Land Trust Alliance Proposes Accreditation and Training Programs for Land Conservation

Land Trust Alliance Proposes Accreditation and Training Programs for Land Conservation

News story posted in Real Property on 21 April 2005| comments
audience: National Publication | last updated: 18 May 2011
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Summary

The Land Trust Alliance has proposed a voluntary accreditation program and a program of training and technical assistance to ensure the credibility of land trusts, which have been criticized by the IRS and Congress because of improper tax breaks for donations of conservation easements.
Full Text:

Standards and Practices Program Design
Steering Committee's Information Packet

Ensuring the Future of Land Conservation:
A Proposal to Advance Implementation of
Land Trust Standards and Practices
via Accreditation and Training

Who Should Read This Packet and RESPOND?

Land trust board members
Land trust operations and transaction staff
Professionals working with land trusts

Land Trust Alliance

March 2005

This document was created to provide background on a proposed accreditation and training program for the land trust community.

The packet includes the preliminary recommendations of the Steering Committee and is being circulated for review and comment.

Recommendations are not final, so please help to ensure that this document is not used improperly or quoted out of context.

Included in this Information Packet:


Introductory Message from the Steering Committee

Background

Guiding Principles and Information on a Proposed Land Trust Accreditation Program

Steering Committee Recommendations for Discussion

Additional Information

Land Trust Standards and Practices Core Practices

Training and Technical Assistance Support Programs

What You Told Us: Results of the Program Design Survey

Graphic: Proposed Accreditation and Training Process

Frequently Asked Questions

Standards and Practices Program Design Participation Timeline

Land Trust Training and Accreditation Survey

Opportunities to Get Involved: Your Feedback Requested


Definitions

Credentialing is an "umbrella" term that refers to a letter or certificate indicating an individual or organization's authenticity or right to a certain position. Credentialing options include certification, accreditation and various certificates linked to achieving educational objectives.

Accreditation is an evaluation process characterized by the following: an organization with independent decision making and confidentiality procedures oversees the program; the organization uses experts in a particular field of interest to define standards and establish measures and application materials; applicant organizations are reviewed against the measures; accreditation is granted for a period of time; renewal procedures are established; and procedures for appeal, revocation, and other matters are also established.

Please consider the available opportunities to comment on this document (listed on the inside back cover) and provide your comments. Look for this icon for areas in which your comments would be particularly valuable.

Introductory Message from the Steering Committee

Conserving land in perpetuity is a complicated business. It is work land trusts do through promises: to donors, landowners, the public, and to federal and state governing entities. External and internal threats to the future of land conservation may force change, whether the land trust community acts or not. We, the Steering Committee, think it is best for the land trust community to plan for and lead this change. There are no simple solutions, but we think the proposal we have put forward for discussion can help individual land trusts achieve success and create a respected community of land trusts. We look forward to your thoughts.

In October 2004 the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) convened a diverse, 19-member Standards and Practices Program Design Steering Committee of land conservationists. The Steering Committee's charge: to examine threats to the land conservation community; create a proposal for discussion within the land trust community to address these threats; actively seek land trust community input; and make final recommendations.

Over the last four months, we have actively engaged land trusts in discussions, phone calls, and surveys to solicit opinions and strategies for moving forward. Hundreds of land conservationists across the country responded to our national survey in December 2004 and provided their thoughts on challenges to long-term conservation of land.

Based on the input received to date and after much debate and discussion in several multi-day meetings, we recommend for discussion that accreditation, supported by training and technical assistance, is the best way to build strong land trusts and ensure the credibility of the land trust community. Our proposed recommendations include:

  • One voluntary accreditation program based on Land Trust Standards and Practices with two designations: core practices implementation and full implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices.
  • Accreditation based on land trust functions: for all organizations, proficiency in basic organization skills; and, as applicable, proficiency in skills needed to conduct basic transactions, to hold conservation easements, and to hold fee-title.
  • A program of training and technical assistance to help land trusts be successful in accreditation, beginning with specific resources linked to implementing the core practices.

The following document explains the proposed program in more detail. Please read it and take advantage of the opportunities to provide your suggestions about the final program design. See the inside back cover for a full description of feedback opportunities. We will meet again in May to review and discuss all the comments received, and to finalize our recommendations to the Land Trust Alliance board of directors.

Thank you for all you do on behalf of land conservation. We look forward to your comments.

The Program Design Steering
Committee
Background

Call to Action

According to the National Land Trust Census, there are now 1,537 local and regional land trusts - a 27 percent increase over the number operating just five years ago. The number of land trusts, number of conservation easements and number of conservation transactions are growing exponentially. Acreage protected has doubled in just the last five years, and land trusts are protecting more than 800,000 new acres each year.

Congress, donors, the media, and the public are becoming more aware of the community's successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses. These groups have the power to change the way land trusts do business, and some are actively working to do so. Here are just some of the challenges faced by the land trust community:

  • Public Credibility: Media scrutiny of unethical conservation practices across the nation has highlighted the abuses of a few, and that has led government regulators, donors, and the public to question individual land trusts and the larger land trust community. The loss of public trust has endangered every ethical land trust and the critical tools required to conserve land.
  • Court Challenges: Legal challenges to force conversion of conservation land to other uses have increased as undeveloped land becomes scarcer. Adverse court rulings would weaken conservation easements and threaten land protection.
  • Political Intervention: Congress, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and several state governments have launched investigations, announced heightened scrutiny of transactions, and promised legislative reform to curtail perceived abuses and mismanagement. In January 2005, the federal Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) proposed changes that threaten tax incentives for conservation donations. (See www.lta.org for the full JCT report, "Options to Improve Tax Compliance and Reform Tax Expenditures.")
  • Organizational Credibility and Sustainability: Weaknesses within land trusts, such as poor stewardship and easement practices, insufficient resources, inadequate documentation and recordkeeping, and conflicts of interest put permanent land conservation at risk.

Individual land trusts may feel they are immune from these threats, by virtue of their own practices, their community relations, or state government support; yet every land trust stands to be affected by changes in federal law, the influence of one state or court on another, and the potential for a national decline in land trust credibility and support. It is important that the land trust community come together to address these threats and plan for and lead the changes necessary to respond to the challenges.

Response to the Challenges

In early 2004, the LTA board of directors endorsed an exploration of land trust credentialing programs to respond to requests from the land trust community. The requests called for more structured action to strengthen land trusts, to differentiate quality land trusts from uncommitted ones, and to address government proposals to change core land conservation tools. The board proposed a project to determine whether, if properly designed, credentialing could be an effective way to demonstrate the commitment of the land trust community to quality and to its responsibilities to the public.

Steering Committee Formed

In October 2004, LTA convened the 19-member Standards and Practices Program Design Steering Committee to clarify the threats to land conservation and explore credentialing options. To ensure diversity of perspective, the committee members were recruited from a broad cross-section of land trusts representing all sizes, types and geographic locations.

The Land Trust Community Engages in the Process

From the beginning, the Steering Committee and LTA have provided multiple opportunities for land trust staff and board members to comment on the design of a program. At Rally 2004 in Providence, Rhode Island, Steering Committee members met with over 80 land conservationists and solicited their feedback. The Steering Committee received comments on the most serious challenges to permanent land conservation and on the programs and incentives needed to encourage land trusts to implement Land Trust Standards and Practices. Rally conversations were followed by a national survey conducted in December 2004 and January 2005. Over 355 land conservationists responded. (A brief summary of the survey findings are on page 9; a full description of the survey is located at http://www.lta.org/sp/survey_results.htm.) The most important perceived threats to the land trust community, both external and internal, were identified as shown in the side bar. Steering Committee members also conducted over 50 phone interviews or face-to-face meetings in December 2004 and January 2005 to gather additional information and opinions.

The Steering Committee also distributed a Case Statement for Advancing Implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices that was sent to all land trusts in December 2004. The Steering Committee reviewed the results of its outreach activities and then met in February 2005 to prepare the recommendations included in this information packet.

Additional Actions to Address Threats

LTA and others in the land trust community have been working on several activities related to the threats described on the previous page, activities that are not the direct charge of the Steering Committee. These include national, regional and state projects to address easement defense concerns, and policy advocacy at the federal and state level. Also, the Steering Committee has asked LTA to explore how to identify and isolate those organizations that are not operating in the public interest or are operating illegally.

Standards and Practices Program Design Steering Committee Members


David Anderson, LTA Board and Land Trust for Santa Barbara County (CA)

Mary Bradford-White, Barrington Hills Conservation Trust (IL)

Lois DeBacker, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (MI)

Michael Dennis, LTA Board and The Nature Conservancy (VA)

Vicki Elkin, Gathering Waters Conservancy (WI)

Jay Espy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (co-chair)

John Hoffnagle, Land Trust of Napa County (CA)

Steve Horn, California Coastal Conservancy

Larry Kueter, Counsel to Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust and Isaacson Rosenbaum PC (co-chair)

Bill Long, Montana Land Reliance

Ted Mascott, Thousand Islands Land Trust (NY)

Kevin McGorty, Red Hills Conservation Program/Tall Timbers Research Station (FL)

Dale Schumacher, Rockburn Land Trust (MD)

Marc Smiley, Organizational Management (OR)

Ed Speir, Georgia Environmental Policy Institute

Peter Stein, Lyme Timber and LTC Conservation Advisory Services (NH)

Carolyn Vogel, Texas Land Trust Council

Thom Woodruff, formerly Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (MT)

Leigh Youngblood, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust (MA)


Guiding Principles and Information on a Proposed Land Trust Accreditation Program

Overview

The Steering Committee met for two days in February 2005 to review all they had heard from the land trust community through listening sessions, discussions, telephone interviews, and the survey. The Steering Committee evaluated various forms of land trust assessment, credentialing, training, and technical assistance in detail. A consensus was eventually reached, recommending for discussion an accreditation program supported by training and technical assistance.

Guiding Principles

The Steering Committee developed the following principles to guide the design of an accreditation program. The program will:

  • Be developed through a participatory process that responds to the broad needs and concerns of the land trust community, including land trust service centers.
  • Be voluntary.
  • Be accessible to all land trusts committed to quality work.
  • Accept that some land trusts may choose not to become a part of the accredited community.
  • Encourage excellence and improvement.
  • Provide land trusts with the information, training, tools and support to be successful.
  • Explore how to work with service centers, consultants, and others on delivery of services and support.
  • Be responsive to anticipated legislative and regulatory initiatives.
  • Be streamlined.
  • Be affordable for land trusts.
  • Be financially sustainable.

Benefits of Accreditation

A credible national accreditation program will provide the following benefits for a participating land trust or the land trust community:

  • A recognized seal to identify a land trust as meeting all legal and ethical requirements and serving the public interest.
  • Assurance to donors, foundations, and government entities that participating land trusts are proficient in the required core practices needed to implement the services they offer. Accreditation may provide greater access to funding from these groups.
  • Access to a voluntary system to help all land trusts improve their operations and measure their improvement.
  • Help for land trusts to prepare for and respond to potential legislative or regulatory initiatives.
  • Assurance to the public and to government that the land trust community takes its responsibilities seriously and is committed to upholding the public's trust.
Steering Committee

Recommendations for Discussion

The Steering Committee reviewed the many forms of land trust input and discussed various accreditation options with land conservation experts, accreditation specialists and LTA to arrive at their proposed recommendations. After careful consideration, the Steering Committee proposed the following recommendations for a program that would best meet the needs of, and challenges faced by, the land trust community.


1. One voluntary accreditation program with two designations based on Land Trust Standards and Practices:

a. A core practices designation, recognizing land trusts that demonstrate proficiency in the core practices (see page 7).

b. A full implementation designation, recognizing the achievement of those land trusts that fully implement Land Trust Standards and Practices.


2. Land trusts would apply for accreditation for only those functions in which they are engaged:

a. Basic Operations (would be required for all applicant land trusts)

b. Conducting Basic Transactions (those land trusts acquiring land or interests in land)

c. Conservation Easement Holders (land trusts that hold conservation easements)

d. Fee Title Holders (land trusts that hold lands in fee)


For example, if a land trust does not hold easements, it would not have to meet easement requirements.

3. An accreditation program would include eligibility requirements, clear application procedures, a review process, a periodic renewal term (time period not yet determined), and appeals and revocation procedures.

4. To ensure the maximum participation without discrimination, LTA membership would not be required.

5. To ensure impartial decision making and confidentiality, a governing body would be established that has some level of independence from the sponsoring organization.

6. A corresponding program of training and technical assistance will be developed to help land trusts successfully implement Land Trust Standards and Practices and, if applicable, apply for accreditation, beginning with specific services linked to core practices.


Accreditation

is an evaluation process characterized by the following: an organization with independent decision making and confidentiality procedures oversees the program; the organization uses experts in a particular field of interest to define standards and establish measures and application materials; applicant organizations are reviewed against the measures; accreditation is granted for a period of time; renewal procedures are established; and procedures for appeal, revocation, and other matters are also established.

The Steering Committee is soliciting comment on the recommendations listed above. Please refer to the enclosed survey on page 15 (also available online at http://www.lta.org/sp) or review the feedback options listed on the inside of the back cover.

Additional Information

Program Costs

The Steering Committee is committed to making any final program as affordable as possible, and to creating a program that is financially stable and long lasting. Accreditation costs will vary depending on the overall design of the program, the volume of applicants, the manner in which performance is reviewed, the renewal term, subsidies provided by sponsor organizations, and other factors.

After feedback is received on the proposed recommendations, the Steering Committee will consider paper and electronic reviews, on-site peer reviews, and combinations of both. Each approach has costs and credibility issues: paper/electronic reviews are cheaper, provide a less intensive review and do not have as much credibility with regulators; on-site peer reviews provide much higher credibility but at higher costs.

The Steering Committee reviewed many accreditation programs and, in the spirit of full disclosure, found that costs can reach several thousand dollars per organization depending on program design. These fees may be paid at application, or divided over the term of the accreditation period. Every effort will be made to balance costs to land trusts, financial stability for the program, and public credibility. Once the Steering Committee reviews the feedback on these recommendations, it will recommend a final program design. At that time the costs will be determined and the financial feasibility of the design will be confirmed via a business planning process that will include market research.

Program Based on Land Trust Standards and Practices

The national survey showed overwhelming agreement that implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices by land trusts across the country can address many of the threats to long-term land conservation. Thus, the Steering Committee recommended that an accreditation program should be based on Land Trust Standards and Practices.

Survey responses also indicated that full implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices, while the ethical and technical guidelines for all land trusts, may take some organizations years to achieve. Certain practices are more "core" than others in providing the framework for sound operations and protection of the public interest. In a review of Land Trust Standards and Practices and LTA's pilot work with core practices, the Steering Committee agreed that a subset of core practices from Land Trust Standards and Practices could form the primary designation of accreditation. For more on core practices see the next page.

Land Trust Standards and Practices Core Practices

What Are Core Practices?

The Steering Committee has devoted much thought to which Land Trust Standards and Practices should serve as the foundation for an accreditation program -- that is, which "core practices" would be necessary to achieve accreditation. The Steering Committee understands that full implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices represents a high standard of performance. The Steering Committee also believes that it is appropriate for an accreditation program to use as its base a manageable and meaningful subset of core practices from Land Trust Standards and Practices. Demonstrated proficiency in these essential core practices will dramatically increase the protection of the public interest. Nonetheless, full implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices is still the recommended goal for all land trusts to achieve over time, and the proposed accreditation program offers a designation for this level of achievement.

Selection Criteria

The Steering Committee used the following criteria for selecting a conceptual set of core practices:

  • Compliance with all applicable laws and maintenance of an organization's 501(c)(3) status
  • Understanding of and adherence to the Internal Revenue Code (Sections 170[h] and others)
  • Ethical operation
  • Accountability to donors and to the public and protection of the public interest
  • Elements that serve as the foundation for building strong organizations and programs

Core Practices

The following core practices are the Steering Committee's conceptual list of how to meet the criteria above. If an accreditation program moves forward and an accrediting body is established, that entity will refine the core practices and establish measures for meeting the core practices. However, the Steering Committee felt that it was important to provide land trusts with a conceptual list of core practices as the accreditation program is being discussed. (For the complete text of Land Trust Standards and Practices go to http://www.lta.org/sp.)

Basic Organization Skills (required for all applicant land trusts)


1A. Mission
2A. Compliance with Laws
2B. Nonprofit Incorporation and Bylaws
2C. Tax Exemption
2D. Records Policy
3A. Board Responsibility
3C. Board Governance
3F. Board Approval of Land Transactions
4A. Dealing with Conflicts of Interest
4C. Transactions with Insiders
5A. Legal and Ethical Practices
5B. Accountability to Donors
5C. Accurate Representations
6A. Annual Budget
6D. Financial Review or Audit
6E. Internal System for Handling Money
7A. Capacity
7F. Personnel Policies
Additional Skills to Conduct Basic Transactions

8B. Project Selection and Criteria
8C. Federal and State Requirements
8D. Public Benefit of Transactions
9A. Legal Review and Technical Expertise
9G. Recordkeeping
9H. Title Investigation and Subordination
9I. Recording
9L. Transfers and Exchanges of Land
10A. Tax Code Requirements
Additional Skills for Conservation Easement Holders

11A. Funding Easement Stewardship
11B. Baseline Documentation Report
11C. Easement Monitoring
11D. Landowner Relationships
11E. Enforcement of Easements
11I. Amendments
Additional Skills for Fee Title Holders

12A. Funding Land Stewardship
12C. Land Management
12E. Land Stewardship Administration
Training and Technical Assistance Support Programs

The Steering Committee strongly believes that any accreditation program must be supported with training and technical assistance to allow land trusts to improve their operations and achieve success. The Steering Committee has not fully evaluated these programs, and will continue to seek information on how to foster useful and practical training and technical assistance tools. LTA, land trust service centers and others offer many training and technical assistance programs, and the Steering Committee will consider how these can be linked with the accreditation program. LTA is beginning to design a new training curriculum based on core practices, knowing that even without accreditation, more complete and accessible training will help land trusts implement Land Trust Standards and Practices and build strong organizations. This work will be discussed with potential partners and reviewed by the Steering Committee. LTA will adapt the training curriculum as the accreditation program design process advances.

Core Practices Training Curriculum

LTA is building a core practices training curriculum to help land trusts achieve success at implementing the core practices. The goals of this curriculum are to offer land trusts clear, user-friendly materials in a variety of formats through many service providers. While the curriculum is just being designed, it is anticipated that it will consist of modules corresponding to the core practices (or groupings of practices). Each module will likely provide:

  • Specific learning objectives
  • Questions for land trust discussion
  • Background materials and learning activities
  • Sample documents and policies used by successful organizations
  • Evaluation measures

It is anticipated that the information in the modules will be available electronically, in workbook format, and/or as in-person workshops offered by LTA, service centers and others -- addressing the various ways that people learn.

LTA's role will be to develop uniform training content and documents to help land trusts qualify for accreditation, and to deliver training and support to land trusts through partnerships with state service centers, consultants and subject matter experts. LTA is also exploring a system that provides trainer guides, train-the-trainer programs, and identifies qualified trainers in order to maintain the consistency and quality of materials presented.

At this time there is no decision on whether certificates will be offered for the completion of training courses. Many land trusts have requested a personnel certification program. LTA may evaluate such a program once the Steering Committee recommendations are final and the programs it recommends are operational. The credentialing consultant on this project has advised that it is not feasible to concurrently create a personnel certification program and an organizational accreditation program.

Technical Assistance

Technical assistance for land trusts is wide and varied and offered by many organizations and individuals. LTA already offers publications, a searchable database of information and sample policies (LTAnet), and Assessing Your Organization, a tool to evaluate how well an organization is implementing Land Trust Standards and Practices. LTA is also piloting a core practices self-assessment and an in-depth Conservation Easement Program Assessment. These tools will be refined after the Steering Committee makes its final recommendations. It is LTA's hope that these resources can be offered by LTA and via partnerships with service centers and others.

What You Told Us: Results of the Program Design Survey

On December 2, 2004 the Land Trust Alliance mailed a Case Statement from the Steering Committee with a corresponding survey to over 1,500 land trusts throughout the U.S. The same information was emailed to multiple representatives of land trusts, donors, and consultants working with land trusts. The survey yielded a total of 355 electronic and paper responses. The survey information was reviewed in detail by the Steering Committee and used as a basis for its recommendations. For a full copy of the survey results see http://www.lta.org/sp/survey_results.htm.

Perceived Internal and External Threats

The top three perceived internal threats (from within the land trust community) identified were:

  • inability to defend conservation easements
  • land trusts going out of business
  • inability to steward land and conservation easements

The top three perceived external threats to the land trust community were:

  • adverse court decisions
  • conversion around protected land
  • loss of tax incentives

Land Trust Standards and Practices

There was overwhelming agreement that "implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices by land trusts across the country" can help minimize the threats to permanent land conservation, with only 5% disagreeing. Some noted that the barriers to implementation included lack of board and staff time, and mentioned concerns that fully implementing Land Trust Standards and Practices would be too costly.

Value of Seal of Recognition

One survey question requested feedback on the value of a "seal of recognition" for land trusts who demonstrated implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices.

  • 61% of respondents thought this would be valuable;
  • 4% indicated that recognition of quality was not of value; and,
  • the remainder wanted more information before responding.

Responses indicated that such a program must be affordable, should be designed and led by the land trust community, and should include multiple levels of recognition.

Many respondents were enthusiastic about the potential of a "seal" they could promote on their letterhead, Web sites, and with donors. There was a strong desire for a publicly recognized indication of quality. Some respondents expressed concerns that a poorly conceived credentialing program might create a schism in the land trust community, that those without a seal might be perceived as "sub-standard", and that some land trusts might go out of business and abandon protected land. Others noted that a credentialing program might not set high enough standards, with the consequence that the program would not be perceived as meaningful. The Steering Committee listened closely to these concerns and developed its recommendations accordingly.

Other Insights

There was widespread concern about easement defense. The need to build individual organizational capacity and collective capacity was repeatedly noted, along with the need to develop strong public policies and good case law. Long-term funding was identified as land trusts' greatest challenge. As noted earlier, LTA and others are working to respond to these challenges through public policy and easement defense programs.


Proposal to Advance Implementation of Land Trust
Standards and Practices via Accreditation and Training



Frequently Asked Questions*

1. Why is accreditation important for the land trust community?

  • To demonstrate to the public that our organizations are doing a credible, responsible job.
  • To deter government efforts to intervene in land trust work and withdraw important tax incentives for donations and easements.
  • To assure the public that conserved land will be protected far into the future.
  • To help build strong and successful land trusts.

2. What are the benefits of being an accredited land trust?
  • Use of an easily recognized seal or logo that can be used by accredited organizations.
  • Recognition on the accrediting body's Web site and in other venues.
  • Potential for greater success with public and private funders.
  • Enhanced credibility for the organization.

3. What resources exist to help land trusts meet accreditation and full implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices?
  • Training workshops at Rally, regional conferences, and state and local events.
  • Publications available from LTA and other organizations.
  • LTAnet, LTA's password-protected Web site for member land trusts. Over 350 new or revised pages of materials are now available to supplement the revised Land Trust Standards and Practices, including many sample documents.
  • On-site technical assistance provided by LTA staff, service centers and consultants.
  • Assessing Your Organization -- a full Land Trust Standards and Practices workbook that generally takes 4-8 hours to complete.
  • Additional training materials and tools are in development.

4. How much will accreditation cost a land trust? Is there funding to cover the cost?
  • The accreditation program will be designed so that it is affordable for land trusts and is economically sustainable for the accrediting organization.
  • Accreditation costs will be based on the final program design and business plan.
  • LTA will pursue new sources of funding assistance to help support this program, but it is not feasible to offer a "no fee" cost structure for a sustainable accreditation program.

5. Is it realistic for small volunteer land trusts with few holdings to go through the accreditation process?
  • Yes. The core practices for accreditation are a manageable subset of the Land Trust Standards and Practices. They are geared toward the types of activity in which a land trust is engaged.

6. What about land trusts that choose not to participate in accreditation?
  • This is a voluntary program providing positive recognition for land trusts that want to implement Land Trust Standards and Practices and work towards organizational improvement. Any land trust may choose not to participate.
  • The accreditation program will not list non-accredited land trusts.

7. Why was a subset of Land Trust Standards and Practicesproposed as the basis for accreditation?
  • Focusing on core practices as the threshold for accreditation will protect the public interest and allow land trusts to pursue full implementation of the Land Trust Standards and Practices at a pace appropriate for each organization and its conservation mission.
  • Implementation of the full Land Trust Standards and Practices is still a goal for all land trusts at some point in the evolution of their conservation work, but is not a requirement for accreditation. Those that have achieved full implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices will be designated as such by the accreditation program.

8. When would an accreditation program be available?
  • First, the Steering Committee will review the comments received on its proposal and then determine if it will recommend an accreditation program, and if so, design the specifics.
  • Second, the program must be proven financially feasible for participating organizations and the accrediting entity.
  • Third, an accrediting body would be established, governing documents and application materials created, and reviewers trained.
  • It is expected that if a program is recommended, the first set of land trusts would be able to participate in late 2006.
  • Many training and technical assistance programs are available now. New programs that support Land Trust Standards and Practices implementation will be released as they are created.

9. If Congress was not threatening harsh regulations curtailing tax deductions for land conservation, would the land trust community still need an accreditation program?
  • Yes. The goals of an accreditation program are to build strong and lasting land trust organizations, maintain the credibility of land trusts, and identify land trusts that meet accepted standards.
  • Even without Congressional action there is a need for building strong land trusts with sound conservation programs.
  • Action now will allow the land trust community to be better positioned to deflect future challenges.

10. Why shouldn't the government accredit the land trust community?
  • Experience with other fields indicates that government accreditation would most likely be inflexible and focus on punitive measures, rather than focusing on building strong organizations and ensuring the permanent protection of land. Government standards are often subject to political compromises that would not necessarily reflect the best conservation practices.

11. How can I comment?
  • Review the feedback opportunities on the inside back cover and comment via the survey, list serve dialogue or conference calls.

* The FAQs are compiled from Steering Committee discussions and information from LTA staff and consultants.


Standards and Practices Program Design Participation Timeline

[Graphic Omitted]

Land Trust Training and Accreditation Survey

March 15 - May 9, 2005

Introduction

This survey is one of a number of ways in which LTA is gathering input on the proposed training and accreditation programs. To ensure we get the best feedback possible, please read the materials in the enclosed information packet before answering the survey. These explain the background of this initiative, summarize feedback we heard from the community through the December 2004/January 2005 Input Survey, and describe the recommendations of the Program Design Steering Committee.

This survey is anonymous (unless you would like to provide your personal information in response to the very last question) and should take less than 15 minutes to complete.

Most of the questions on this survey are designed to collect feedback on perspectives of your organization, so please discuss among staff and or board and when possible, respond once for your organization. Your response will help to make the final program as applicable and relevant to land trusts as possible.

The deadline for responding is Monday, May 9, 2005.

There are two options for completing this survey. Please respond only once:


This is the preferred option:

1. Fill it out on-line: Go to www.lta.org/sp and fill in the questions on the Web.

2. You may also cut this survey out, complete it, and mail or fax it to:

Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Survey
110 Spring Street
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-3302
(fax) 518-587-6467
(phone) 518-587-0774

Further details on all aspects of Land Trust Standards and Practices and the proposed training and accreditation programs, including details on how you can comment, can be found at http://www.lta.org/sp.

Land Trust Training and Accreditation Survey

March 15 - May 9, 2005

Demographic questions


[Survey Forms Omitted]

Opportunities to Get Involved:

Your Feedback Requested

We would like to hear from you. The Steering Committee and LTA have organized many opportunities for the land trust community to help shape this program. All information collected will be presented to the Steering Committee during its next meeting, in May 2005. Opportunities to comment include:

1) Survey - Deadline May 9

The survey will help the Steering Committee gather as many comments as possible consistently throughout the country. It is the primary feedback mechanism.

The survey begins on page 16 and is also available online at www.lta.org/sp.

2) Land Trust List Serve Dialogue - April 18 - 22

The list serve dialogue will provide people with an opportunity to submit comments, read others' comments, and get answers to questions.

Steering Committee members and LTA staff will monitor the messages to answer questions, clarify details, and otherwise respond. For instructions on subscribing or unsubscribing to the land trust list serve, please visit http://www.lta.org/resources/listserv.htm.

3) Conference Calls - April 18 - 21

The calls provide an opportunity to hear a Steering Committee member describe the recommendations and rationale and allow participants (as time permits) to comment verbally or ask questions. An operator will manage the comments and questions; the host will not be able to respond to every comment.


Four conference calls will be held during this week. There will be 75-100 participants for each call, and sign-ups are requested in advance to reserve lines. To reserve your line visit www.lta.org/sp and complete the conference call registration form. If you do not have access to a computer you may call 202-638-4725 ext.312 to reserve a line. We request the use of only one line per land trust. We will respond and confirm dial- in information; lines will be reserved on a first come first serve basis.

Western US April 18 at 10:00 am Pacific Time (1:00 Eastern)

AK, WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, CA, NV, UT, AZ, CO, NM, HI

Central US April 19 at 10:00 am Central Time (11:00 Eastern)

ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, MN, IA, MO, AR, LA, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, KY, TN, MS, AL

Eastern US April 20 at 10:00 am Eastern Time

ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI, NY, PA, NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA, WV, NC, SC, GA, FL

National call April 21 at Noon Eastern (9:00 Pacific; 10:00 Mountain; 11:00 Central) All land trusts are invited to participate in this call.


4) Focus Groups - March 15 - May 21

The Steering Committee will conduct several targeted focus groups to work through key questions with specific, invited target audiences that represent diverse voices and geographic locations within the land trust community.


Land Trust Alliance
1331 H Street, NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005-4711

The Land Trust Alliance, founded in 1982, promotes voluntary land conservation and strengthens the land conservation movement by providing the leadership, information, skills and resources land trusts need to conserve land for the benefit of communities and natural systems. The Land Trust Alliance provides resources to assist land trusts in the implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices. General information on Land Trust Standards and Practices and related LTA publications and training programs can be found at www.lta.org. LTA member land trusts and partners can find additional technical information and sample documents at www.LTAnet.org.


Land Trust Alliance

1331 H Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005
202-638-4725

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