Mesa Land Trust earns renewed accreditation

A 34-year-old organization that’s conserved more than 64,000 acres of agricultural lands, open spaces and wildlife habitat in and around Mesa County has earned a national distinction for a second time.

The Mesa Land Trust in Grand Junction has received renewed accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. The Mesa Land Trust first earned the accreditation in 2009.

Only 280 land trusts in the United States are accredited, which means they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust and ensure conservation efforts are permanent.

“Accreditation renewal has been an opportunity for Mesa Land Trust to engage in continuous improvement, to be sure that we stay strong and vibrant and worthy of the confidence and resources our community entrusts to us,” said Rob Bleiberg, executive director of the organization.

“In 2009, Mesa Land Trust was one of the first 53 land trusts to become accredited,” Bleiberg said. “Accreditation is a rigorous review and improvement process. Only about 15 percent of land trusts nationally have earned the distinction.  It assures the public that the special places we conserve will endure for the benefit of future generations.”

Palisade-area farmers founded the Mesa Land Trust in 1980 to preserve productive agricultural lands in the Grand Valley. The organization since has conserved more than 64,000 acres through binding agreements with private property owners.

The Mesa Land Trust is now in the process of acquiring two parcels of land near the east entrance to the Colorado National Monument as part of efforts to expand hiking and biking trails and preserve open space and views. The so-called “Bookends” parcels will add to the recent acquisition of the Three Sisters property.

“Mesa Land Trust is one of the first land trusts to achieve renewed accreditation, a significant achievement for the land trust and significant major milestone for the accreditation program. They are an important member of the 280 accredited land trusts that protect more than half of the 20,645,165 acres currently owned in fee or protected by a conservation easement held by a land trust,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. “Accreditation renewal, which must be completed every five years, provides the public with an assurance that accredited land trusts continue to meet exceedingly high standards for quality.”

According to the Land Trust Alliance, conserving land offers a number of benefits in promoting clean air and drinking water, the production of healthy food, recreational places, scenic landscapes and wildlife habitat. Conserving land also increases property values near greenbelts, saves tax dollars by encouraging more efficient development and reduces the need for expensive water filtration facilities.

According to the alliance, citizens and communities have formed more than 1,700 land trusts across the United States and worked with willing landowners to conserve more than  47 million acres of farms, forests parks and other open spaces.

For more information about the Mesa Land Trust and its various efforts, call 263-5433 or visit the Web site at www.mesalandtrust.org.