Upon entering the Ministry of Transportation building on Exeter Road – his copy of the book Creative Conservation in hand – Bernie VanDenBelt took the elevator to the third floor. Here, tucked in amid the offices of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), was the desk of Don Gordon, then Executive Director of Carolinian Canada. Bernie had an important question for Don: In his capacity with Carolinian Canada, would he be interested in assisting with the creation of a land trust for the London region? A lot was riding on Don’s answer.
There was a sense of hope, but also of urgency, in the question. The continued destruction of natural habitats was of great concern to many. Even seemingly “protected” areas appeared to be ever at risk through, among other threats, changes in zoning or through poor management. Was there a vehicle through which more permanent protection could be achieved, and through which people could ensure the protection of cherished properties beyond their own tenure on them? It turns out there was. Recent changes in legislation had opened the door for a new type of community-based conservation organization: a land trust.
A “trust” is a legal entity that takes ownership of, or authority over, a piece of property from its previous owner for the benefit of a third party. Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT) is a local land trust, one of 33 in Ontario that protect more than 85,000 acres (34,398 ha) of significant land for public benefit. Sometimes called land conservancies, nature conservancies or conservation land trusts, organizations such as TTLT are private (non-government), not-for-profit charitable organizations. They act primarily through volunteers to conserve lands of significant natural or cultural value “in perpetuity” – that is, for ever.