A Rally to remember

Returning to in-person activities following the COVID-19 shutdown can be an emotional rollercoaster. But joy was the emotion that quickly rose above the rest in New Orleans for Rally: The National Land Conservation Conference.

By Darci Palmquist October 18

Returning to in-person activities following the COVID-19 shutdown can be an emotional rollercoaster. Excitement flips to anxiety, which swings to anticipation, then trepidation, back to elation and so on. 

But joy was the emotion that quickly rose above the rest when more than 1,500 conservationists from 47 states and seven countries braved this rollercoaster to join the Alliance in New Orleans for Rally: The National Land Conservation Conference in September. From reunions over coffee at the morning registration desk to lively receptions that spun off into evening social gatherings, the joy of being together in person again permeated every moment. It was as if everyone collectively sighed “finally!”

At the welcome dinner, Alliance president and CEO Andrew Bowman delivered an uplifting speech about the power of land trusts to create a “conservation canopy” that includes all Americans.

He then introduced this year’s winners of the Land Trust Excellence Award and Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award — congratulations to Mount Grace Conservation Land Trust and Ebonie Alexander!

For the first time a Rally plenary featured a panel discussion about how to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in conservation, in whatever form that may look like.

“Everyone in the room is more powerful than they realize... I encourage folks not to be caught in the vernacular because this work looks so many different ways,” said panelist Gabe Sheoships, executive director of Friends of Tryon Creek.

Many post-Rally survey respondents lauded the panel discussion as powerful, inspiring and informative. Said one anonymous respondent: “Amazing leaders and opportunity to hear their experiences. More of this please!” Another wrote: "This is why I attend Rally: to be inspired. Kudos to the team who set up the panel, and the panelists themselves!"

Another high note was Louisiana native and climate justice leader Colette Pichon Battle’s plenary, where she welcomed everyone to New Orleans with a powerful speech: “This is a place of not just resilience but resistance. It’s a place of not just people but community. Welcome to this family, welcome to this community. We will only win if you will fight with us.”

Battle delivered some “hard truths offered with love” about climate change, justice and equity in a speech that respondents called extraordinary and inspiring. Wrote one survey respondent: “The most honest and inspired talk I have ever attended at Rally. Collette spoke the truth.”

The Accreditation Commission honored newly accredited land trusts and the Alliance and the U.S. Forest Service announced participants in the 2022 Scholars for Conservation Leadership Program, who attended Rally for professional development. And last but certainly not least, Rally featured unparalleled opportunities to learn and connect through 85 workshops and 10 seminars, seven incredible field trips guided by local land trusts and conservationists, and numerous special receptions including gatherings of Conservationists of Color and LGBTQIA+ community groups.

“Rally was fantastic from start to finish — efficient, professional, incredibly enriching and loads of fun,” said Henry Tepper, strategic conservation advisor to the Fundación Tierra Austral Land Trust in Chile. “I often say to people from outside of the land conservation world that this is the best professional meeting I ever go to, by a considerable margin, and this year maintained that high standard.”

We hope you’ll join us next year for Rally 2023 in Portland, Oregon, Sept. 6-9!