by Julian Meisler
For two days this week, I had the pleasure of joining leaders from California and Chile in a joint conservation conference organized largely by our former executive director, Ralph Benson. Now in its second year, the conference focused on coastal conservation and “was inspired by the remarkable symmetry of the mountain, valley and coastal landscapes of Chile and California, and by parallel efforts to celebrate, protect and restore our northern and southern lands and waters.” Indeed, the geography of Chile is strikingly similar to California’s, with a spectacular coastline, a central valley and a mountain range. The climate is reversed, however, with the northern portion of the country arid and warm like Southern California, and the southern portion of the country more like Northern California. Though that is an oversimplification, environmental issues facing Chile are the same as those facing California today (sea level rise, increased fire risk, drought) and California 50 years ago (increased development pressure).
California is home to more than 150 land trusts. Chile has a few. California has a robust system of resource agencies and environmental laws. Chile is just developing this structure. A series of presentations by the California Coastal Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the California Coastal Commission, the Land Trust Alliance and others focused on how we built the environmental capacity that we have here in California and elsewhere. The Chileans presented on both national environmental initiatives as well as local actions that are making real headway toward protecting the coast.
Environmental philanthropy by organizations and individuals is vital to conservation. While international organizations have been working in Chile for decades, individual giving there is relatively young. To that end, our own board member, Tim Portwood, and staff member, Dierdre Holbrook, gave outstanding overviews of conservation philanthropy and the mechanics of how it works at an organizational level. Both gave me a far deeper appreciation of how fortunate Sonoma Land Trust is to have such a talented group of professionals working to sustain our organization and to have a community that values the work we do.
It is an exciting time in Chile. If you’d like to learn more about some of the work there, take a moment to follow some of these links to organizations leading the way. Note that you can translate these pages in Google from Spanish to English.
Julian Meisler is Sonoma Land Trust's Baylands program manager.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.