Westerly Land Trust earns accreditation from national commission

Westerly Land Trust earns accreditation from national commission


WESTERLY — The Westerly Land Trust is now accredited by the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission, a national organization that sets standards for policies and procedures regarding maintenance and a commitment to perpetual preservation of trust land.

The local trust is now one of 372 accredited land trusts nationally, according to a press release issued by the organization Wednesday.

“Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the commission. “Accreditation recognizes that the Westerly Land Trust has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

The land trust was among 15 across the country to earn accreditation. The decision was made at the commission’s meeting last month and was announced on Wednesday. The status will remain in effect through Feb. 15, 2022, at which time the trust would be required to seek renewal.

The Avalonia Land Conservancy, based in Old Mystic, also is listed among the January decisions. The Avalonia conservancy is described as the largest land trust in Southeastern Connecticut, and as one of the largest land trusts in the state.

Avalonia holds more than 3,500 acres of land as natural open space. It has preserves in Stonington, North Stonington, Groton, Griswold, Ledyard, and Preston.

The Westerly Land Trust, which has 1,589 acres under protection on 30 properties, is preparing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its incorporation as a private, nonprofit conservation corporation on Nov. 16, 1987.

“Westerly Land Trust is proud that our work is being recognized by the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission for meeting the rigorous national standards in land conservation,” said Executive Director Kelly Presley. “Our goal has always been to perform at the top tier and attaining accreditation demonstrates the Westerly Land Trust’s commitment to protecting natural places and working lands in our community forever.”

The trust had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive review as part of its application, Presley said.

“By the Westerly Land Trust becoming nationally accredited, we have set the stage for those who will lead us in the future to have a detailed plan of how to take care of and protect these lands. The community, our town and its visitors, have the added reassurance that we conserve land for the betterment of all and follow high standards and practices,” said Sheilia Terranova Beattie, president of the land trust.

Almost all of the local trust’s land has been made available to the public as accessible open space. Additionally, the trust maintains an Urban Initiative to focus resources on the redevelopment and enhancement of commercial properties in the downtown area, particularly those of historic significance, according to the announcement. The trust cites the community ice skating rink on Main Street and the soon-to-be-renovated United Theatre on Canal Street as successes in its Urban Initiative program.

The Westerly Land Trust is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States, according to the most recent National Land Trust Census, released Dec. 1 by the Land Trust Alliance. A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed at landtrustaccreditation.org.

In addition to the preservation of open space, Westerly Land Trust programs include rehabilitation and redevelopment of established neighborhoods, and establishment of education and recreation opportunities for the public.

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