What is community-centered conservation?

Becoming the change we want to see.

Community-centered conservation is a relationship-building practice that advances diversity, equity and inclusion, and delivers tangible land conservation and community benefit by engaging communities in all aspects of conservation work. The practice emphasizes collaboration, listening and learning, sharing power and resources and showing up for communities.

How it works

Conserving land for the benefit of all.

Effective community-centered conservation ensures that the land conservation movement benefits all people, particularly those who have been harmed or excluded by racism and other forms of oppression. To do this, we must center the expertise and needs of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ people and people with disabilities. We must also consider low-income populations and those experiencing food or housing insecurity and vulnerability to climate change.

In doing so, community-centered conservation can lead to deep, lasting conservation outcomes that promote the health, resilience and cultural vitality of our communities and improve access to and strengthen relationships between people and the land.

Diversity, equity and inclusion.

Community-centered conservation is most effective when it builds from a foundation of individual and internal organizational diversity, equity and inclusion work and centers Black, Indigenous and other People of Color, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities and others that we have not historically prioritized. To learn more about the different categories of DEI work, explore our Framework and Resources for Change.

Program offerings

Supporting land trusts in community-centered conservation.

The work of our community-centered conservation department generally rolls up into on of the five themes below.

Community-centered leadership, organizational development and planning:

Framework and Resources for Change

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Framework and Resources for Change is a catalog of resources organized into three different categories of DEI learning and action: individual, internal organizational and external.

This free virtual tool helps land trust staff and other practitioners prioritize topics and identify and access resources that are most applicable to where they are on their DEI learning and action journey.

Engaging New Leaders

Launched in 2019, the Scholars for Conservation Leadership Program is a career and leadership development program designed to expand opportunities for students to pursue careers in natural resource management and conservation, with an emphasis on engaging BIPOC students and others who have not been historically prioritized in conservation career training programs.

The Alliance is expanding the curriculum to offer more networking and learning experiences and add more Scholar and Fellow positions as funding becomes available.

Historically and culturally informed conservation:

Collaboration with allied sectors and movements:

Affordable Housing Guide

Breaking Ground: An Affordable Housing Resource Guide for Land Trusts is a resource that the Alliance has developed with partners to encourage cross-sector collaboration between land trusts and affordable housing organizations.

The guide introduces land trusts to terminology, foundational resources and partnership case studies related to affordable housing and the intersection with land conservation.

Land Trust/Land Bank Map

The National Land Bank and CLT Map is a resource that the Alliance has developed alongside the Center for Community Progress to encourage cross-sector collaboration between land trusts and community development organizations such as land banks.

The map identifies where land banks, conservation land trusts and community land trusts may have shared service areas and could explore opportunities to work together.

Indigenous land relationships, return, access and stewardship:

Indigenous Land Conservation Summit

In partnership with an Indigenous planning team, the Alliance convenes an affinity gathering for Indigenous land conservation leaders to build relationships and share knowledge in conjunction with Rally: The National Land Conservation Conference. Learn more about the Indigenous Land Conservation Summit here.

Disability access, inclusion and leadership:

Disability Guide

To support land trusts to adopt inclusive practices that benefit people with disabilities, the Land Trust Alliance collaborated with the Lakeshore Foundation and the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability to create the Partnership for Inclusive Health.

The Partnership created Open to All: A Disability Inclusion Guide for Land Trusts that provides concrete steps to expand a land trust’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts with an emphasis on people with disabilities.

Access, Inclusion and Leadership Grant Program

In partnership with Disabled Hikers and the Alliance’s Council on Inclusive Health and Disabilities, we are piloting a grant program to advance accessibility, inclusion and belonging for disabled people through partnerships, relationship and trust building and co-creation of programs and services. Stay tuned for stories about the impact of this program.

Additional educational opportunities:

The Alliance’s webinar series and blog includes an ever-expanding collection of content on community-centered conservation and diversity, equity and inclusion. Check out some of our community-centered conservation webinars and blog posts below:

40+ Years of Conservation Success

The Land Trust Alliance, along with the community of land trusts it serves, has grown tremendously during the last 40 years. Together, we have conserved more than 61 million acres. The Alliance is committed to doubling that number by the end of the decade.