By Priscilla Rodriguez & Alexandra Fradelizio | m/Oppenheim.Org Writers
Not many people realize that land protection is crucial in the struggle against climate change and the impact that it will have on wildlife and the planet’s intricate ecosystems in the years to come.
Through land protection and conservation, organizations all across the U.S. are able to cultivate lots of land that will be able to better withstand extreme weather conditions and changes in the environment, and that’s exactly what the Landmark Conservancy is doing.
Less than two years ago, the powerhouse organization came about as two smaller and well-established land trusts united to focus on one goal: to protect more lands across the state of Wisconsin. Working closely together with the community and with private landowners, the movement has already protected more than 30,000 acres of land.
“It was really a recognition by the Board that in order for us to do the critical protection work we need to do, the only way we could do that was by building a stronger [unified] organization,” says Lindsey Ketchel, who has served as the Executive Director of the Landmark Conservancy for just over a year.
Ketchel joined the organization after investing many years in conservation and agriculture in various parts of the U.S., including Vermont, Alaska, and Minnesota. During that time, she served as a catalyst to the growth of what are now nationally embraced farmer’s markets, and she witnessed an ever-growing awareness for the environment and the role of lands within the environmental sector.
Her passion for the environment was evident from the start, and she was focused on finding ways to manage lands in harmony with communities and nature.
“I’ve always thought: ‘We can do this. There’s no reason we can’t,’” says Ketchel.
At the moment, the Landmark Conservancy is focused on engaging more private landowners and working with them to choose how to best manage and conserve their lands for the years to come.
Though it hasn’t always been easy or evident to the public why land conservation can have such a big impact on the environment, Ketchel says that she believes the awareness is growing and will continue to do so through education and important dialogues. Especially among older generations, the desire to have a positive impact on the world and leave future generations with a healthy environment is more widespread than ever before.
“As we educate folks more and more on how critical land protection is going to be as part of the climate solution,” she says, interest is growing.
“How we protect our natural resources is going to be critical to sustaining diversity of wildlife, plants, maintaining ecological function, and all of those pieces that are going to be under stress,” she explains.
Of course, communities are important to support this type of work, not only for funding but for advancing land conservation projects. Though in many cases it is not impossible to show people how important protecting lands is to the environment, there still exists an anxiety among communities about how land protection will create barriers to new jobs and development.
Ketchel says her organization works on evaluating these elements as well and working with the community to come up with the best option.
“Our vision is to help those who are anxious around land protection and bring them together to have dialogue to see if we can create a shared vision for those sub-visions,” she says.
Though many parts of the environment are indeed under tremendous stress at the moment and moving these projects along is not always easy, Ketchel says the community is still in a position of strength, with the ability to have a positive impact on how the environment unravels over the next decade.
Despite the obvious and frequent challenges of working in the sector, Ketchel says she’s “optimistic more folks will want to take on these roles.”
Over the next years, Ketchel states the Landmark Conservancy will work to connect with more private landowners to keep evaluating how to best use lands for high quality and recreational education with the goal of inspiring communities to develop an understanding and love for land conservation while there’s still time.
“There’s a small window here for us to have a profound impact on the environment.”