NCLT Keeps Up at the MLTC Annual Conference 2023

(L to R, back row) Anna Wilkins, Angela Kearney, Ryanne Flynn-Rossi  (L to R, front) Megan Walsh, Jackie Monahan, Jo-Anne Crystoff, and Emily Merlino represent NCLT at the Annual Mass Land Trust Coalition Conference in Worcester, MA.

Massachusetts is a leader in private land conservation. Charles Eliot, a landscape artist, conceptualized the role of a private institution preserving imperiled landscapes as a museum protects and displays art. From his vision, The Trustees of Reservations was formed in 1891 followed closely by Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and Minna Hall, the two avian advocates who started the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1896. As of 2019, there were 147 active private, non-profit land trusts in the state of which two-thirds serve a single community, and the remaining third are involved in multiple communities in a particular region of the state or are state-wide or national.

Featuring 25 sessions, a keynote panel, 26 industry vendors, and eight field trips taking place across the state, the conference offers something for the beginner through to the advanced practitioner.  This year it especially felt like a big family reunion to see nearly 400 colleagues at the first live conference since 2019. Sessions were well-attended, friends caught up, newcomers were welcomed, and we all came away with new insights and information. MLTC took every opportunity to thanks the conference’s sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and volunteers for making it all possible.

The Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition (of which NCLT is a proud member), provides education, tools, networking, and advocacy for over 140 land trusts working throughout the Commonwealth to protect open space and habitat, offer recreational access, protect water quality, promote sustainable agriculture, and engage the community. NCLT is grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and share knowledge and resources with our peers from across the state and within state government.

The theme for the conference this year was Conservation and Housing as land trusts and state agencies try to figure out how to work creatively to solve the state’s housing shortage.  The keynote address and panel discussion, Affordable Housing and Land Conservation – Not an Either/Or, Steve Rosenberg and Sheila Dillon discussed how the needs of people and nature can be creatively accommodated. Steve is an expert at bringing together diverse interests to advance equitable land use in the Hudson Valley. Sheila advises the mayor of Boston on housing policy, affordable housing production, homelessness, homeownership, legislation, and neighborhood development. Jim Levitt, Director of the International Land Conservation Network at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy at the Harvard Forest of Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Highstead Foundation, helps advance civic private and non-profit/NGO land conservation around the world.

Our team attended workshops about conservation land and taxes, invasive species, engaging in Land Justice with Northeast Indigenous Tribes, and more. It was a long day but one well worth our time. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by so many who are working together to protect our state’s cherished and varied landscapes.

The Mass Land Trust Coalition has programs throughout the year fit for seasoned and beginner environmental advocates alike. Maybe we’ll see you there next year too!