Perpetuity is a long time, but we take this obligation very seriously! Therefore, as FLT looks ahead, it is critical that we make sure that we have the resources and capacity necessary to guarantee that we can fulfill that obligation. We have, therefore, embarked upon a $1 Million capital campaign aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of FLT’s land conservation and stewardship efforts by enabling us to address two critical organizational needs – the need to build our “endowment”, our Mary Robertson Torras Founders Fund (“Mitzi’s Fund), so that it supports our work in a more meaningful way, and the need for a permanent home from which to conduct our work in perpetuity.
The Franklin Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust which assists farmers and other landowners in western Massachusetts with conserving their land to ensure that its agricultural and other natural resource values continue to benefit society for generations to come.
As one of Massachusetts’ most successful and effective land trusts, FLT’s efforts have resulted in over 28,000 acres of western Massachusetts’ most important open space resources being conserved. More important than the acres, however, is the fact that FLT has been instrumental in conserving some of Massachusetts’ most iconic landscapes. The Mohawk Trail, French King Bridge and gorge, the farms of the north and south meadows of Old Deerfield, the view from Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield, the farms of the Connecticut River valley, and the Ashfield town common are just a few of these extremely significant landscapes – landscapes that would look very different today but for FLT’s efforts.
Conserving a property is, however, only the first step in FLT’s work. While not all conservation projects result in an interest in the land being held by FLT, to date we hold CRs on 130 properties and we own 6 properties. By accepting these interests, FLT has assumed an affirmative obligation, in perpetuity, to steward these conserved lands – to make sure, through annual field inspections, that they are being managed under the terms of the CR and in the best interest of the natural resources that made them worthy of conservation. Our long-term financial and operational sustainability is, therefore, central to our ability to fulfill that obligation.
In order to ensure that FLT has the financial capacity to meet our long-term land conservation and stewardship obligations, FLT needs to grow our Board restricted Mitzi’s Fund; named after Mitzi Torras, a founding Board member of FLT whose passion for land conservation serves as the foundation for our work. Each year FLT’s staff puts an incredible amount of time and effort into raising the operating funds needed to support our conservation and stewardship work. This effort is often at the expense of staff time that could otherwise be applied to conserving more land and stewarding that land, including annual monitoring visits and assisting landowners with natural resource management concerns. Therefore, building Mitzi’s Fund to a level where it generates sufficient income to provide relief to our annual fundraising efforts and, therefore, supports our long-term conservation and stewardship work in a more meaningful way is a major priority for FLT. Our Capital Campaign fundraising goal for the Fund is $500,000, of which we have raised $320,000. Growing Mitzi’s Fund will serve to assure landowners and foundations and other funders that FLT is a solid, sustainable organization.
One serious impediment to FLT’s long-term sustainability is our lack of permanent, functional office space. For 26 years we rented space - first in Ashfield, MA, and for the last 5 years on State Street in Shelburne Falls, MA. In both cases we outgrew these spaces to the extent that they were barely functional and provided little opportunity for long-term organizational sustainability – desks on top of desks, little if any privacy to conduct what is, in some cases, sensitive land trust business, no ability to add staff to increase our land conservation capacity. Then along came the flood of 2011 which forced us out of our office on State Street and into temporary housing on the Mohawk Trail in Shelburne Falls - again, barely functional. The flood was a signal for us to take positive steps to address our housing needs in order to make sure that FLT and our good work continues on forever.
FLT had the opportunity to purchase and renovate a building at 5 Mechanic Street in Shelburne Falls (well above the flood zone) as a permanent home. For a purchase price of $180,000.00 and $320,000 in renovation costs, we have secured over 3,000 square feet of functional, low maintenance office space (three-time more than our current space). 5 Mechanic Street has plenty of available parking, we have strived to make the building “green” and efficient, including installing solar panels to take care of our electrical needs, and it is in close proximity to services. Having a permanent, efficient and functional home will make a statement to our members and other supporters that we take pride in our organization, value our staff and their work, and are serious about our long-term obligations. Our Capital Campaign goal for 5 Mechanic Street is $500,000, of which we have raised $320,000.
To date, we have received close to $700,000.00 in donations and pledges from 171 donors; 68 private funders, two foundation and seven corporate donors.
Your support for our efforts to raise $1 million towards a more robust Mitzi’s Fund and a permanent home will help to ensure that FLT enjoys many more years of success conserving and stewarding western Massachusetts’ critical open space resources!