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Land protection doesn’t end when a land trust buys the land or an easement limiting development. We call what happens later stewardship. It is caring for the land: cleaning up trash, maintaining trails or access, removing invasive plants, making sure the terms of an easement are honored. These are forever expenses and, over time, dwarf the upfront cost of protection.

The challenge of these forever costs is that people tend to be less motivated to donate to cover them than to help pay for the first level of protection. This comes up every day at the Land Trust because half our annual operating budget goes to stewardship. It comes up especially now because we’ve just raised $15 million in donations and $19 million in grants, funds overwhelmingly directed to do the upfront things – protecting land and building trails. And it comes up now because we’re developing our operating budget for FY17-18.

I talked this week with a consultant that has worked with us for almost a decade now, a man with deep experience with many conservation groups. He said that, long term, organizations like the Land Trust – groups our size, with lots of forever expenses – would survive only if they succeed in attracting planned gifts.

I’ve included the Land Trust in my estate plans, as have 41 other supporters that we know of. We just got word of the 41st member of our Legacy Circle this week – another long-time Land Trust supporter. Including the Land Trust in your will (or as a beneficiary of your IRA or insurance policy) is making a forever gift that will help us forever protect this place we love.

There are lots of ways to give and our Planned Giving Officer, Kathleen Rose Hughes, can tell you about them. Give her a call (831) 429-6116 or email her at

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Stephen Slade is the Executive Director at Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. He has more than 40 years non-profit experience in fundraising, communications, and management – and a deep passion for the lands that make Santa Cruz special.

Find out more about Stephen Slade…

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