Land Trusts "Graduate" Excellence Program and Earn Accreditation

With the recent announcement from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission of another group of trusts that have earned accreditation, the number of accredited land trusts in Maine has grown to seven. It's encouraging to see that number growing, and we think it's noteworthy that the three newly accredited trusts from Maine all participated in Maine Coast Heritage Trust's Maine Land Trust Excellence Program, which provided critical funding to support their efforts. Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, and Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association (SVCA) join Vinalhaven Land Trust as the first four groups to complete the program. (The Nature Conservancy also became accredited in the last round - a fact their Maine chapter is very proud of!)

The Maine Land Trust Excellence Program is a joint project of Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) and the Land Trust Alliance (the Alliance). This program, the first of its kind nationally, was made possible through a generous contribution from the Pew Charitable Trusts and private donors. The purpose of the program is to support and advance the operational quality and sustainability of land trusts in Maine as measured by implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices and certification through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Selected land trusts benefit from an intensive program of individualized coaching, training, and consultant services to help them accomplish these goals. Acceptance to the program is on a competitive basis. Through three application rounds, nineteen land trusts have been accepted into the program.

These four graduate organizations would be the first to say that applying for accreditation isn't the easiest task, but they all agree it was well worth the work. Board President at Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association (SVCA) Honor Fox Sage says, "Going through the process of becoming accredited has been the single most valuable experience for the SVCA's Board and Staff in preparing for our next phase of growth as an organization. The process of self-evaluation and the development, adoption and enactment of policies and procedures has not only made us more efficient in our operations, it has raised our awareness as a group about our mission and our interaction with our community."

Brad Babson of Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) concurs, "Accreditation is a great step for BTLT and the communities we serve. It signifies how we have grown professionally and is a testament to the dedication of our staff, board, and volunteers in advancing BTLT's mission and stewarding our precious natural resources."

The assistance these groups received through the Maine Land Trust Excellence Program made the decision to undertake the accreditation process just a little bit easier and gave them a big boost along the way. Vinalhaven Land Trust (VLT) was able to hire a coordinator to oversee completion of the application. It's noteworthy that VLT said in their spring newsletter, "The application process also afforded VLT the opportunity to update and sharpen policies and procedures that will guide our operations and streamline our work. Coincidentally, having such comprehensive documentation helped ease the transition to a new executive director."

Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust is the first Maine land trust run entirely by volunteers to have earned accreditation. "As a small volunteer land trust serving both island and mainland communities along the coast of Maine, the accreditation award validates and recognizes our conservation efforts as meeting the highest standards of excellence not only in the region that we serve, but also in the national land trust community. We are very proud of our achievement and hope it inspires other small land trusts." Penny Asherman, President, Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust is inspired by each of these trusts, and we look forward to seeing all of the organizations in the Maine Land Trust Excellence Program achieve this high goal.

For more information on the program, visit the program page on this website or contact Warren Whitney, Land Trust Program Manager at Maine Coast Heritage Trust.