1. What is the mission of the Lancaster County Conservancy?
We exist because fresh air, clean water, and wild places are vital to every generation.
2. How does the Conservancy achieve its mission?
We implement vibrant and well run programs that are consistent with the organization’s strategic plan. Our programs include: Land Protection, which seeks to acquire in fee simple or by conservation easement high priority natural areas or interests in land before they are developed; Land Stewardship, which manages these lands to insure healthy wildlife habitat and safe recreational use by the public; and Education, which works with public schools, universities and adults to provide natural laboratories for scientific study as well as the public to increase awareness and understanding of the value of these natural lands. Our Urban Greening program is helping build a strong and healthy Lancaster City through environmental projects and stewardship. Through our Advocacy we participate at all levels of government to improve policy and appropriations for natural lands protection programs, in furtherance of our mission. The financial support foundation to move ahead with all of these programs is income from our Annual Fund.
3. What kind of land is most important to the Conservancy? How is it chosen?
The Conservancy’s 37 nature preserves are generally centered around stream corridors, steeply sloping lands, hilltops or lands with unique natural or historic landscape features. The Conservancy also seeks lands that provide high quality recreational or educational opportunities for the public.
We choose our high priority lands through a scientific and computerized process of evaluation, followed by site inventories and visits, as well as discussions with government agencies and other organizations. We integrate our priorities with natural resource priorities of others so that dollars raised are used wisely. We are very selective with what lands we acquire and, as a result, are protecting the truly “natural gems” of Lancaster County.
We also collaborate with our many partners to identify and protect urban and suburban green spaces throughout Lancaster County.
4. How is the Conservancy funded?
The Conservancy is a non-governmental, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1969 whose operating funds come primarily from the generous support of our individual and corporate members via gifts to our Annual Fund and special fund raising initiatives and events. Project and land acquisition funds generally come from major donors, foundations and government agencies as one-time donations. The Conservancy is uniquely positioned to leverage private donations with public monies so that contributions have maximum impact. The organization invests its reserve funds according to four separate investment policies: Operating Reserve, Stewardship Fund, Acquisition Fund, and Endowment Fund. Each of these funds is invested according to our policies and are used or held according to that policy. Our Board oversees these funds through our Finance and Investment Committee.
5. Who governs the Conservancy?
The Conservancy is governed by an 18 person board of directors who have fiduciary responsibility for the direction and finances of the organization. These individuals are chosen from the community and represent varying expertise and interests that are helpful in guiding and overseeing the organization. The board employs a paid CEO/COO who is responsible to and reports to the board. The CEO prepares and monitors finances, hires staff and consultants and oversees the operations of the organization by carrying out the mission and programs and acting as primary spokesperson for the Conservancy. In addition to the CEO, the conservancy has a team of five program directors (Land Protection, Education, Stewardship, Development and Urban Greening), and 2 support staff.
5. What has the Conservancy accomplished?
a) The Conservancy has permanently protected over 5,474 acres of important natural land. We have a transaction in progress with PPL that will add approximately 2,500 acres of natural lands along both sides of the Lower Susquehanna River Corridor. We recently purchased the final phase (404 acres) of land as part of the Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve (800+ acres total), adjacent to Money Rocks County Park.
b) We actively manage these lands in the form of 38 public nature preserves that are open to the public free of charge dawn until dusk 365 days a year and about 1,031 acres of conservation easement lands where we hold the development rights to insure that the property is protected while owned by others.
c) We work with seven school districts to advance environmental education through the use of our preserves as outdoor classrooms. We have about 2,500 students visit our preserves as part of organized classes each year.
d) We have built a strong base of support with more than 2,500 members.
e) We have created a strong and credible organization that is part of the community and is regularly invited to participate in county-level and local level planning and projects.
f) We produce a variety of publications including our Nature Preserve Guide, our regular newsletter, an annual report and other publications. In addition, we hold monthly activities such as nature walks, trail work days, an annual member picnic and other events open to the public.
6. What is the urgency of the Conservancy’s mission?
Land is being developed in the county at a rapid pace. These developmental pressures increase unabated. Land values are dramatically rising to the point that land protection is almost cost prohibitive; most communities do not currently provide adequate open space for recreation of its residents and visitors; water quality and wildlife habitat are degraded due to a variety of factors. Protecting stream corridors will improve our rivers and streams for drinking water supply, recreational use and healthy wildlife habitat.