The Open Space Institute joined with land trusts from across the state and beyond to participate in the 2019 New York Land Conservation Conference. More than 300 attendees gathered in Saratoga Springs to share their knowledge and resources and celebrate recent conservation successes. OSI, a lead sponsor of the event, sent more than a dozen staff members to attend, including seven presenters who led four different workshops representing many of this year’s themes, including diversity, equity and inclusion, communications, organizational development, and emerging issues.
Diversity Equity and Inclusion
OSI’s Director of Citizen Action, Jessica Watson, and Chief Program Officer, Tally Blumberg, presented the first seminar of the conference, “Pathways to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” The “sold out” seminar was a panel discussion with examples of how land trusts are working to make conservation more accommodating for different user groups.
For OSI, its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work began a year and a half ago, with a formal, internal assessment of staff needs and steps to incorporate inclusive practices as a part of the organization’s work every day. In addition to OSI’s Conservation Diversity Fellowship and Citizen Action Program, DEI is an ongoing dialogue as part of every full staff meeting and continues to be an organizational priority.
From incorporating technology into signs on preserved land, to learning how to create videos for social media, this year’s conference focused on ways to use online storytelling to communicate the full impact of the work land trusts are accomplishing.
Adding to the ways land trusts can cut through the digital clutter were OSI’s Communications Specialist, Kelly Proctor, and Cartographic Designer, Kae Yamane, who presented “Telling the Story of Protection Using Story Maps.” Using GIS and web design, their presentation highlighted how maps can be a tool in telling a visually engaging narrative of land protection. As technology continues to be a large part of how our society communicates, creating story maps is one way conservationists can give new meaning to and repurpose traditional content.
For many of the accredited land trusts that are part of the Land Trust Alliance, healthy organizational growth and the ability to protect land over a large, landscape scale are the result of strategic planning and deliberate actions.
At the conference, OSI’s Northern Program Director, Katie Petronis, and Director of Research, Abby Weinberg spoke about the triumphs and difficulties of creating a regional conservation vision and master plan that balances conservation, recreation, and economic development. The presentation highlighted OSI’s work in a sector of the Adirondack Foothills that runs from Fort Ticonderoga in the north to Saratoga Springs in the south and is also known as the Palmertown Range.
Emerging trends and Issues
Flexibility and innovation are the keystones of success for many organizations, including land trusts. As times change, the skills conservation groups acquire to accomplish land protection goals are also evolving. At the New York Conference, several workshops addressed some of the emerging trends and issues that land trusts are encountering such as: communicating climate change, carbon mapping, and conservation litigation.
OSI’s Vice President & Associate General Counsel, Jeff LeJava, spoke about ways to resolve conservation litigation outside of the courthouse. His presentation provided examples of alternative dispute resolution and settlement negotiations.
At the 2019 New York Land Conservation Conference, OSI was proud to share with and learn from other land trusts. While the tactics may change and the toolbox for accomplishing meaningful land conservation goals grows, our purpose remains the same: to protect land for people and wildlife, forever.
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