World Land Trust (WLT) pioneered the Buy an Acre concept of buying land for conservation, starting in 1989, and has, since then, funded ground-breaking habitat protection for over 20 years, with an impressive track record of achievements.
World Land Trust and its overseas project partners have been instrumental in the purchase and protection of more than 500,000 acres of tropical forest and other threatened habitats, and together ensure that more than four million acres of land is managed under active protection worldwide. Here is a summary of just a few of the Trust's major activities and achievements.
WLT was initially founded to raise funds to purchase acres of threatened tropical forest in Belize, Central America for a project called Programme for Belize. Pioneering an innovative approach, the WLT was the first organisation to use land purchase as its primary objective to raise funds for conservation. This means donors can save whole acres of threatened habitat, enabling overseas partner organisations to create protected wildlife reserves. The concept of saving real acres in real places is central to our fundraising and has proven so effective that you can still Buy an Acre today.
In areas where land is more expensive, the WLT has been extremely successful in funding smaller, strategic land purchases to create vital wildlife corridors. The corridors connect one protected wildlife reserve with another, allowing species to roam safely. Connecting fragmented wildlife reserves can increases a species' gene pool and chance of continued survival. In India and Malaysian Borneo we have helped established wildlife corridors as safe havens for the Asian Elephant, Tiger, Orang-utan and many other species. Critically, these projects protect people as well as wildlife, by decreasing human-animal conflict.
Empowering local people has always been central to the WLT's mission. We believe it is essential to use the expertise and knowledge of local organisations rather than to manage projects from the UK. We have been successful in working with 27 conservation NGOs across the world, to help fund land purchase, wildlife reserve management, and rangers’ salaries.
When saving habitats and wildlife, buying land is just the beginning; the reserves must then be managed and protected from on-going threats, such as illegal hunting and deforestation. To address this, we launched the Keepers in the Wild appeal in 2011 to provide funds for our partners to employ local people to help protect WLT-funded reserves. These rangers carry out a wide range of duties beyond protecting the reserves which include running education programmes and raising environmental awareness in local communities.
The commitment shown to overseas project partners and the land they protect is an important tool in terms of the leverage effect on governments across the world. Support from international funders such as WLT has a powerful leverage effect as was recently seen in India. In response to international concern over the threats to Asian Elephants, and the WLT’s support of Wildlife Trust of India’s Elephant Corridors concept, the Karnataka Forest Department in India announced a plan to purchase a large section of privately owned land near the Bannerghatta National Park to provide safe passage for elephants to this protected region.
Our influence on governments can also be seen in Paraguay; in 2008 WLT signed a shared-management agreement with our partner organisation, Guyra Paraguay, and the Ministry of the Environment in Paraguay. The aim is to ensure the protection of reserves totalling over 2.5 million acres, a big step towards saving the Dry Chaco in a country that is seeing large-scale deforestation.
There have been huge developments in climate change science over the past 20 years and the WLT has always been at the forefront of projects to help tackle this escalating crisis. In 2005, we developed the Carbon Balanced Programme to encourage individuals and small to medium sized businesses to offset their unavoidable carbon emissions. Our Carbon Balanced website has won a 5-star commendation in Which? magazine for the website’s ease of use and clarity of project and financial information.
Since 2006, WLT's reforestation programme has been working with partner organisations to help establish more than one million trees, advancing biodiversity across three continents.
WLT’s first REDD+ project is helping to protect vast areas of highly threatened habitat in Paraguay. In 2010, the first component of the Paraguay Forest Conservation Project was validated and awarded a ‘Gold’ standard by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, an internationally recognised organisation that assesses the standard of climate change mitigation projects. WLT is committed to the fight against dangerous climate change and believes that well-designed REDD+ projects can play a fundamental role in achieving this.
Creating a network of knowledge
Since 2006 WLT has organised a series of symposia so that our partner organisations can share knowledge and experience, in collaboration with IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN- NL). The first focused on ‘Land Purchase as an Intervention Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation’ (a publication based on the symposia can be viewed online) and in 2008 the topic discussed was 'Reaching Financial Stability of Protected Areas’. In 2010, we held a one-day 'Symposium on Charitable Giving. This provided an opportunity for a number of our corporate and individual donors and partner representatives to discuss their respective expectations of each other in order to improve donor- partner relationships. It was highly successful, reinforcing the strong relationship that WLT encourages between its donors and partners, which is fundamental to our lasting success.
In 2010 the WLT worked in collaboration with IUCN-NL to develop a REDD+ training programme for African NGOs. We believe that REDD+ is an important way of tackling deforestation and climate change, but will not benefit conservation if projects are poorly designed and managed. Our training programme is an example of the capacity building that will be needed if REDD+ is to become a successful global tool for conservation. WLT sees training in conservation-based carbon projects as essential in supporting our partners and other NGOs in engaging with REDD+ over the next few years. We have produced a comprehensive introductory guide: Is REDD+ right for you?
WLT works in partnership with the Natural History Book Service (NHBS), providing free books to organisations that lack resources or do not have access to conservation libraries, through the NGO Books for Conservation programme. It is clear that the donated books are greatly valued by each NGO that has received them.
WLT’s education programme has produced a series of curriculum-based resources for teachers, students and parents. The Focus on Forests website is full of useful information for those interested in learning or teaching about the importance of protecting the natural world. The website, which is also available in a printed pack, was awarded "5 star rating for educational usefulness" by Schoolzone and received the "Topmarks Excellent Site Award" by Topmarks Education. Also available is the Learning about Rainforests CD, a free paperless teaching resource about rainforest conservation, as well as Running in the Corridors, an educational fundraising pack.
WLT’s internship programme is a continuing success story. So far the programme has seen more than 30 interns undertake six-month internships in the WLT offices, each gaining valuable experience and skills for their future careers in conservation. We have also worked in collaboration with the University of East Anglia (UEA) on the Graduate Diploma course in Conservation and Project Administration, running from 2005 to 2010. The course has successfully trained eight students who have gone on to further study or employment in conservation. The WLT and UEA continue to work closely together, planning innovative projects to support the conservationists of the future.