Western Reserve Land Conservancy Celebrates 15-year Anniversary of the Largest Merger of Land Trusts in the U.S.

MORELAND HILLS, OH (January 14, 2021) – Western Reserve Land Conservancy is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the merger of eight local land trusts, creating the Land Conservancy. In the following years, five more land trusts merged with the Land Conservancy making it Ohio’s largest land trust.

In that time, Western Reserve Land Conservancy has had a significant impact in conserving natural lands, working family farms and urban greenspaces. At the time of the merger, the eight land trusts had collectively protected 205 properties totaling 8,850 acres; we now have protected 794 properties and 63,437 acres, more land than Cleveland Metroparks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park combined.

Additionally, Western Reserve Land Conservancy has:

  • Increased our coverage area from 14 counties in 2006 to more than 20 counties in 2020;
  • Helped create 193 public parks and preserves;
  • Conserved 33,573 acres of working farmland at 270 family-owned farms;
  • Planted 5,545 urban trees and gave away an additional 7,654 urban trees;
  • Increased staff from about 10 employees to more than 50 employees;
  • Helped create about 60 land banks in Ohio;
  • Raised more than $440 million for Ohio’s land banks to demolish vacant and abandoned homes and re-green cities.
  • In 2020, we permanently protected 26 new properties totaling 4,378 acres.

The organization has been an important player in community relations and development. In 2011, as Ohio cities were being ravaged by the foreclosure crisis and tens of thousands of homes were abandoned and left vacant, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, under the leadership of former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, formed the Thriving Communities program. This groundbreaking effort led to the formation of county land banks all over Ohio, powerful public tools to fight against blight and secure vacant properties so they can be put to better use. On December 1, 2020, the Land Conservancy welcomed former Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone to serve as the new director of Thriving Communities as Rokakis announced his retirement for Jan. 1, 2021.

Our greatest achievement is the partnerships we’ve built to reach and exceed our conservation goals. -Rich Cochran

In 2019 the Land Conservancy, noted to be one of the top in the nation, became a nationally accredited land trust through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission demonstrating that we operate with sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship – ensuring that properties remain protected forever. This multi-year application process involved hundreds of hours of work and thousands of pages of documentation. Accreditation assures landowners that Western Reserve Land Conservancy is a well-run and effective organization.

“Western Reserve Land Conservancy has grown from a small local land trust to a robust and regionally significant conservation organization with dozens of employees across northern Ohio,” said Rich Cochran, president and CEO. “Although we are proud of what we’ve accomplished, our greatest achievement is the partnerships we’ve built to reach and exceed our conservation goals. We cannot do this work alone, and when we work together with government agencies, private landowners, community organizations, corporations, and nonprofit partners, we know that we can achieve great things. We are honored to be able to improve and preserve the environmental conditions in our region, which gives rise to healthier places, healthier people, and healthier communities of people.”

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About Western Reserve Land Conservancy
The nationally accredited Western Reserve Land Conservancy — the largest local land trust in Ohio—provides the people of northern and eastern Ohio with essential natural assets through land conservation and restoration. The Land Conservancy has preserved natural areas and working farms in 28 counties across Ohio. Its urban program, Thriving Communities, works statewide to clean and green urban centers devastated by the foreclosure crisis. To date, the Land Conservancy has permanently preserved nearly 800 properties totaling over 63,000 acres; helped create more than 190 public parks and preserves; led the efforts to create 50 county land banks across Ohio; as well as planted and distributed more than 14,000 robust trees in Cleveland. For more information, please visit www.wrlandconservancy.org.

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