Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Stephanie Kaza


Planning a future for the landscapes we live in can be a daunting challenge for many communities in Vermont. Conservation initiatives affect the quality of life for all community members and can be difficult if not impossible to change in the event of poor planning. Through examining stakeholder relationships with land trusts I have explored the complexities of planning processes used by land trusts in Vermont for conservation initiatives

The study involved one statewide land trust, the Vermont Land Trust, and two community land trusts, the Stowe Land Trust and the Duxbury Land Trust. I used qualitative methods including document review, observation and interviews to gather data on land trust planning. My study shows how stakeholder relationships shape conservation initiatives, what strategies land trusts use to aid stakeholder involvement, and finally, how stakeholder input affects conservation easements and stewardship.

Interviews with multiple internal and external stakeholders for the three land trusts indicate a negative feedback loop within the organizational structure of each land trust I call "management by crisis." My case study examples suggest that stakeholders do not get involved in conservation until there is a threat to the landscape. This makes strategic planning difficult and limits a land trust's ability to link important parcels together for environmental and social benefit.

I suggest that management by crisis can be replaced with positive feedback using Community Based Participatory Research. This approach relies on communities initiating projects and being an integral part of the planning process from the beginning of a conservation initiative. By involving stakeholders from the conception of a conservation project, a land trust can better evaluate community needs in relation to social and environmental wellbeing.



Number of Pages

147 p.