For more information, contact: Ellen Kwiatkowski, 715-779-5263
A national commission that reviews the work of land trusts has awarded the Bayfield Regional Conservancy its highest rating for excellence and professionalism in its conservation efforts.
BRC becomes one of just a handful of Wisconsin land trusts to be awarded accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. Only 158 land trusts across the nation have been awarded land trust accreditation, and the Conservancy is one of four in Wisconsin (Wisconsin has around 57 land trusts). Two of those four, Caledonia Conservancy and Mississippi Valley Conservancy were awarded at the same time as the Bayfield Regional Conservancy.
“Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever,” said Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn.
The award follows a lengthy and rigorous external review of BRC governance and the systems and policies it uses to protect land, said Ellen Kwiatkowski, executive director of BRC. She said the review was important not only for proving to the accreditation commission that BRC met national qualifying standards, but was also a helpful self-examination for conservancy staff members and the BRC board.
While the application process was both time-consuming and laborious, “Bayfield Regional Conservancy is a stronger organization today for having gone through the demanding accreditation process,” said Shari Eggleson, president of the BRC board. "I am grateful to our dedicated staff and volunteers who brought us through the accreditation process, and proud that BRC has earned the recognition that accreditation represents--that we operate in an ethical and technically sound manner to ensure the long term protection of land in the public interest.”, she added.
Accreditation also shows how far the Bayfield Regional Conservancy has come since its founding in 1996, initially to obtain easements for the now popular Brownstone Trail along the Lake Superior shoreline in Bayfield. Since then BRC has expanded its membership base and now works to preserve special places in Bayfield, Ashland, Sawyer and Douglas counties, working with local governments, private landowners, tribes and government agencies to protect important habitats, rivers, forests, wetlands and farmland.
BRC’s accomplishments include working with the Town of Bell to purchase Cornucopia beach land; completing the Big Ravine Trail in Bayfield; acquiring several properties along the White River; purchasing Mt. Ashwabay Ski Hill land and the Nourse Sugar Bush property; purchasing the Houghton Falls Nature Preserve in partnership with the Town of Bayview and the Trust for Public Land; and working with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to purchase Frog Bay for public use as Frog Bay Tribal National Park. In addition, BRC has helped many private landowners obtain conservation easements to better protect special places they love and has been an advocate for farmland preservation, having preserved 4 fruit farms in Bayfield. The group has protected over 3000 acres in its service area.
Kwiatkowski said the seal of accreditation will assure landowners BRC will be both “effective champions and caretakers” of the land protected by such easements. In addition, accredited status will serve to assure governmental partners of BRC’s overall nonprofit management practices are sound, and may be useful in fundraising as well.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., awards the accreditation only to community land trusts that meet national quality standards in their work. The Alliance, of which BRC is a member, is a national conservation group based in Washington D.C. that has worked with land trusts to preserve more than 47 million acres of farms, forests, parks and other special places.