Escondido, CA–One thing that unites America is land: Americans strongly support saving the wild lands they love.
Since 1991, The Escondido Creek Conservancy has been doing just that in North San Diego County. The Conservancy announced it has achieved national recognition for its work – joining a network of over 450 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust.
“We are a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program. Our strength means special places–such as the LeoMar, Keithley, and Sardina preserves–will be protected forever, making the region an even greater place for us and our children,” said Conservancy Director of Finance and Operations Rita Petrekova, who led the multi-year accreditation effort.
The Escondido Creek Conservancy provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive independent third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that the Conservancy’s lands will be protected forever. Around the Nation, non-profit accredited land trusts steward almost 20 million acres of land–the size of Denali, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Everglades, and Yosemite National Parks combined.
“Accreditation demonstrates the Conservancy’s commitment and ability to provide permanent land conservation through ethical business practices, good corporate governance, and top-notch long-term stewardship,” said Leonard Wittwer, Conservancy co-founder and current board president.
“It is exciting to recognize The Escondido Creek Conservancy with this national mark of distinction,” said Melissa Kalvestrand, executive director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 450 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”
The Escondido Creek Conservancy is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census.
Over the past three decades, the conservancy has helped protect over 7,000 acres of wildlife habitat and currently manages 3,000 acres of wildlands in North San Diego County. They also annually implement outdoor educational programs for 5,000 and more students and provide compatible outdoor recreation to children and adults, including all third graders in the Escondido Union School District. They strongly believe the benefits of outdoor education are numerous and exposing young people to nature enriches their lives and helps them understand why it is so important to protect wild spaces.
Recent Conservancy conservation efforts include the Missing Lynx campaign–a continuation of the organization’s successful 2015-2019 Save 1000 Acres campaign. In 2021, as part of the Missing Lynx effort, the Conservancy created a new preserve in Olivenhain called LeoMar. The recent purchase of 104 acres of land adjacent to the Gaty reservoir is serving as a centerpiece of the new LeoMar Preserve.
The conservancy is also promoting the park to create new park space for Escondido residents and improve water quality in the creek and ocean. They also believe the public should have access to nature close to where they live, which is one of the reasons why it is advocating for creek restoration in Escondido.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts.