Harpswell Heritage Land Trust Achieves National Accreditation
By Doug Warren
Capping a rigorous, five-year process, the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust has met the necessary standards and been accredited by the national Land Trust Alliance. Only 301 land trusts nationwide, including 20 in Maine, have received accreditation, according to the Maine Land Trust Network.
Accreditation is a mark of distinction, showing that a land trust meets standards and practices established by the Land Trust Alliance. These standards and practices offer guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust that is run legally, ethically and in the public interest. The Land Trust Alliance is made up of more than 1,100 organizations across the country.
“Being an accredited land trust assures our members, our donors and our community that we meet the national standards for the way we pursue conservation of Harpswell’s natural resources, now and forever,” said Reed Coles, HHLT executive director. “Along the way, we have upgraded the way we work to help us ensure that HHLT will be able to fulfill our promise to permanently protect the lands we are conserving.”
David Brown, vice president of the HHLT Board of Trustees, directed the accreditation effort. Brown, a retired professor of organizational behavior, says he was recruited to the board specifically to handle the process.
“It was a long undertaking and a lot of work,” Brown said, “but we are already seeing benefits from the close examination of the way that we do our business. The accreditation effort is designed to encourage land trusts to develop high-quality practices and standards.”
Brown says it will be increasingly important for land trusts to gain accreditation in order to raise funds and assure members and potential donors that vital natural resources will be preserved in perpetuity. “It really brings legitimacy and credibility to the accredited organization,” he explained.
While working to comply with the requirements for accreditation, HHLT has significantly expanded the number and types of its educational programs, formalized standards and upgraded management plans, according to Brown.
Coles praised Brown, Charlie Johnson, president of the HHLT Board of Trustees, and other members of the accreditation committee for their efforts. “I am personally very grateful for the commitment and efforts of HHLT’s trustees and volunteers over the past five years to help achieve this important milestone in our organization’s history,” Coles said.
The accreditation designation is good for a five-year period. After that, HHLT will have to apply for a renewal. “We won’t rest on our laurels,” said Coles. “We will continue to strive to improve our organization and fulfill our vital mission.”