by Alachua Conservation Trust
For 25 years, the Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) has been working to protect the natural, historic, scenic and recreational resources of north central Florida. ACT’s silver anniversary is now highlighted with its selection by the Land Trust Alliance from among more than 1,700 land trusts across the country to receive its National Land Trust Excellence Award.
The award was presented at Rally 2013: The National Land Conservation Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 17, 2013. It is the highest award a land trust can receive and its equivalent to winning the national championship in a respective college sport.
ACT is the first land trust from Florida to receive the award. The award is a reflection of the years of dedication, creativeness and perseverance of our talented staff, board members, volunteers, partners and generous supporters that allow us to carry out our mission of protecting Florida’s natural and scenic places each day. ACT has benefited tremendously, in particular, from the leadership, energy and ingenuity of its past executive directors Robert ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson and Lauren Day.
ACT, an accredited land trust, is being recognized for its collaborative and innovative efforts in policy and creative funding as well as its broad education and outreach initiatives.
Since 1988, ACT has helped to preserve more than 50,000 acres of land in North Central Florida. ACT’s success in spearheading the Alachua County Forever property tax bond referendum enabled it to acquire over 18,000 acres of natural areas. ACT operates four public preserves, conducts dozens of environmental education classes annually and operates Prairie Creek Lodge for art, cultural and alternativehealth education.
ACT continues to build a family of organizations and programs to expand the reach of its conservation mission in the community.
ACT’s family of organizations and programs includes Conservation Burial, Inc., Tuscawilla Learning Center, Sandhill Stage, Forage Farm, Springs Eternal and Historic Haile Homestead, Inc. The efforts of its partners have expanded ACT’s reach in the community, and ACT is grateful for all the enthusiasm, cooperation and passion of its partners. Together the organizations complement one another’s missions and are committed not only to conserving more of Florida’s special places, but also to building a better community along the way.
When presenting the award, Michael Dowling, Land Trust Alliance chairman of the board, said, “Today’s tough national political climate is having consequences on the ground throughout America and, in response, we are seeing some innovative and amazing initiatives. This year’s National Land Trust Excellence Award celebrates the work of this small but effective land trust in [north] central Florida.”
In Florida, ACT is one of only two local land trusts that are in the top 50 nationwide in both acres and value of lands protected. In 2009 they became accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance.
ACT has set the curve in diversity of projects – from easements, to historic preservation, to outright acquisitions, to environmental education. ACT has partnered with many conservation organizations along the way, including ongoing projects with The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, The Conservation Fund, Putnam Land Conservancy and the Conservation Trust for Florida.
ACT has become the institution that most clearly projects this community’s steadfast support of north central Florida’s natural beauty and rich heritage, on which we all agree is a legacy we must take responsibility for passing on to future generations.
If you are interested in learning more about ACT or getting involved check out our website at www.alachauconservaitontrust.org or find us on Facebook and Twitter.