I have just returned from the National Land Conservation Conference in Hartford, Connecticut. The conference was inspiring, rewarding, and eye-opening. As a bonus, I was able to experience the turning of the fall foliage on the East Coast, something everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
I was one of the youngest people in attendance at the conference, if not the youngest. People around the country were inspired to hear about ESLT’s partnership with AmeriCorps, and some were in awe of the fact that young people like myself have devoted a year of service to land conservation.
The most rewarding moment for me was when the Undersecretary of the Interior, Tom Strickland, spoke to Rally participants. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was scheduled to speak, but President Obama had called him away to the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Oil Spill that occurred back in April has consumed Department of the Interior staff this year, although Undersecretary Strickland assured us all that land conservation is still a top priority.
Undersecretary Strickland spoke about the growing importance of linking public and private land in new ways. He acknowledged that the future of land conservation will be in the private sector instead of the public sector. He explained our nation no longer has the large tracts of land that provided the opportunity for wide-scale protection like land conserved under our National Parks System in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
The tone and vibe of Rally 2010 was upbeat, and promoted dialogue and conversation among varied groups: non-profits, governmental agencies, and private landowners alike. ESLT has always valued the experience its staff and board receive from this national convention of land conservation professionals, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to experience this myself.