Virginia’s United Land Trusts 2019 Highlights
VaULT members, partners, and supporters,
Before we ring in the new year, we wanted to say a huge thank you to our 22 land trust member organizations, our local, state, and federal partners, and our newly launched Professional Partners colleagues! A special thanks to all of you who served on the conference planning committees and other workgroups!
Below are some highlights from 2019 and a few priorities for 2020. It is wonderful to have so many new people working in land conservation, and we thought it might be valuable to start off with a few sentences about why Virginia’s United Land Trust was started.
We look forward to partnering with you in 2020! Have a wonderful holiday with family and friends! Peggy Stevens, VaULT Board Chair and Ellen Shepard, VaULT Executive Director
Who is VaULT and why was it started?
In the early 2000s, there was a recognition by both agency staff and land trusts that there needed to be a more cohesive land conservation community. A comprehensive analysis of land conservation policy and the capacity of land conservation community was completed. That analysis laid the groundwork for the founding of Virginia’s United Land Trusts.
“Over and above all other suggestions and concerns was the strong message that conservation easement organizations need to find a way to coordinate and collaborate in their efforts.” Report prepared by the Institute for Environmental Negotiation, University of Virginia, June 2001.
Close to twenty years later, VaULT is a vibrant network of land trusts, agency partners, and land conservation professionals and volunteers. We support Virginia’s diverse land conservation community in its work to magnify and amplify land conservation efforts and to achieve widespread protection of the Commonwealth’s natural, cultural, and scenic resources. We work together to ensure long term conservation benefits for all Virginians. We carry out that mission through policy workgroups, discussions on emerging and contemporary topics, skills and knowledge development, and networking.
Focus of VaULT’s 2019 Work
VaULT’s Policy Work
Working in collaboration with Virginia Conservation Network, the VaULT/VCN monthly workgroup calls focus on protecting, strengthening, and fully funding existing land conservation tools as well as increasing funding. We established an Heirs Property Workgroup to facilitate better coordination on the issue. On the federal level, we helped organize a Virginia Federal Advocacy Day. The priority issues in 2019 were: getting its share of the Farm Bill funding for Virginia (VA ranks 46th in the country for ACEP funding); funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and understanding the potential impact of the IRS ruling to consider state income tax credits granted in exchange for charitable gifts as quid pro quo.
2019 Land Conservation & Greenways Conference
The conference was held in Richmond for the first time. We selected the location specifically to focus on the role of land conservation in more densely developed communities and the impacts on food access, climate resiliency, community housing, water quality improvement, and public engagement. More than 250 people representing 125 different organizations attended. Senator Hanger helped us celebrate 20 years since the passage of the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit. Keynote speakers included USDA-NRCS Chief Matt Lohr, Secretary Bettina Ring, Secretary Matt Strickler, and an all-star food systems panel of Jewel Bronaugh, Commissioner of VDACS; Duron Chavis, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Manager of Community Engagement; and Heidi Hertz, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.
Emerging Issues & Trainings
Building Broader Support through Communications and Messaging–How we talk about land conservation is important. VaULT worked with Chesapeake Conservation Partners to sponsor a communications training with Spitfire Strategies to develop a compelling narrative and how to most effectively reach specific audiences.
Challenges & Lessons Learned: Solutions to Easement Drafting in a Changing World–More than 70 people gathered to learn about best practices relating to: Water Quality Protection; Build vs. No Build Areas; State Easement Templates; and Drafting for Commercial Uses on Eased Properties.
Partnerships, Building Our Capacity, & Networking
Including gathering at Firnew Farm in Madison County where we shared Notes from the Field, Successes, Failures, Concerns, and Lessons Learned. We also hosted discussions about Statewide Land Trust Capacity and Mergers & Expansions. And we had terrific attendance at our BBQ gathering at Rally.
Focus for VaULT’s 2020 Work
Planning for the year ahead we will:
- Work to add more voices by continuing to expand our partnerships
- Convene to collaboratively understand what it will take to fill regional coverage gaps
- Support Board development and organizational leadership for both VaULT and member organizations
- Champion Best Practices for Long-Term Stewardship & Restoration
- Focus on Priority issues for our work in 2020: Climate Adaptation and Resilience, Public Access, and Heirs Property
- You tell us!
**We welcome your support and engagement. Reach out to Peggy Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-538-0926) or Ellen Shepard (email@example.com , 540-529-1595) to find out more about becoming a member and supporting VaULT’s work.
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