The Prickly Pear Land Trust is now an accredited land trust, a status conferred by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission on only 158 out of 1,700 land trusts nationwide.

The designation means PPLT can display a seal, which indicates the organization meets national standards for excellence, upholds the public trust and ensures that conservation efforts are permanent. Other accredited organizations in the Treasure State include the Montana Land Reliance, Gallatin Valley Land Trust and Five Valleys Land Trusts.

"We are thrilled to display this seal next to the PPLT name," said Andy Baur, PPLT executive director. "It says that PPLT conducts its business and serves its community, supporters and partners with excellence and transparency,"

PPLT was founded in 1996 by a group of Helena residents, who noted that access to many of their traditional recreation areas and many of the natural areas around the city were being altered.

The founders saw an opportunity to purchase private land and preserve it for wildlife and recreation. They also saw opportunities to coordinate efforts to improve low-impact recreation, facilitate conservation easements on private land and provide balance in discussions of land use and management.

To date, PPLT has protected 12 parcels of land totaling 672 acres for public open space. In addition, the land trust holds 14 conservation easements on nearly 3,500 acres, including the recent acquisition of a conservation easement that protects 260 acres of native grasslands and riparian areas along Seven Mile Creek. Additionally, 10 acres containing active beaver ponds will be conveyed into public ownership, providing new public access.

"The accreditation process has truly made Prickly Pear Land Trust a stronger organization," said Sarah Jaeger, PPLT board president. "By clarifying our policies and procedures, the land trust operates in a more efficient and professional manner."

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission is based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and is an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, a national conservation group that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation throughout America.

More information on the accreditation program is available on the commission's website, www.landtrustaccreditation.org. More information on the Land Trust Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org and you can learn more about PPLT at www.pricklypearlt.org.

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