What it does it mean to be a
nationally accredited land trust?

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In August 2012, Greenwich Land Trust was awarded national accreditation status by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission (LTAC), an independent program of the national Land Trust Alliance (LTA). The LTA has 1,700 member land trusts that span the country. As of 2016, 357 member land trusts have earned this distinction. Since the inception of the LTAC accreditation program, demand has grown dramatically among land trusts for this credential.

NATIONAL ACCREDITATION, A RECENT BENCHMARK
National accreditation by the LTAC is a relatively recent distinction. As land trusts grew rapidly throughout the country in the 1990’s, there also came increased demand for accountability to donors, taxpayers and the land trust community.

In response, the Land Trust Alliance created the Land Trust Accreditation Commission in 2006 as an independent program to administer accreditation. Just as museums, schools and churches are accredited, there now exist national standards for land trusts. The LTA accreditation seal lets the public, donors and supporters know than an accredited land trust has undergone and met a rigorous review of governance, land management, systems and policies it uses to protect land. Accreditation provides the public with an assurance that accredited land trusts meet high standards for quality and that the results of their conservation work are permanent.

To earn accreditation, a land trust must demonstrate that it adheres to the following LTA Standards and Practices, which touch on every aspect of a land trust’s operation:

Standard 1: Mission
Standard 2: Compliance with Laws
Standard 3: Board Accountability
Standard 4: Conflicts of Interest
Standard 5: Fundraising
Standard 6: Financial Asset and Management
Standard 7: Volunteers, Staff and Consultants
Standard 8: Evaluating and Selection Conservation Projects
Standard 9: Ensuring Sound Transactions
Standard 10: Tax Benefits
Standard 11: Conservation Easement Stewardship
Standard 12: Fee Land Stewards

The journey to accreditation for Greenwich Land Trust began in 2005, when the Board of Directors voted to adopt and implement LTA Standards and Practices to manage the hundreds of acres of open space entrusted to GLT in perpetuity. Preparing for accreditation represented a multi year undertaking by GLT staff and volunteers, involving extensive review of every aspect of GLT operations – land stewardship, financial management, board leadership, and legal practices, to meet LTA standards. In addition, staff re-assessed all GLT properties and wrote 73 unique, detailed management plans for GLT fee properties and updated baseline reports for all 17 conservation easements.

A special committee was appointed by the GLT president to prepare the application, an extensive undertaking that required hundreds of additional hours of staff and Board time. The formal application required verifiable documentation of GLT land management, stewardship, and Board practices. In November 2011, the formal application was submitted to the LTAC for consideration. 10 months later, in August 2012, GLT was awarded national accreditation.