Since its incorporation in 1988, Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) has helped preserve more than 50,000 acres of land in North Central Florida, directly participating in the purchase of 16,000 of those acres. During ACT’s 20 years, it has evolved along with the role of land trusts. When ACT began, the nation had fewer than 400 local land trusts. Today there are more than 1500. 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 ACT became accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, a program of the Land Trust Alliance. ACT has also 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, and the Conservation Trust for Florida.
Unfortunately, funding limitations, both in what ACT can raise privately, and what public agencies can commit, will always result in the heart-breaking triage of selecting what to actually save. To a great extent, ACT must remain flexible, entrepreneurial, and opportunistic in selecting the projects that they work on. In the past, private conservation easements were not particularly attractive to many landowners, but increased federal tax incentives are generating more interest, particularly among people who have recently experienced large increases in property values, but have no speculative intent for their land.
When measured by the amount and value of land protected, Alachua Conservation Trust is second in Florida among local land trusts, and is one of the most respected land trusts nation-wide. When measured more subjectively, ACT has become the institution that most clearly projects the community’s steadfast support of north Florida’s natural beauty and rich heritage, and that is a legacy we must take responsibility for passing on to future generations.
Visit http://alachuaconservationtrust.org/index.php?/alachua_v2/index/for more information.