On June 30, 2020, the member organizations of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association voted to change the Association’s name to WeConservePA. Why the change?
The name concisely states what the directors, committee members, and staff of the organization endeavor to accomplish; the work of member land trusts, open space programs, environmental advisory councils, trail groups, and other conservation organizations engaged with and supported by WeConservePA; and the motivation for the individual persons supporting WeConservePA.
The name is brief—five syllables—and memorable. It stands out from the vast array of organizations that include “association” and “Pennsylvania” in their name and vie for attention in Harrisburg. It also stands out from the names of all the organizations on whose behalf WeConservePA advocates.
A Broadening Scope of Purpose and Activities
In 1995, land trust leaders established the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, a sensible name in that the organization was governed by land trusts and solely focused on helping land trusts.
The organization’s focus would broaden in the new millennium. The organization’s mission stretched to include helping anyone advancing land conservation—land trusts, local government, state or federal government. The organization’s work, once confined to supporting acquisition of land and easements for conservation purposes, expanded to include promoting sustainable land use and connecting people to the outdoors.
On the public policy front, the organization focused on passage of the Conservation and Preservation Easements Act until it achieved enactment in June 2001. Since then, the organization has advocated fruitfully for many public policies that support conservation acquisition endeavors. Its advocacy also reached into new territory, the organization leading or co-leading successful efforts to:
- extend Growing Greener to support a variety of environmental investments,
- stop the expansion of federal eminent domain powers for high voltage lines,
- protect State Forests from a drilling free-for-all,
- stop the “sell-parks-for-cash” bill,
- expand injury liability protections for those opening their land to the public, and
- pursue court decisions ensuring that lands dedicated to the public trust remain in the public trust.
Other notable examples of expansion of the organization’s breadth include publication of the Model Trail Easement (2007), PA Land Choices land use curriculum for schools (2009), Universal Access Trails and Shared Use Paths (2014), and a host of land use planning guides resulting in an award from the PA Chapter of the American Planning Association (2014). The organization also took on facilitation of the Environmental Advisory Council Network (2013) and management of the Growing Greener Coalition (2018).
Each of these expansions of mission—each of these new activities and endeavors—were added subsequent to the deliberation and decision-making of land trust leaders, who make up most of the organization’s policy advisory committee and board of directors.
These land trust leaders also came to see that a name change might be appropriate, both to reflect who the organization had become and where it is going.
In June 2018, the organization’s policy advisory committee met for a two-day retreat during which the notion of a name change was broached; in December of that year, the board budgeted for hiring a branding consultant to update and solidify the organization’s brand.
The ensuing process involved the consultant, CrossRoads Studios, meeting with the 33-member policy advisory committee, a survey distributed widely via the ConserveLand Update e-newsletter, and dozens of interviews. Following CrossRoad Studios’ analysis and testing and vetting of name candidates, the policy advisory committee deliberated the finalists; in the end, 82% expressed preference for WeConservePA with 41% expressing strong preference. Committee members also expressed preference for a new descriptor for the organization: “Land Trusts & Friends of Conservation.”
On June 9, 2020, the board of directors subsequently and unanimously voted to recommend the name WeConservePA to the membership, and on June 30, with one dissenting vote, the members voted to adopt the new name.
At the beginning of the rebranding process, a goal was established to ground the effort: the organization’s new brand must:
- Connect to its land conservation-centric mission
- Be consistent with the importance of continued service to and leadership from land trusts
- Relate beyond land trusts to more broadly embrace conservationists
- NOT alienate or exclude people on the margins of conservation who nevertheless could come to support conservation and the organization.
I believe this goal has been well met in the coupling of a new name and descriptor for the organization:
Land Trusts & Friends of Conservation
I will not miss people consistently garbling “Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.” I will not miss news outlets regularly attributing quotes to the PA Land Trust [sic] or being confused with the Land Trust Alliance. I will miss the simple, two syllables of PALTA and being amused that PALTA means avocado in Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina. But time to move on!
Andrew M. Loza
There had been some interest in deleting reference to Pennsylvania or PA in the organization’s branding to reflect that the organization has been providing conservation leadership nationally via its model documents, guides, and public policy work as well as support to land trust endeavors in neighboring states. This work and impact beyond Pennsylvania will continue and perhaps even expand even as the organization retains its PA branding.
Read the statement from WeConservePA board chair, Kim Murphy, about the name change.
Learn more about WeConservePA’s logo.