Earlier this month, ESLT staff, Board Members, and supporters headed to Sacramento for Rally 2015: the nation’s largest gathering of land conservation leaders. This conference is hosted by the Washington D.C.-based Land Trust Alliance (LTA), and takes place in a different city around the country each year. Because this year’s Rally was just a hop, skip and a jump over the mountains from our home turf, we sent nine people to Sacramento to learn from the country’s top conservation experts and spread the word about ESLT’s work protecting our treasured Eastside lands.

Leslie Beach and Kay Ogden at Green Creek

The day before Rally 2015 kicked off, Leslie Ratley-Beach, Conservation Defense Director of the Land Trust Alliance, traveled to our side of the mountains to see firsthand the conservation success ESLT has achieved in our community. Here, Leslie (left) poses with Kay (right) at our Green Creek Powerhouse Preserve. “This was a great honor,” reflected Kay. “It was so meaningful to have the opportunity to show Leslie a few of the special landscapes we work to protect.”

Thanks to everyone who made the journey to represent conservation in the Eastern Sierra: ESLT staff members Kay Ogden, Sus Danner, Mini Mantzouranis, and Sara Kokkelenberg; Board Members Tim Bartley, Randy Keller, Marie Patrick, and Will Richmond; and founding ESLT supporter and Lands Committee Chair, Rick Kattelmann.

“At a moment when our nation is experiencing heartbreaking wildfires, extreme weather patterns and uncertainty about tomorrow, land conservation leaders are coming together to rally for their communities,” said Rand Wentworth, the Alliance’s president – who traveled to the Eastern Sierra in 2014 to give the Keynote Address at ESLT’s Lands & Legacy Celebration. “The nearly 1,800 land conservation experts attending Rally 2015 will leave with plans to preserve more of the land that provides the fresh air, safe food, clean water and special places that Americans need and love.”

A focus of this year’s Rally seminars was water law. Participating in those discussions, Rick Kattelmann reflected that “there were a lot of practical things that we learned and may incorporate in future projects.”

ESLT’s new Stewardship Coordinator, Sara Kokkelenberg, felt that Rally was “a great way for me to be exposed to the land trust stewardship field. I attended two fantastic stewardship round table discussions and came out of each of those with a greater understanding of the different ways different land trusts do easements, restoration work, and use monitoring systems and software.”

photo 2 (56) (1)

In addition to multiple seminars, Sara also attended a field trip float on the Russian River, where she learned about specific restoration work being accomplished on the west side of the Sierra Nevada.

The day before the conference got underway, ESLT Executive Director Kay Ogden met with conservation leaders from across the nation who, like her, are participating in the 2-year Leadership Training Program led by the LTA. “Our day was filled with stories of challenges and accomplishments, tears and laughter, and hugs between folks who might not see one another for a long time.” Several participants spoke about how they came to be where they are today, and for Kay, “their stories were a looking-glass, allowing each of us to inspect our own stories and remember why we first chose the path of land conservation.”

All in all, it was an inspiring and energizing week for everyone who attended. ESLT’s Membership Development Coordinator, Mini Mantzouranis, was one of many who left the conference with renewed enthusiasm. “The work done by ESLT and other land trusts across the country is truly remarkable – bundle it all up into one big event and we have a Rally filled with incredible work to share. Every seminar or workshop sparked great new ideas, and each conversation brought to light some truly inspiring experiences.”