In Perpetuity: Governance and Capacity Building of Local Land Trusts in Ontario
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This study examines the extent to which volunteer-run local land trusts in Ontario are governed in a manner that will allow them to protect valued ecosystems effectively in perpetuity. It also identifies needs and opportunities for building the capacities of land trusts as long term stewardship organizations. The primary academic contribution of this research is the identification of criteria for evaluating land trust governance and their ability to meet their conservation aims. The criteria are applied in a case study of the Niagara Land Trust, a local land trust in the process of incorporating. Specific recommendations are made to assist this organization to improve its operations. The principal findings of this research are that some local land trusts have attained a level of governance which will allow them to protect land in perpetuity, but some land trusts have not. The failure of some land trusts could result in donors and government questioning the movement as a whole. Generally, the main gaps in capacity centre on weaknesses in financial sustainability, training/managing of volunteers, record-keeping, baseline inventories and continued monitoring, and the problem of requiring people to have specific professional skills in largely volunteer organizations. The thesis concludes by offering specific suggestions to the Niagara Land Trust, the Ontario Land Trust Alliance and the Canadian Land Trust Alliance. Local land trusts have provided many communities with an attractive option for conserving land; strengthening the movement will ensure that this grassroots work can continue.