Natural Lands Trust and Montgomery County Lands Trust (MCLT) announced the finalization of an agreement under which the two not-for-profit conservation organizations will join forces. Under the terms of the agreement, which will take effect July 1, MCLT becomes an affiliate of Natural Lands Trust and will continue to pursue its mission to preserve open space in Montgomery County.
“Our paths and missions have been intertwined for many years as both organizations have worked to protect Montgomery County’s natural and agricultural lands,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “We have partnered on many projects over the years; this affiliation will formalize that partnership and allow us to use donor and public support even more efficiently. Our combined resources will make both organizations stronger.”
“MCLT has always excelled in making strong, local connections. That work will continue, but we’ll now have the support and experience of the region’s largest and oldest conservation organization,” added Dulcie Flaharty, executive director of MCLT. “As a land trust, we have a perpetual obligation to the land under our protection. This affiliation will ensure we are using resources wisely and are well positioned to meet that obligation.”
Founded in 1993 at the same time that county commissioners adopted the first Montgomery County Open Space Program, MCLT was established to provide independent, county-wide leadership in the preservation of open space. To date, it has preserved some 2,800 acres through conservation easements and offered support and advocacy for the Montgomery County Open Space program, which has invested more than $200 million in farmland preservation and natural resource protection.
Natural Lands Trust is a regional land trust serving eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, the organization has protected more than 100,000 acres of land, including 41 nature preserves that it owns and manages in 13 counties. In Montgomery County, Natural Lands Trust owns 10 nature preserves and holds conservation restrictions on 49 additional properties.
Both organizations are accredited land trusts, a distinction of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, which is overseen by the Land Trust Alliance. Accredited organizations have undergone a rigorous evaluation to ensure that they meet national standards for excellence and will protect land in perpetuity.
“In the 19 years that Montgomery County Lands Trust has been preserving land, we have seen how important it is for a community to save the special places that give it its character,” said Representative Kate Harper, chairman of MCLT’s Board of Directors. “Whether it’s a farm where kids get ice cream and see where their milk really comes from, a ball field for soccer and little league games, a landscape that reminds us where we have been, or a streamside trail that meanders through a township… we feel strongly that the work of preserving these places must continue and that our alliance with NLT will strengthen our ability to make that happen.”
Dulcie Flaharty will continue to serve as Executive Director of MCLT and remain focused on maintaining strong relationships with municipalities throughout Montgomery County. She will also bring her considerable experience to bear on Natural Lands Trust’s regional conservation mission. Two representatives of MCLT—current Board Member John Harris and long-time Director of Land Protection Jake Lea—will join Natural Lands Trust’s Board of Trustees, which will become the governing body for both organizations. A new committee that includes Harris, Lea, and others associated with MCLT will explore opportunities for land protection in the county and advise the
Board of Trustees. MCLT will continue to hold conservation easements; staff from Natural Lands Trust will monitor these easements annually.
Peter Hausmann, chairman of Natural Lands Trust’s Board of Trustees, lauded MCLT’s passionate and effective advocacy for improving the quality of life in Montgomery County over the last two decades. “The vision of MCLT’s founders—among them Drew Lewis, Phoebe Driscoll, Hugh Moulton, Art Loeben, and Kate Harper—inspires us to build upon this ‘culture of conservation.’ It is a legacy we are proud to inherit and carry forward.”
“As many conservation organizations re-evaluate their strategic plans in these challenging times, I applaud these two well-respected organizations for thinking ahead and taking their responsibility to the land seriously,” noted Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance, a national service organization for the more than 1,700 land trusts across the country. “Each organization augments the strengths of the other so that conservation efforts will endure in their region. Their foresight and creativity in crafting an alliance will insure that lands they have protected will be here for future generations.”
Natural Lands Trust is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. They employ a comprehensive approach to conservation that includes saving land, stewarding natural resources, and providing opportunities for the region’s residents to connect to nature. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.
As a non-profit conservancy, Montgomery County Lands Trust works to preserve and connect the natural areas, farmland, and neighborhood green spaces which contribute to our quality of life, to a clean and abundant water supply, and to the health of the region’s economy. To learn more, please visit www.mclt.org.
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