conservation community.
One such collaboration was created through the Council’s 2017 Land Trust Advancement Initiative, funded by the Connecticut Community Foundation. The initiative identified three land trusts in the Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills region to explore opportunities for stronger collaborative relationships with Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust and the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative.
“Through this initiative, we were able to tap into the region’s existing resources and relationships to strengthen collaborations among these groups,” said Amy Blaymore Paterson, executive director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council.
Weantinoge has conducted an assessment of the three land trusts to determine their needs and help identify projects that could benefit all organizations. The next step is to bring all of the partners together to select projects and develop implementation plans that rely heavily on existing resources.
Paterson admits that collaboration can be tricky.
“There is a sensitivity in putting together a collaboration; it takes time to build relationships and figure out what collaborative model will work the best,” she said.
The Council offers a range of opportunities for land trusts to explore collaboration, and has found success inviting people to facilitated meetings to talk and exchange ideas with their regional peers about topics of interest related to their conservation work.
“The conversations invite interest, build trust and foster relationships. Ideas are generated and people start asking, ‘how can we all help each other and work together to strengthen land conservation?’”
The Council’s advancement initiatives enable land trusts and others to take a deeper dive into crafting solutions to their individual organizational challenges and, together, work out the details of implementation for greater conservation impact in the region.
“Building connections to strengthen land conservation is what we do,” said Paterson. And they do it well. The 2017 initiative received the Connecticut Community Foundation’s Trustee Fund Award, recognizing the Council’s successes in creating collaborations and partnerships to make our region better.
The real benefit? Quoting a Council steering committee member, Paterson said, “‘Land is life.’ Clean water and air, climate change, public health, wildlife habitat, strong economies, and quality of life – they are all connected. Land plays a crucial part in all of those things, and it is our moral obligation to conserve it for the benefit of future generations.”
Story by Laurel Kelly for Connecticut Community Foundation