This photo shows the Nelson Homestead in Haines and is a 128.5-acre property conserved in 2013 by the Southeast Alaska Land Trust. (Courtesy / Southeast Alaska Land Trust)

This photo shows the Nelson Homestead in Haines and is a 128.5-acre property conserved in 2013 by the Southeast Alaska Land Trust. (Courtesy / Southeast Alaska Land Trust)

Crowdsourcing for conservation: Southeast Alaska residents can now donate to a nonprofit’s efforts to conserve land

Residents across Southeast Alaska are now able to donate to a nonprofit’s efforts to conserve land

More land conservation could be on the way for Southeast Alaska.

Southeast Alaska Land Trust announced on Aug. 30 that it has established a fund that opens the doors for residents across Southeast Alaska to donate to the nonprofit to go toward acquiring land for conservation.

“Our vision for the Acquisition Fund is to invite donors to projects that are going to the most good, and invite community members to share what they believe are the most important lands and values to protect,” said Margaret Custer, the executive director of Southeast Alaska Land Trust.

The money built in the funds — which has a goal of raising $250,000 during 2023 — will go toward SEALT as it continues its mission to conserve land in Southeast Alaska, Custer said. The fund has already raised just over $42,000. Each piece of land acquired via the fund will be conserved in perpetuity and add to the 23 conservation properties and 3,600 acres in Southeast already being conserved by SEALT’s efforts.

Custer said the fund is significant for communities across Southeast Alaska because it allows anyone to get involved in conservation. She said the idea of conservation as a public good is not a new one, but she said thinks it’s often one that has been exclusive to wealthy landowners or nonlocals who have the luxury and means to decide to conserve property.

“This fund will enable us to protect land to the highest community benefit — not just specific people who own land or property — it’ll make the acquisitions that we do in the future more attuned with the community so that’s a really great thing,” Custer said.

She said it will also give SEALT a “faster” way to move through the process of land acquisition as their other funding mechanism, the SEALT mitigation program comes with restrictions like the types of lands that can be considered and can slow down the process “a lot.”

Ann Sutton,SEALT board president, said she is very excited about the “new addition” to the land trust and said it will serve as a quicker and more efficient way for the trust to acquire land important to communities across Southeast Alaska.

“I think for the land trust this could be a really great addition,” she said. “I think it’s always good to have more tools in your toolbox and I think this will be a way to conserve lands important to the community — there are many lands out there that are important for many reasons and this gives us a broader scope.”

Custer said the development of the fund is still in its early stages and there is still some work to be done in the outreach aspect of the fund and no concrete plans have been made yet. She said SEALT is currently working with partners in Juneau and around Southeast to provide input into conservation projects.

She said they are also beginning to reach out to work with community members, organizations and local tribal entities that would like to consider a particular property for conservation soon.

“We’re going to be starting to engage with the broader public on what they would like to protect, not just our team,” she said. “We want to keep Southeast Alaska a healthy place to live, we want to hear from the community.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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