ATHOL — Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust has renewed its status as an accredited land trust with the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance established in 2006.
According to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission’s website, each land trust looking to become accredited completes a rigorous review process by professional staff and volunteer commissioners from the land trust community.
“It is great to have an independent opinion that Mount Grace is meeting the highest standard of business practices, because we feel like that gives extra confidence to the landowners, the community and supporters of Mount Grace,” said Leigh Youngblood, executive director at Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. “We strive to be the best we can and this is independent confirmation that we are doing a good job.”
Mount Grace was founded in 1986 and now serves 23 towns in the Worcester and Franklin counties. The trust has helped to protect 32,000 acres of land. Youngblood said 2013 was the first year Mount Grace became an accredited land trust. The national accreditation must be renewed every five years, she said.
“Part of the process of accreditation, they are looking at how we do land projects, how we communicate with the board of directors, the landowners and donors. They look at all aspects of the organization — at projects we are doing and the land we own and care for,” said Youngblood.
Included in the accreditation package for 2018 was Mount Grace’s recent Eagle Reserve project in Royalston — 160 acres of woods, wetlands and open water.
Youngblood said the land trust worked with the town to secure state funding to purchase the land and pay for Royalston to hold a conservation restriction on it.
She said Mount Grace is also building trails at the reserve, including their second wheelchair accessible trail.
“We are really proud to be an accredited land trust — that is the main point of an accreditation, they are mainly concerned … that we have the resources to take care of the land,” said Youngblood.
Mount Grace will be headed to an annual conference of land trusts held in Pittsburgh this year to receive recognition for their accredited land trust status.