Newcastle, ME – The Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association has achieved land trust accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. This distinction is the result of a three-year effort, involving the entire board and staff, to review and update the operations of the Association and demonstrate that SVCA complies with national standards for land trusts.
“Going through the process of becoming accredited has been the single most valuable experience for the SVCA's Board and Staff in preparing for our next phase of growth as an organization,” says Honor Fox Sage, Board President. “The process of self-evaluation and the development, adoption and enactment of policies and procedures has not only made us more efficient in our operations, it has raised our awareness as a group about our mission and our interaction with our community.”
The Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association was founded in 1969 to both conserve land and advocate for the environment. This was, and still is, an unusual combination of goals for a land trust in Maine to adopt. The SVCA has done so successfully, having demonstrated the ability to identify important conservation goals and then carry them out while simultaneously being a voice for conservation in local issues.
SVCA has been involved in such issues as nuclear power, industrial plants that threatened ground water quality, new road proposals, alternative energy proposals and bridge design and placement on US Route 1, the major artery crossing our watershed. It is not an easy task to take positions on the important development issues of the day while remaining a trusted conservator of land and holder of conservation easements. The SVCA has been successful by choosing issues carefully, taking educated positions and clearly communicating them.
While advocacy is an important aspect of SVCA's work, land conservation is the SVCA's primary mission. The Association has worked with many conservation-minded landowners to protect 3,569 acres of working farms, forests and important habitat in over 50 conservation properties including 7 preserves open to the public for low-impact recreation. The SVCA has joined with neighboring land trusts in a number of collaborative conservation projects including the River~Link effort to link the Damariscotta and Sheepscot Rivers and existing public preserves in Newcastle, Edgecomb and Boothbay.
Most recently, the SVCA has been a leader of the new 12 Rivers Collaborative, a group of 10 local land trusts seeking to accelerate conservation of the forested landscape from the Kennebec to the St. George to achieve a network of conserved lands that protects the midcoast's ecosystems and ensures multiple human benefits for generations to come.
In an effort to help all land trusts and local environmental organizations succeed, the SVCA offers its GIS mapping capabilities at cost to the conservation community. Many towns have also used this service for comprehensive planning and shoreland zoning work.
Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association was awarded accreditation this August and is one of only 181 land trusts from across the country that has been awarded accreditation since the fall of 2008. Accredited land trusts are able to display a seal indicating to the public that they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent. The seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation.
“Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever,” said Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn. “The accreditation seal lets the public know that the accredited land trust has undergone an extensive, external review of the governance and management of its organization and the systems and policies it uses to protect land.”
According to the Land Trust Alliance, conserving land helps ensure clean air and drinking water, food security, scenic landscapes and views, recreational places, and habitat for the diversity of life on earth. In addition to health and food benefits, conserving land increases property values near greenbelts, saves tax dollars by encouraging more efficient development, and reduces the need for expensive water filtration facilities. Across the country, local citizens and communities have come together to form more than 1,700 land trusts to save the places they love. Community leaders in land trusts throughout the country have worked with willing landowners to save over 47 million acres of farms, forests, parks and places people care about. Strong, well-managed land trusts provide local communities with effective champions and caretakers of their critical land resources, and safeguard the land through the generations.
“The SVCA is excited to have received this distinction and will proudly display our accreditation seal,” says Maureen Hoffman, Executive Director. “While this seal shows that the SVCA has been doing excellent work, we intend to continue to improve and work hard to support our community.”
The Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association is a member organization advocating shared stewardship of Maine's 58-mile Sheepscot River since 1969. Today, more than 3,569 acres and 15 miles of riverfront are protected. The SVCA's ongoing monitoring of water quality helps ensure the watershed's ecosystems stay healthy, including its Atlantic salmon habitat. SVCA's mapping services, technical support and educational programs encourage prudent land use so the resources people value today are conserved forever. For more information visit our website at www.sheepscot.org or call the office at 207-586-5616.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., awards the accreditation seal to community institutions that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. More information on the accreditation program is available on the Commission's website, www.landtrustaccreditation.org.
The Land Trust Alliance, of which the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association is a member, is a national conservation group that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation throughout America. It works to increase the pace and quality of conservation by advocating favorable tax policies, training land trusts in best practices and working to ensure the permanence of conservation in the face of continuing threats. 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the Alliance. The Alliance publishes Land Trust Standards and Practices and provides financial and administrative support to the Commission. It has established an endowment to help ensure the success of the accreditation program and keep it affordable for land trusts of all sizes to participate in accreditation. More information can be found at www.landtrustalliance.org.