Great news! HVA achieves national recognition

Monday, August 25, 2014

HVA is one of just a handful of watershed organizations across the country that has achieved land trust accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. HVA now joins just 280 land trusts nationwide, and only 10 in Connecticut, that have achieved this standard of excellence.

“We share this milestone today with another wonderful organization and close conservation partner in our area, the Sharon Land Trust,” said Lynn Werner, HVA executive director. “We are pleased and proud of their accomplishment, too, and know firsthand how much work it took to achieve.”

Accreditation is the mark of distinction in land conservation and the “5 star rating” for this nonprofit sector. The accreditation seal indicates to the public that HVA meets national standards for excellence, upholds the public trust and ensures that conservation efforts are permanent.

“HVA is a watershed organization and a regional land trust with a strong tradition of working effectively as a trusted partner with local conservation groups and communities across our three-state area," said HVA’s President Tony Zunino. "Accreditation is especially important to us because it enhances our collaborative work with our partners and strengthens land and water protection and stewardship efforts throughout the watershed."

HVA was established in 1941 by concerned individuals who loved the Housatonic River and its scenic valley, and had the foresight to recognize that land development was coming to the region. HVA’s inspirational founder Charles Downing Lay was convinced that community growth and environmental protection can and must go hand in hand. Lay’s belief that land use decisions in the watershed should be informed by, and sensitive to, the natural beauty and ecology of this precious place remains the foundation of HVA’s work today.

Over the years HVA has protected thousands of acres, including the Appalachian Trail corridor along the Housatonic River in Kent, Sharon and Cornwall. In addition to its own conservation easements and land holdings, over time HVA has assigned more than 1,000 acres to its local land trust partners to protect in perpetuity.

“This round of accreditation decisions represents another significant milestone for the accreditation program; the 280 accredited land trusts account for 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 Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn. “Accreditation provides the public with an assurance that, at the time of accreditation, land trusts meet high standards for quality and that the results of their conservation work are permanent.”

Each accredited land trust submitted extensive documentation and underwent a rigorous review. “Through accreditation land trusts conduct important planning and make their operations more efficient and strategic,” said Van Ryn. “Accredited organizations have engaged and trained citizen conservation leaders and improved systems for ensuring that their conservation work is permanent.”

According to the Land Trust Alliance, conserving land helps ensure clean air and drinking water; safe, healthy food; scenic landscapes and views; recreational places; and habitat for the diversity of life on earth. In addition to health and food benefits, conserving land increases property values near greenbelts, saves tax dollars by encouraging more efficient development, and reduces the need for expensive water filtration facilities.

Across the country, local citizens and communities have come together to form more than 1,700 land trusts to save the places they love. Community leaders in land trusts throughout the country have worked with willing landowners to save more than 047 million acres of farms, forests, parks and places people care about, including land transferred to public agencies and protected via other means. Strong, well-managed land trusts provide local communities with effective champions and caretakers of their critical land resources, and safeguard the land through the generations.

“Applying for and obtaining accreditation as a land trust was both a challenging and gratifying experience for HVA.” said its past President Bob Houlihan; “I think we took our highly respected organizational practices and culture to a higher level. Congratulations to all for reaching for this level of excellence!

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, based in Saratoga Springs, NewYork, awards the accreditation seal to community institutions that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. See a complete list of all six recently accredited land trusts online at More information on the accreditation program is available on the Commission’s website,


About The Land Trust Alliance

The Land Trust Alliance, of which HVA is a member, is a national conservation group that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation throughout America. It works to increase the pace and quality of conservation by advocating favorable tax policies, training land trusts in best practices and working to ensure the permanence of conservation in the face of continuing threats. The Alliance publishes Land Trust Standards and Practices and provides financial and administrative support to the Commission. It has established an endowment to help ensure the success of the accreditation program and keep it affordable for land trusts of all sizes to participate in accreditation. More information can be found at



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