Monday, February 27, 2017

Congratulations! Avalonia achieves National Land Trust accreditation

By Beth Sullivan
By now I hope you have heard the news, read the press releases, or have noted the fireworks. Achieving national accreditation is a huge milestone.
Being able to display that logo on our website reflects so much effort and commitment by a dedicated group of volunteers who sacrificed the better part of the last couple of years reaching for this. And the actual planning and preparation began in 2005, if not earlier.

A look in the mirror to start

First was the assessment of the organization, a self -assessment, like looking into all the corners, stripping off the dust covers and really taking a close look at where we stood when held up to the Land Trust Alliance’s (LTA) Standards and Practices. Yikes, it’s worse than getting into a bathing suit in February.
Avalonia protects varied habitats from shore to inland forest and all in between. 

Take a look at the LTA website and try to read the Standards and Practices. Chapter by chapter, bullet point by bullet point, it lays out the standards of excellence that are expected in all areas of a land conservation organization. There is so much more to the formalities of governance than one tree hugger could imagine. There are polices, practices, and charters for each standing committee: Governance, Finance, Personnel, Development, Acquisition, and Stewardship. Each Town committee has a charter to follow with goals, objectives and deliverables.
Education about our irreplaceable resources is part of our mission. 

Over the next period the organization took each point and answered the questions about how well it measured up to expectations. In very many ways we were doing great. As is the case with just about anything though, documentation is the crux of the whole thing…if it isn’t documented, you can’t prove it is done. So the next years followed in making sure all our processes and procedures, things we have been doing right, were properly documented for the long term. It is quite an eye opening experience to put all the great work that has happened in nearly a half century, into organized files, digitized, prioritized and able to be looked at and approved. Some folks were great at the finances part. Others understood the organizational guidelines. Others of us worked to make sure all our property documentation was in order and all knew, in no uncertain terms, our responsibilities as stewards of the land.
Fleeting beauty should be accessible to all. Photograph by Rick Newton.

A regional land trust

Also remember that Avalonia is a regional Land Trust, not just dealing with one town with a few properties, but properties in eight southeastern CT towns and over 3500 acres. And it has been in existence for almost 50 years. The times have changed; the standards and practices of working with land and donors has changed. Laws have changed. Everything was reviewed for the future.
Our properties protect cultural aspects of human history on the land.

We all sure learned a lot. For the last two years, a dedicated core of people, spear headed by a few who deserve halos, shed blood, sweat, and tears to make sure every one of those bullet points was answered. And if there were any omissions or deficiencies, plans were made and policies enacted to make sure, going forward, that we would be compliant every step of the way.
Preserve space for future generations to enjoy and learn from.

Again a comparison: it was like taking a well-loved but somewhat over grown and over stuffed house, tossing everything on the floor and bit by bit examining, sorting, and reorganizing within a new and efficient structure that will help us forward. By last fall, the giant binder with all the organizational proof and plans was turned over to the LTA judges. They poured over it, bit by bit, called with questions, clarified and verified.
The reward was ever so sweet: By mid-February the verdict was in; the call came to our BOD first and announced to all on Feb 22. Avalonia Land Conservancy had achieved Accreditation by the very strict standards of the Land Trust Alliance.
Stewardship is at the heart of our mission. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Our members, donors, and supporters will know that we are on a solid footing, and in a very good place, as we plan for our next 50 years and beyond.
Thank you to the leaders and every individual who helped get us to this point. It takes a village to protect our precious land.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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