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December 22, 2014
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Land trust sets gas guidelines; a milestone true to its mission


Belcamino notes that response has been “overwhelmingly positive” to date. “Our members and our supporters are dedicated to our mission to conserve the lands and waters of the Upper Delaware region now and for future generations,” said Belcamino. “Even members who may disagree with the standards set forth in the guidelines have told us that we have taken a positive step in adopting them.”

Roy and Joann Morsch, who own property in Wayne County that is protected through a DHC easement, decided against leasing it for natural gas development. “The more we learn about the process, the more convinced we are to not lease,” wrote the couple in an email. “We feel responsible for our own personal health and safety, and also for that of our neighbors and our community. The risks involved are not worth the risk of destroying our aquifer and the water source for millions of people. We try to live with respect for our environment and all the living creatures that share the land with us. The DHC should be commended for publishing its guidelines.”

The guidelines, along with a preface that explains the context in which they were developed, can be viewed in the online version of this story at www.riverreporteronline.com.
In the preface, it is pointed out that while other land trusts have issued “policies” that seek to reassure both pro-and anti-drilling factions, the DHC has taken a different approach. “We wish to make clear that we do not favor the introduction of gas drilling into our region. The conservancy protects land that possesses special conservation values; it would be incompatible with our mission to protect land in which those conservation values may be diminished by drilling and its associated activities and infrastructure.

“Whether drilling occurs or not, the conservancy will continue to accomplish its land protection mission, including education and community outreach that promote strong and sustainable relationships between people and the lands where they live, work and play.”

The new guidelines are the latest significant challenge that the DHC, which has protected 13,185 acres with 66 conservation easements, has met within the past year. In August 2011, the DHC was awarded accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance’s Accreditation Commission, placing it among a select group of 135 out of 1,700 land trusts in the United States to earn the seal adhering to national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands and for organizational operation and management.