The Brandywine Conservancy, which owns or has helped landowners set up conservation easements, land preserves and federal and local tax benefits over 45,000 acres in Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, is asking for community comment on its work as it seeks its five-year re-accreditation before the Land Trust Accreditation Commission www.landtrustaccreditation.org.
Land trust and conservancy advocates set up an accreditation system after The Inquirer, the Washington Post and other news organizations in the early 2000s documented cases of other conservancy groups trading properties at preferential prices with wealthy and influential board members with little public benefit and considerable public expense.
"We were one of the first eight awarded accreditation back in 2008," Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of Brandywine's Environmental Management Center, told me. "Accreditation grew out of a number of tax-related concerns having to do with donations of easements."
The industry organized its accreditation process following establishment of the Land Trust Alliance, "a national organization that took it upon itself to identify specific standards and practices that the land trust community should live by," Evans-Stanton added. "From ethics and conlficts, to your documentation practices on easements and lands that you hold, [land trusts] are responsibile for monitoring every property that you hold an easement on, annually. These are very stringent requirements we have to follow. We felt it was really important. We were one of the four organizations that ehlped establish the Land Trust Alliance. We felt it was important to monintor the behavior for other organizaiotns. We're going up for renewal later this month," with comments "most useful if received by July 1."