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Philanthropy Cape-Style

Barnstable Land Trust: Trusting in Nature

Text by Chris White

The relationship between Massachusetts and land conservation is celebrated and significant; the transcendentalists found God in nature, and Henry David Thoreau discovered himself at Walden Pond. Charles Eliot established the first American land trust in 1891 when he founded the Trustees of Reservations and preserved Virginia Wood in Stoneham. The concept of land trusts took 90 years to widely catch on, however, because for most of the 20th century, according to Professor Richard Brewer, author of the book Conservancy: The Land Trust Movement in America, “Federal, state, and local governments did a fairly satisfactory job of land conservation. This progressive era came to a halt in 1981.” In response, the land trust “movement” began in earnest in the early 1980’s. One such organization is the Barnstable Land Trust, founded in 1983.

Historical maps on the website of Barnstable Land Trust clearly illustrate the need that led to its conception. In 1951, before the construction of the Mid-Cape Highway, most of Barnstable, including its seven villages, was forested with development contained to the coasts. Then, according to the BLT website, “The Cape was a target of rampant development” in the 1970’s and 80’s. Since 1983, the BLT has worked to conserve and reclaim lands for nature. The group has protected over 11,000 acres, including such popular locations as Eagle Pond and Lowell Park. Going forward, BLT has identified 2,500 more acres that are “critical for protection—for open space, water quality, recreation, and habitat.”

Barnstable Land Trust encourages people to help preserve our natural spaces and offers a number of ways to do so, ranging from donating to becoming a member to gifting actual property. For many families who love the land and their homes in the area, the Barnstable Land Trust provides the chance to ensure that future generations may enjoy some of the same beauty and experiences that have made these places so meaningful on personal levels. To the flora and fauna of these natural places, of course, the conservation efforts of the BLT go far beyond sentiment and nostalgia; to these residents, the work of Barnstable Land Trust means absolutely everything.

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