Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Monday, September 26, 2005

Land Trust Professionalization.

The bankruptcy of San Diego's Environmental Trust is reverberating through land trust circles. The Seattle Press-Intelligencer has a little more on the story. On the land trust listserv, some interesting debates have started.
Among them, is it more important for land trust leaders to be business professionals first, and nature lovers second? Or do environmental credentials still count for more? I think this goes back to the entire debate over the future of trusts. Are they necessarily evolving away from small volunteer based organizations and moving toward a professional corporation model? There's no doubt the stakes are huge. Trusts by their very nature are about preserving land in perpetuity, and that requires income in perpetuity. Given that even the largest of corporations rarely last more than a hundred years, how can a volunteer organization hope to do the same?
Considering that even the Federal Government is debating selling off some National Parks' holdings, can small organizations really hope to hang onto desirable land forever?
I think the answer is yes if the trusts continue to be populated by people who have business smarts, but are also truly and passionately concerned about the land they are preserving. Business people tend to look at the world dispassionately, with an eye for the bottom line. If trusts become too weighted towards business expertise, the slippery slope will slide much faster. The trick here, as in most everything else in life, is finding the right balance.


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