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Group shot of CLCC's land trust president's summit participants

The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity for CLCC’s Conserving Land by Staying Connected program. Through multiple Regional Roundtables and Leaders’ Summits, we convened conservationists from around the state to share ideas, brainstorm about the future, and discuss both opportunities and challenges on the horizon. The passion and dedication shared by land trust board members, staff, and volunteers is contagious, and I always come away from these meetings feeling inspired and reenergized.

Leaders’ Summits 

Earlier this month, CLCC also hosted a summit for land trust Presidents. I began this program as I usually do – by asking everyone to introduce themselves, and provided up to five-words about how they are feeling in their role. I was floored when more than three-quarters of the attendees used the word “concerned”. There was concern about the succession planning, concern about levels of board engagement, concern about getting the important work done, and so much more.

Throughout the summit, we had very candid conversations about the challenges being faced by land trusts and their Presidents. I was so impressed by, and grateful for, all of the participants’ willingness to open up and share their challenges. It can be tempting to put on a brave face in front of one’s peers, but this group of presidents acknowledged the challenges that come with serving in the President role, and were more than willing to brainstorm and problem-solve with one another.

During one of the breaks in the program, one participant shared that “When I saw the agenda for today I wondered if it was too sophisticated for [my land trust]. Well, so far I have 7 action items!”.

As I wrapped up the program, I asked participants to go around the room one more time, and give an update on how they were feeling. There was still a bit of concern, but much more optimism, empowerment, and inspiration. This group of Presidents left the summit with new ideas and resources to help them be even more effective in those roles. They also developed a sense of community, and a network of folks they can call on to brainstorm and troubleshoot, regardless of their land trust’s size or location.

Later this week, we will be hosting a summit for land trust Treasurers – if your land trust’s treasurer has not yet responded, please encourage them to attend and join us for what promises to be another productive and informative Leaders’ Summit.

Regional Roundtable Recap

This season’s Regional Roundtables kicked off in Northwest CT with a program for single-town land trusts. Our friends at Aton Forest graciously hosted the program at their headquarters in Norfolk, and welcomed representatives from land trusts in the surrounding communities. We began the discussion with a shared concern about the perception that the region has “enough” open space. Participants shared their strategies for communicating the benefits of open space, addressing misconceptions about conservation, and growing public support for new conservation projects.

Board recruitment and succession planning was another challenge faced by land trusts in this region, and is one echoed by land trusts across the state. Together, we identified some of the strategies that each land trust is using to better define the roles of board members, pass down institutional knowledge, and engage new board members. An interesting idea emerged – that of shared board members, or a system for rotating board members amongst land trusts as term limits are reached. This dovetailed with a conversation about shared services, and it will be exciting to see what comes of these collaborative ideas.

Just a week later, we headed to South Central CT for a roundtable discussion co-hosted by Prospect Land Trust and CLCC. Land trusts in this region were facing some of the same challenges as land trusts in the Northwest – communicating the “why” of conservation and engaging new folks as both volunteers and supporters. We also discussed the rekindling of a Regional Conservation Partnership for the region, and ways that land trusts in this region can begin to think and act as part of a network.

A common theme from these roundtable discussions, and indeed from many other conversations, is how we make conservation relevant to a wider audience. Land trusts saw a surprising boost in relevance during the pandemic, when their trails were discovered by community members looking to get outside and reconnect with nature. Now, as we face a changing climate, land conservation is being recognized as a much-need natural climate solution. How else can we expand our relevance? Who are we leaving out? What creative ways can we use conservation as a tool for positive change in our communities? If only we could answer these questions in a 90-minute roundtable discussion! Fortunately, CLCC’s Regional Advancement Initiatives allow participating land trusts to dive deeper into these topics. Keep an eye out for opportunities to participate in this program when we circle to your region.

If you are interested in participating in or hosting a regional roundtable, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at alefland@ctconservaiton.org. These gatherings can be tailored to a specific challenge or opportunity in your region, or can be a casual way of convening land trusts in your region with whom you’d like to connect.

Aaron Lefland
Deputy Director
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