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Community Perspective

Conserving land for recreation, habitat and our future

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IALT

Members of the Interior Alaska Land Trust erect a sign at a trailhead along Old Chena Ridge Road, leading into the Chinook Conservation Park. From left is former board members Alex Prichard, Merritt Helfferich and Mike Stredny, and current board member Martha Raynolds. Courtesy IALT

This series of columns is coordinated by the Golden Heart Community Foundation (goldenheart@alaskacf.org) and selectively highlights local and regional nonprofit organizations, explores the diversity of services, the roles and advice of the boards of directors for other nonprofits, and how these nonprofits plan for the future. 

The Interior Alaska Land Trust (IALT) was started in 1995 as a community service organization, conserving land for all types of outdoor enjoyment and benefits such as recreational resources, wildlife habitat, wetland water quality, flood control, public road viewsheds, agriculture, forestry and other uses.

IALT now conserves 2,000 acres in the Fairbanks area, including some very well-loved areas such as the Peat Ponds and the Blueberry Preserves in Goldstream Valley. IALT also manages the Chena Flats Greenbelt between Chena Pump Road and Pickering Road. It is working with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to return flow to Cripple Creek in the Just-A-Store area, a project that would restore refuge habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon back to this important tributary of the Chena River.

IALT works with private landowners to conserve the land they love. This can be either through transfer of title to the Land Trust or through a conservation easement, which transfers development rights to the Land Trust while keeping the title in private ownership. This flexible tool allows landowners to ensure the long-term conservation of their land while still continuing with their usual stewardship and uses of their property. Any donations of land or other assets to IALT (a non-profit corporation) are tax deductible.

Since its inception, the Interior Alaska Land Trust has run a very lean organization. The IALT Board is not paid (like most nonprofits), but board members work hard and do most of the work of keeping the organization running. IALT has very few overhead costs. It has no office or employees, and so pays no rent or salaries. IALT often has a part-time contract person, who works from home under board supervision. This person takes on some of the most time-consuming tasks, as well as those requiring special skills (managing social media, organizing events, or writing grants). Volunteers help with some tasks, such as trail work and property monitoring. Partnerships with other organizations such as the US Fish & Wildlife Service and The Conservation Fund have allowed IALT to tackle more ambitious projects than it could on its own.

This lean financial model has allowed the Interior Alaska Land Trust to grow slowly and prudently over the last 25 years. IALT makes sure that it has the financial resources to steward every property that it conserves, putting money aside in a Stewardship and Legal Defense Fund. This approach ensures that IALT will be able to manage and protect the conservation values of its properties in perpetuity. The low overhead also means that over 95% of donations are spent directly on land conservation.

If you are interested in conserving your land, know of land that should be conserved, are interested in participating in land conservation in the Fairbanks area, want to become a member, or donate to support these efforts, contact the interior Alaska Land Trust: www.interioraklandtrust.org, or InteriorAlaskaLandTrust on Facebook.

Martha Raynolds is board treasurer for Interior Alaska Land Trust. She can be reached at MarthaRaynolds@gmail.com.

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