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Sun, Oct. 13

Central Arizona Land Trust seeks accreditation as means to further promote its conservation mission

PRESCOTT - With the aim of preserving the region's natural treasures that are such an attraction to residents and out-of-state guests alike, the Central Arizona Land Trust (CALT) is seeking national accreditation.

"Voluntary, independent accreditation will give the Central Arizona Land Trust even greater credibility and respect with landowners, donors, public policy makers and other stakeholders," said Rebecca Ruffner, president of the trust headquartered in Prescott. "I believe it will enhance our efforts to protect open space, wildlife habitat, productive lands and traditional landscapes for the communities of Yavapai County and central Arizona."

Since its launch in 1989, the land trust has been able to obtain conservation easements on some 4,300 acres of public open space and a working ranch. The impetus for the trust was a citizen outcry after a home was built at the base of Thumb Butte, a scenic landmark in Prescott. City leaders and residents rallied to protect this precious resource, and the CALT is charged with the perpetual conservation easement to assure Thumb Butte is not lost to future bulldozers.

The nine-member CALT assists conservation-minded landowners with easements that limit development yet allow families to retain ownership and continue with agricultural uses of their land.

The volunteer-operated, non-profit organization has in its sights other scenic acreage that conservation-minded landowners would like to protect for future generations. But the preservation process requires diligent negotiations and financial resources to enable the land trust to benefit the communities they serve, members said.

This designation has so far been awarded to only 301 of the 1,700 land trusts across the nation. Ruffner states this is yet another tool the organization can use to bolster its ability to be a trusted resource for those who want to enhance and protect this region's natural, cultural and economic future.

The process is complex, and the board has hired a consultant to assist with handling the extensive requirements for earning this distinction. Part of that work is documentation of how the trust is implementing all of the alliance's criteria for long-term preservation.

The preliminary application was submitted on June 20. Final paperwork is due Sept. 17.

Accreditation is a mark of distinction in land conservation, Ruffner said. Such a seal of approval offers prospective landowners confidence that the land trust has the means to do what it promises: preserve the state's natural beauty and wildlife forever, she said.

"We feel confident that accreditation will strengthen our standing with landowners, government agencies, charitable foundations, and the individual donors who are so critical to our success," the CALT website assures.

Board member J.D. Greenberg said the trust's sole motive is to secure the region's natural history, not only to ward off urban sprawl and destruction of scenic vistas but also to allow wildlife to flourish, as well as maintain an ever-important water supply.

"For us to fulfill our mission we need the support of the community," concluded board member J.D. Greenberg.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter@HutsonNanci Reach her at 928-445-3333 Ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809

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