Westchester Land Trust has been officially accredited by an independent commission of land preservation experts, one of the just 39 out of 1,700 land trusts nationwide to be approved in the first round of accreditation review.
The independent Land Trust Accreditation Commission made the announcement at a Land Trust Alliance conference in Pittsburgh in September 2008.
The accreditation means that Westchester Land Trust, which is based in Bedford Hills, meets the highest standards of performance and procedures, and is in excellent shape to protect land for the long term.
"Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever," said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the accreditation commission, which is based in Saratoga, N.Y. "The accreditation seal lets the public know that the accredited land trust has undergone an extensive, external review of the governance and management of its organization and the systems and policies it uses to protect land."
During a period of well over a year, the commission scrutinized Westchester Land Trust's files, records, standards, policies and procedures, and took comments from the public about WLT's performance.
The resulting accreditation reassures Westchester Land Trust's supporters that WLT is not only protecting important lands, but is doing it the right way and for the long term, said George Bianco, chairman of WLT's Board of Directors.
"This accreditation puts us in a very exclusive group of highly effective land preservation organizations across the country," he said. "For us it's great news and we want to share it because it means you can be even more confident we are meeting the highest standards of performance and procedures. We're extremely proud."
Tom Andersen, Westchester Land Trust's acting executive director, said the accreditation process was long and arduous, but that the organization pursued it because it was important to demonstrate its commitment to permanent land protection.
"We've preserved 5,700 acres and our goal is to reach 10,000 by 2012," he said. "If we want Westchester residents to continue to work with us on land protection projects, and to support us financially, we need to show we're serious about employing the best practices and methods. This accreditation proves that the best experts from around the country agree that we are."
Click here to read more and to see the list of 39 accredited land trusts.