Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Real Acres in Real Places

11 February, 2013 - 11:58 -- John Burton
Deforestation in the Chaco, Paraguay

‘Saving Real Acres in Real Places’ is a strap-line that World Land Trust (WLT) regularly uses. But does it describe us as best we can?

WLT is fortunate to have a senior manager from BT seconded to work for us for six months, and the key issue he is working on is branding and marketing.

Most of our supporters seem to think we are doing a good job, but the most commonly heard criticism is that we are not well enough known. So what does the WLT ‘brand’ stand for? And how can we communicate our message better, to a wider audience whilst keeping our niche?

I do not see the WLT becoming another WWF, or even an RSPB. The projects we support are relatively expensive, and all involve supporting non-government organisations in far flung parts of the world. But year on year the number of regular supporters (Friends of WLT from Jan 2013) increases, despite the economic recession. So we know there is support for our work, and room for growth. But what message communicates us best?

Pondering this, I thought of the old adage ‘Action speaks louder than words’. In our context this translates as ‘Conservation not conversation’.

If I look at the amount of money that has been spent on conservation conferences and research over the years, I come to the conclusion that there would be less of a conservation crisis if that same money had been spent on acquiring land. And now it is on the brink of being too late.

When we founded WLT 23 years ago, land could be bought for £25 an acre or less in many parts of the world. Now there are very few places left where it is anything like that price; it is mostly $200 an acre or more. So we have to accelerate our activities before it is too late.

Once land is acquired, decisions about its future can be made – even if it means selling some of it in the future to fund conservation. But at present, while more than 1,000 acres of the forests of the Chaco are disappearing every day, for example, we are losing those choices.

Conservation, not conversation. Cash and save, not slash and burn. New ideas are needed. Please communicate, and also donate. Thank you.

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