The nation’s largest state land conservation conference, the Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference (MLCC), will be held Saturday, March 24, at the Worcester Technical High School. Marking its 22nd year, the annual event, co-hosted by The Trustees of Reservations and the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, will focus on important issues such as farm and forest protection and stewardship; renewable energy and sustainability; and community-based farming and gardening. The workshops are organized around the theme of Working Lands: Farms, Forests, and Conservation, a topic that is especially relevant as interest in local food and the farm economy continues to build in Massachusetts and across the country. At the same time, our local working farms and forests face growing pressures from development and climate change. The conference also coincides with legislative efforts at the state and national level, such as the renewal of the Farm Bill, that have the potential to have significant impacts on farms here at home.
Richard K. Sullivan Jr., Massachusetts Secretary for Energy and Environmental Affairs, acknowledged the importance of partnership and innovation among the public sector and the non-profit community to preserve Massachusetts farms and forests. “The focus of this year’s Land Conservation Conference could not be timelier,” says Secretary Sullivan, noting the Governor’s newly formed Food Policy Council, the state’s programs to support forest landowners, and the importance of the 2012 Farm Bill for Massachusetts farms. “The Patrick Murray Administration has remained strongly committed to land conservation, and working with our land trust partners, we have permanently protected nearly 100,000 acres of land in five years − an unprecedented record of success. Preserving working farms and forests is an important part of land conservation, and it is also critical to support the rural natural resource-based economies and the jobs they provide our residents.”
This year's keynote speaker is Gary Hirshberg, Co-Founder and Chairman of Stonyfield Farm. A frequent speaker on topics including sustainability, climate change, the profitability of green and socially responsible business, organic agriculture and sustainable economic development, Hirshberg has won numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership and is the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. He recently announced that he will step down as the company’s President and CEO to play a more active role in helping to shape national food and agricultural policy.
“What I really want to be doing is taking the lessons that we’ve learned at Stonyfield about equating strong environmental missions and strong organic missions with positive economic results,” says Hirshberg. “I want to take that to a broader public: to influence policy makers and decision makers.”
The Conference is expected to attract nearly 500 board members and staff from land trusts and state environmental agencies, members of municipal conservation commissions and committees, farmers, farm and food system advocates, philanthropists, elected and appointed officials, volunteers, students and educators to participate in training and networking opportunities focused on protecting and sustaining Massachusetts’ working landscapes.
According to Wes Ward, Vice President of Land Conservation for The Trustees of Reservations, “The Trustees are committed to working with the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition to provide an opportunity for organizations, volunteers, and public agency professionals dedicated to land conservation to gather for a day of sharing ideas and information that will help to strengthen our conservation community as we move into the challenging future. “
Participants can choose from over 30 workshops and panel discussions designed to help them gain the skills, knowledge and resources they need to protect and care for land in Massachusetts. Topics range from “Farmland Protection Tools,” “Planning for Renewable Energy on Conservation Land and Farms” and “Enhancing the Edibility of Conserved Landscapes with Native Species” to “Successfully Engaging Landowners” and “Board Development and Fundraising.” For a full list of workshops, please visit: www.MassConservation.org.
“The Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition is excited to continue working with the Trustees of Reservations to create a conference that addresses the current challenges to land conservation in Massachusetts,” says MLTC Board President Ed Becker. "The conference reflects our strong commitment to helping expand the capacity of the land conservation community to save more land through direct assistance, forums, training and advocacy.”
In addition to The Trustees of Reservations and the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition who convene, plan and coordinate the conference, the conference is being co-sponsored by American Farmland Trust, Land Trust Alliance, Mass Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, and The Trust for Public Land.
“Massachusetts is gaining farms but still losing its best farmland,” says Cris Coffin, New England Director for American Farmland Trust. “Learning about farmland protection tools is as important as ever, but we want to empower land trusts and communities to do more—to identify new land for cultivation, to encourage new farmers, and to create a supportive environment for farming. We’re proud to support this opportunity.”
“The Land Trust Alliance is excited to be a partner is this conference,” says Kevin Case, Northeast Director of the national Land Trust Alliance. “The breadth and depth of training opportunities for land conservation leaders is truly impressive and underscore the role land trusts of all sizes have in working with their local communities to save the places people care about most.”
“Mass Audubon is pleased to serve once again as a sponsor for the Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference,” says Laura A. Johnson, Mass Audubon’s President. “The 2012 event represents an important opportunity for land conservation practitioners at all levels to both sharpen their skills and deepen their sense of community.”
“For more than two decades, this conference has provided an important forum where ideas are born and relationships are forged and renewed,” said Wayne Klockner, Director of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “We’re lucky to live in a state where many wonderful organizations have accomplished a great deal to protect the lands and waters that are fundamental to all life here. Much remains to be done, though, and this event provides an excellent opportunity to focus on what we must achieve and how. The Nature Conservancy is proud to be a sponsor.”
"The Trust for Public Land is thrilled to once again sponsor this terrific event,” says Kevin Essington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island State Director. “By sharing our collective experience we can all become more effective advocates for conserving the Commonwealth’s important shared open spaces."
Pre-registration for the 22nd annual Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference is required. Register at www.MassConservation.org. Registration fees: $42 regular admission; $32 discounted admission for students and MLTC members. Fees increase by $20 after March 10.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Trustees of Reservations
Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition