Rally 2017 | The Grammy’s of Land Conservation

By: Jackie Bowen - Adirondack Council Conservation Fellow
November 20, 2017

In October, the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) celebrated its 32
nd Rally, an annual land conservation conference that brings thousands of conservationists together in a different city each year. And this year, I had the honor of attending, in Denver Colorado.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/rallyblog/Jackie_Rally.jpgHere I am at Rally!

The LTA is a premier land conservation organization that supports land trusts across the United States. But it does more than that. It is also a highly instrumental and persuasive organization that advocates for policy reform (e.g. Farm Bill), has supported land trusts that have protected 56- million acres of lands and maintains an insurance company it helped create (Terrafirma – a charitable risk pool owned by participating land trusts that insures its members against the legal costs of defending conservation).


Since 1985, the LTA has hosted Rally as a forum for land conservationists from around the world to learn, share, be inspired, and network. It is the Grammy’s of the land conservation world, where new-timers and seasoned attendees converge to meet, go on field trips and attend seminars. There is even an awards ceremony.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/rallyblog/Rally.jpgQuite the crowd!

I had heard about Rally before and even more so leading up to the event as previous attendees took the time to share their Rally experiences. Let me tell you, all of the hype was spot on. It was an overwhelming, inspiring and enlightening experience from which it took a couple of days to mentally recoup. This was partially because of how jam-packed the schedule was (no minute was wasted) and partially because of the exhilaration of the experience. Rally! I lost count of the number of people I met and business cards I traded. It felt like a grand game of Pokémon.

First Timer

The four day conference kicked off Thursday evening with a reception and dinner. I was still wobbly with disbelief - I was at Rally in Colorado, a state I had desperately wanted to visit, and was about to meet conservationists from all over the country... and meet them I did. As I walked into Denver’s convention center, there were hundreds of people queueing outside of the ballroom; a sea of faces clad in unusually dressy clothes for their line of work. As I said, this is our version of the Grammy’s.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/rallyblog/Rocci.jpgNot "first-timers" Rocci Aguirre Adirondack Council Director of Conservation and Emily Bateson from the Network of Landscape Conservation located in Watertown, Massachusettes
As my stack of business cards grew, breaking the ice with the sea of strangers became easier. Rally organizers were a godsend, giving attendees points of conversation by designating labels, including Terrafirma (noting which land trusts were insured), presenter, accredited land trust, and so on. This made it easy to distinguish the neophytes from the experienced by attaching a ribbon to your name tag. I found the identifier for us Rally newbies rather comical, as we were identified as a “first-timer.” At the very least, it was solidarity building and a good introductory line to share with my fellow green-ribbon bearers.

What I Learned…

Rally is a great forum to learn what issues face both individual land conservation organizations and the collective group. Through seminars and connecting with participants, I was intrigued by how frequently cultural barriers stand in the way of conservation. I spoke with a board member from a Maine-based land trust about the struggles of engaging in climate change dialogue and messaging with local communities. This land trust was striving to synthesize solutions with common ground: fishing…Do we synthesize here enough here in the ‘Dacks?

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/rallyblog/Presentation.jpg

In addition to the expected topics of conversation one might expect to encounter at a gathering like this, including climate change, seminars broached other subjects as well, such as looking at community conservation through the lens of traditional communities. Often in traditional communities, the main connection and respect of the land is through spirituality. The presenters represented Hawaii land trusts, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas, and The Mountain Institute. Throughout the seminar, I was frequently reminded of the Adirondacks. I often hear people divulge the spiritual respite they seek, and find, within these mountains. I wonder, how can we better align with this connection to encourage and protect the longevity and pristine solemnity of the Adirondacks…it’s a thought I am still pondering.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/rallyblog/Rally3.jpg

Beyond the seminars, I learned the value of connecting with individuals outside of the Blue Line. I was surprised by the number of New York and Vermont land trusts alone that are so close to the Park that I had never known about, and the different goals and projects they are trying to implement. It was also an opportunity to tell individuals from Utah, North Carolina and the USDA about the Adirondacks, and the work of the Adirondack Council. People were often intrigued and very supportive of the role that we play here, and, admittedly, I was rather proud. It’s an exciting thing when you have your own moments of inspiration, but it’s also an incredible thing when you inspire and pique others’ curiosity.   


After arriving back home (and catching up on a decent amount of sleep), I was finally able to digest and reflect on my first Rally experience:

  1. How can I apply what I learned to where I am? - Reflecting on what I learned and how I can move forward in my position, now being more aptly equipped.
  2. Rally was a powerful experience. It was both encouraging and inspiring to see the work that others are doing, with whom I share the same passion for land conservation and resource protection. If you ever have the chance to attend, go.
  3. There’s much more to learn! See you next year, Pittsburgh.

I have brought back lessons learned in the seminars, connecting with agents of change and my own experiences. What I will end with is the same note I began with - gratitude. I work for an organization that makes it a point to attend functions such as this, to strive forward and provide professional growth. But the Council also works to connect with a national movement and to contribute to it through a unified front of comradery and information sharing. With gratitude, I have attended my first Rally.  

Uploaded Image: /uploads/images/Jackie_Bowen.jpgJackie is the Council's Conservation Fellow. She has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Law and Policy, with a certificate in Land Use Law, from Vermont Law School. During her year and a half program she interned in Washington, D.C. at American Rivers where she worked with the Government Relations team to track legislation, identify federal funding sources and research tribal water rights.

In 2013, Jackie graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in Anthropology. Although she enjoyed learning about the cultural nuances that influence the way people act and interact with one another, her love of this mountainous region never ceased, and, ultimately, drove her back to graduate school to learn how to help protect this unique corner of the world.

As a native of nearby Plattsburgh, Jackie grew up hiking, swimming, cross-country skiing, and camping in the Adirondacks. The ‘Dacks represent restorative and spiritual beauty and the intersectional balance between human and natural life. This is just a sliver of what propelled Jackie to become focused on not only land conservation, but on preserving the ecological integrity and wild character of the beautiful Adirondack Park.


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