Thank you to Jennifer Smith, Executive Director for Lemhi Regional Land Trust, for your continued partnership and service to the nonprofit community!
Q: How has your organization evolved over the years?
Lemhi Regional Land Trust was founded in 2005 by four local ranchers who were alarmed by an increasing number of properties being subdivided and developed, even in isolated drainages that had been dominated by ranching for over a century. With no office, no checkbook, and no funding they set the goal of providing alternatives to landowners selling their land piece by piece to developers to retire, pass on their land, or make ends meet. The first years were lean ones, with no clear idea where the funding would come from to keep the organization going, let alone funding to purchase conservation easements. However, now just over 15 years later we have completed over $24 million worth of on the ground conservation perpetually conserving over 14,000 acres of private land; over $3 million in habitat restoration work benefiting endangered salmon and steelhead and other fish and wildlife; and connected over 400 kids annually to their food and agricultural heritage via the Salmon School Garden.
Q: What is one of the proudest accomplishments of your nonprofit?
Our purchase of the Salmon School Garden property in 2014 to ensure that kids from across Lemhi county would always have a place to dig in the dirt, grow their own food, and stay connected to their agricultural heritage. This one-acre parcel was purchased with a legacy gift left by one of our founding board members Fran Tonsmeire. Today we help facilitate over 400 kids participating in experiential learning in their classrooms and in the Garden classroom. Food grown in the Garden is sent home with kids for them and their families and also donated to various community organizations and their food programs, like Lemhi's Afterschool Promise and the Seniors Center.
Q: What do you wish you would've known when you started your role/your nonprofit career?
I wish I would have known how much I would become personally invested in my organization. As our Executive Director I fully embrace that the success of our organization ultimately falls on my shoulders. This is an incredible burden to bear at times.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you face day-to-day?
Our biggest challenge as a non-profit is raising enough unrestricted general operating funds. Our rural area does not have many people and is impoverished, so finding donors is incredibly challenging and foundations and grants are funding general operating funds less and less. It is also challenging having a small staff where we each have many different "hats" that we are required to wear to keep our organization moving forward. This is stressful and taxing to know when things need to be set aside to focus on other things.
Q: What is your favorite part of INC membership?
I enjoy the training and webinar opportunities that are offered when I am able to attend them. I have enjoyed the annual meeting too when I was able to attend.
Q: Why did you decide to invest in INC membership?
We wanted to make sure to stay involved in our statewide nonprofit happenings. Having someone looking out for nonprofits and keeping members up to date on things is important to us.
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