Development of a Land Stewardship Plan Based on Community Values
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There are approximately 1,700 land trusts in America that have conserved about 37 million acres of land. However, land preservation is not just the onetime acquisition of land. It is the responsibility of land trusts to care for the land and preserve its conservation values forever. In the overall scheme of things this stewardship responsibility is the more onerous task, if for no other reason than its duration. Stewardship includes a number of activities intended to ensure that the property remains preserved as intended. These activities must be well documented and carried out with sufficient rigor to withstand legal challenges decades or centuries into the future. Many land trusts are just now beginning to fully understand the challenge of stewardship. This paper focuses on one such land trust, the Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust located in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Since its inception in 1986, as the first municipal land trust in Rhode Island, the Ag Trust has preserved roughly 1,800 acres in over 100 separate transactions. In so doing it has gained national recognition for its outstanding accomplishments. This master’s project investigates the nature and the origins of the Ag Trust’s stewardship responsibilities by looking at the legal basis on which the organization is founded and managed, the Ag Trust’s mission statement, community attitudes as determined by a survey, and best practice as established by the Land Trust Alliance. The survey was distributed to over a thousand Little Compton residents. It requested information regarding the value that preserved land brings to the community and acceptable uses and development of preserved land. There were 172 responses, including 130 written comments. The results of the survey and other investigations indicate that the Ag Trust should consider changes to their mission statement and practices to increase emphasis on stewardship and to more closely conform to best practices. Furthermore, strong public support for passive recreational use of preserved lands should be accommodated when possible to help ensure continued support for land preservation. These recommendations are supported with suggested stewardship principles.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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