The Harding Land Trust (HLT) has achieved accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance.

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Harding Land Trust was awarded accreditation in August and is one of only 280 trusts across the country that have been accredited since the fall of 2008.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., awards the accreditation seal to community institutions that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever.

The commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country.

The Land Trust Alliance, of which Harding Land Trust is a member, is a national conservation group.

“Harding Land Trust’s accredited status demonstrates our commitment to permanent land conservation that benefits the entire community,” David Shepperly, former president, said in a statement. “Our donors can be confident that we are following best practices in our conservation and stewardship operations.”

Shepperly was president when most of the accreditation application work was completed.

Founded 1990

The Harding Land Trust was founded in 1990 by several dedicated Harding residents. Since then, the land trust has preserved over 500 acres of open fields, sensitive habitats, and watersheds. HLT’s mission is dedicated “to preserving the farmland, woodlands, and natural areas that give Harding its distinctive quality of life. Harding Land Trust works to safeguard our natural resources and preserve the rural character of our community for current and future generations.”

Tim Jones, HLT’s current president, said, “I would like to thank our former president, David Shepperly, and our former executive director, Tina Bologna for their extraordinary vision throughout the process of achieving accreditation. We owe them, as well as various board members and staff, our gratitude for their professional expertise and tireless efforts on this project.”

According to commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn, “This round of accreditation decisions represents another significant milestone for the accreditation program; the 280 accredited land trusts account for over half of the 20,645,165 acres currently owned in fee or protected by a conservation easement held by a land trust. Accreditation provides the public with an assurance that, at the time of accreditation, land trusts meet high standards for quality and that the results of their conservation work are permanent.”

Each accredited land trust submitted extensive documentation and underwent a rigorous review, said Van Ryn.

“Through accreditation, land trusts conduct important planning and make their operations more efficient and strategic,” said Van Ryn. “Accredited organizations have engaged and trained citizen conservation leaders and improved systems for ensuring that their conservation work is permanent.”

Madelyn Devine, HLT’s executive director, said, “We are proud to display the accreditation seal as a symbol of our commitment to excellence in land conservation and stewardship. We are continually striving to refine and perfect our management practices. By earning the accreditation status, we can now show donors, foundations, partner organizations and our local and county governments that we have met these high standards.”