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Conservancy preps to grow as land trust

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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REDWOOD — The Indian River Lakes Conservancy is taking a step toward "growing up" as a land trust this year, according to the head of the 13-year-old nonprofit organization.


Elliott Hillback, president of the conservancy's board of directors, said the board has hired experts to help it build a "sustainable organization" with a state grant it secured in March and plans to expand its public programming starting this summer.


"We've been very successful in acquiring land over the past 13 years," Mr. Hillback said. "Now we realize that our responsibility is growing and that we must grow with it."


Last month, the Redwood-based conservancy received a $25,0000 Capacity Development Grant from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program. This is the largest amount ever given to an all-volunteer land trust in the nine-year history of the program, Mr. Hillback said.


With the funds, the organization hired Conservation Impact — a Colorado consulting firm that specializes in nonprofit management, growth and sustainability — to conduct a survey on the general interests of the conservancy's constituents related to the environment and programs and activities.


Starting this summer, the consultants will conduct in-depth interviews with members of the conservancy and residents of the roughly 325-square-mile area in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties served by the organization.


Mr. Hillback said that the organization's commitment is to forever protect the land it acquires and that its board hopes to recruit a new generation of members and future leaders by holding more classes, outings and events this year.


The state grant money additionally will allow the all-volunteer organization to build a computer system and hire an expert in fundraising to strengthen its financial resources.


The Indian River Lakes Conservancy, which was established in 1998, owns more than 1,200 acres of land, including the 1,000-acre Grand Lake Reserve, which is between Butterfield and Grass lakes, and has more than 125 members and about 30 core members.


ON THE NET


Indian River Lakes Conservancy: www.indianriverlakes.org

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