Tiptop Hill on Stuart Island | Kurt Thorson

The Preservation Trust is one of a small group of land trusts leading the way towards
doubling private land conservation by 2030.

In 2018, the Land Trust Alliance commissioned a nationwide survey to get a better grasp on Americans’ understanding and impressions of land trusts. The survey found that only 58 percent of Americans had a favorable impression of land trusts. And 29 percent didn’t know what a land trust is.

On a more encouraging note, when respondents were provided with a definition of “land trust,” they were 15 times more likely to respond positively. The lesson was clear: We land trusts need to do a better job of telling the story of who we are and what we do if we are to secure enough dollars, volunteers, votes, and ambassadors to pursue our essential work into the future.

The Alliance committed to addressing this need by creating a “relevance campaign”—now called “Gaining Ground”—on behalf of the entire land trust community. The goal: Growing the land trust movement while strengthening people’s understanding that protected lands aren’t just nice to have, but are essential for healthy communities and human wellbeing.

To help guide the campaign, the Alliance hired GMMB, a national strategic communications firm. Through extensive polling, GMMB identified 33 million people—13 percent of the American adult population—who care deeply about land conservation, but who may not be aware of land trusts and how they work to permanently conserve the land that we need and love.

The Preservation Trust is one of 14 “pilot” land trusts from across the country that have worked with the Alliance to spearhead efforts to engage this newly identified audience. Throughout this April, in conjunction with Earth Day month, we and our fellow pilot land trusts are participating in a “soft launch” of the Gaining Ground campaign, focusing on our 14 respective home territories.

We’re blazing the trail for the campaign’s nationwide launch next year. Our goal is to expand support for land trusts so that, by growing together, we can meet the huge challenges ahead.

Conservation has never been more necessary or important, but it is not keeping pace with growing threats to our lands, waters, wildlife and ways of life. Land trusts have already conserved 61 million acres of private land across the nation—more than all of the national parks combined. With more support, land trusts can double that by protecting 60 million more acres by the end of 2030.

Check our Facebook and Instagram pages—and go to GainingGroundUSA.org—to see how we are trying to bring our story to a broader segment of people in our region. Our story boils down to this:

  • When we conserve land, not only are we permanently protecting that land for today and for future generations, we are also making progress in the fight against climate change, saving critical habitats for plants and animals, and providing greater access to clean water, fresh air, nutritious food, and natural areas.
  • Support for the San Juan Preservation Trust provides local benefits and can have global impacts: Every piece of land we conserve means less carbon in the air we breathe, healthier soil for our crops, and cleaner water from our taps. Our well-managed lands also preserve vital habitats for plants and wildlife.

Together, we can keep gaining ground.

– From the Spring 2022 issue of Island Dispatch newsletter