I frequently get asked about what we do at the “Red-tail Land Conservatory.” It is an understandable slip to switch the word conservatory for conservancy. After all, the word conservancy only showed up in Webster’s dictionary in the 1960’s. For the record, conservatories are glass houses where people grow flowers or places to study music.
So what is a land conservancy? Land conservancies, also known as land trusts, are nonprofit organizations dedicated to the permanent protection and stewardship of natural and working lands for the public good. With over 1,700 land trusts nationally, they are the fastest growing segment of the conservation community.
Some land trusts, like Red-tail, focus on distinct areas or regions and support grassroots efforts to conserve lands important to local communities. Others, like The Nature Conservancy, operate throughout the United States and globally. Between 1982 and 2011, more than 24 million acres of forest were lost to development. To put that in perspective, it is like losing a forest the size of Indiana and Rhode Island combined. The loss of productive farm land is even greater.
While the idea of permanently protecting land may seem relatively new, it originated in our country in 1634 with the establishment of the Boston Commons. Our forefathers knew that each household could derive benefit from the protection of shared ground. It is even more true today.
Red-tail Land Conservancy works in a six-county region of East Central Indiana to preserve, protect and restore natural areas and farm land while increasing awareness of our natural heritage. We offer options to help landowners achieve their conservation vision. The options to protect their land may include a conservation agreement, a land donation, an estate gift, or a purchase. Many of these options provide tax benefits as well.
We currently have 2,625 acres of land permanently protected. RLC owns 952 acres which are set aside as nature preserves and 1,673 acres which are protected through conservation agreements with land owners. Protecting an important natural place like a forest or wetland is rewarding, but it is just the beginning. The real work starts with the long-term stewardship of the land which requires manpower and resources.
The second half of our mission is to strengthen the bond between people and nature. To fulfill our promise to protect the land forever, we must ensure future generations learn to love and value their natural heritage.
Have you ever seen a woods you played in as a youth bulldozed under and felt helpless? You might be thinking, “I don’t own land; how can I make a difference?” RLC is a community-driven organization. Volunteer to help restore lands, contribute financially, spread the word about conservation or inspire a child to love nature. Alone we cannot protect thousands of acres, but together, with a membership of thousands, we can protect many more critical places.
Open space land, natural areas, and farmland are natural capital. They produce life-sustaining services like clean air, clean water, reduced flood risk, wildlife habitat, pollination, healthy food and recreation. There is a powerful link between conserving land and public health. The land conservation ethic is not a special interest group or tied to a political agenda. It is a collective necessity that benefits everyone.