Our Mission and History
Founded in 1970 in Amherst, Massachusetts, The Kestrel Trust was an effective all-volunteer land trust for the first half of its history. In the 1990s, Kestrel became more proactive by expanding its capacity to serve a nine-town region. In 2011, The Kestrel Trust merged with the Valley Land Fund (see below) to serve a 19-town region surrounding Northampton and Amherst, and set out to become a professionally staffed regional land trust serving the heart of the Valley. Through its merger, Kestrel has a combined 65 years of land conservation experience and has conserved more than 19,000 acres of wildlands, woodlands, farmland, and riverlands. Today, Kestrel is accelerating its pace of land conservation with our goal of protecting 1,000 acres annually, in addition to building an accredited stewardship program that actively engages the community.
The Valley Land Fund, Inc began in 1986 as an ad hoc effort to prevent development of a 50-acre strawberry field in Montague, Massachusetts. VLF soon expanded to work in over 50 communities across Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties. With a board composed of several key state-agency conservation leaders who understood the need to act more quickly than government generally can when opportunities become available, VLF saved more than 9,000 acres, including pristine mountain ranges, forestlands, historic family farms, wetlands, and essential wildlife habitat. In the 1990s, Valley Land Fund had an active bridge loan fund of more than $1 million, which helped save hundreds of acres by buying them, holding them temporarily, and then selling the land to farmers or to government agencies to secure their protection forever.
About the merger with VLF: Kestrel and Valley Land Fund had been collaborating on land conservation projects for 25 years. Merging with Valley Land Fund allowed us to better meet the challenges of land protection in the Valley and to accelerate the pace of land conservation in the most rapidly developing and changing areas in the Valley. The merger enabled Kestrel Land Trust to focus our strategic priorities; expand our professional capacity; capture the talents of both boards; and promote organizational efficiency. Although VLF is no longer a presence in areas outside the 19-town region Kestrel now serves, we are confident that our land trust partners will be able to work effectively in areas previously covered by VLF.
Throughout our history, our mission remained the same—to work with landowners, governmental agencies, citizen groups, and other organizations to protect land, including farmland, woodlands, wildlands, wildlife habitat, water resources, historic landscapes, rare and endangered species habitat, and scenic vistas in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts.