Land Trust Alliance Rally 2022 – New Orleans
I had the opportunity to attend the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Rally 2022 in New Orleans this past September. The LTA Rally is the largest conservation-focused land trust conference in North America. The LTA Rally provides a platform for land trusts from North America and around the world to gather, connect and share new knowledge on land conservation. This is the first time the LTA Rally has been held in person since 2019, and it was my first time attending.
One of the workshops at the LTA Rally in New Orleans (Photo by NCC)
It was an amazing chance to network and meet other professionals who are knowledgeable and passionate about protecting nature and biodiversity. The rally offered field trips, exhibits, plenary sessions, workshops, seminars and networking opportunities. There were many themes, including addressing climate change, stewarding and restoring land and engaging community, but my time was focused on administering easements. A conservation easement [or agreement] is a tool whereby a landowner voluntarily relinquishes certain development rights or opportunities on all or part of the land, ensuring the long-term protection of its conservation values.
Earlier this year, I transitioned into the role of conservation agreement supervisor for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in Manitoba. This conference was an opportunity for professional development, including learning more about easement development, monitoring and enforcement, as well as landowner engagement. I discovered that many land trusts pivoted toward remote monitoring of properties, which kept staff and landowners safe during the pandemic.
Using a variety of airplanes, drones and satellite imagery, land trusts continued to fulfill annual easement monitoring and other monitoring obligations in a changing world. I went to the conference wanting to learn more about drafting easements. A workshop on the pitfalls of using poor language and what to avoid provided pointers about how to create easement restrictions that will better stand the test of time, which is important given the permanent nature of easements.
NCC sent a delegation of 12 staff from across the organization to the LTA Rally. The opportunity to meet not only other professionals in the land trust business, but colleagues from across Canada, was invigorating. It was great to connect with colleagues in person and discuss difference and similarities across provinces and departments.
Raccoons at a swamp in New Orleans, US (Photo by NCC)
Getting to experience the area in and around New Orleans was amazing, and really brought home all the effort local land trusts are putting into conserving land. I had the chance to explore the swamps of the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and saw alligators, turtles, egrets and Cypress trees, which, coming from Manitoba, is quite a unique experience. You will not see WMAs like that in the Prairies.
New Orleans is an interesting place to visit — from the river boats to the street cars, to the architecture, food and music. One of my favourite early mornings was enjoying a café au lait and beignets while listening to a live jazz band play.
River boat at New Orleans, US (Photo by NCC)
I have taken what I have learned about easements and shared it with the other colleagues and conservation agreement supervisors at NCC. What I have learned about drafting easements, completing thorough baseline documentation reports, remote monitoring techniques, organizing and storing stewardship records, and mitigating violations is currently being applied to the conservation agreement program.
I will not soon forget attending the LTA Rally and everything that went along with it. All of the NCC staff who attended the LTA Rally were excited to share what they’ve learned with others in the organization and apply the learnings to our work to contribute to the long-term protection of nature, species and biodiversity.