The genesis of American Land Conservancy can be traced to the day its founder, Harriet Burgess, took her first trip down the Grand Canyon. The trip guide was the legendary Martin Litton, founder of Grand Canyon Dories, editor for Sunset Magazine, and as described by David Brower, "conscience of the Sierra Club." Martin inspired her to see the natural world as never before.
Many years and many trips later, Harriet started ALC in order to pursue the protection of another canyon â€“ Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California. She founded ALC with the contents of a modest retirement fund, and proceeded to option the 1,655-acre Topanga Canyon property from the owners -- for $1. Ten years later, the project was successfully completed.
Under Harriet's leadership, ALC completed some of its signature projects, including the acquisition of tens of thousands of acres for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in California and Nevada, large-scale wetlands restoration along the Mississippi River, and a crowning achievement, conservation of the 82,000-acre Hearst Ranch on the California Central Coast.
Martin Litton played a vital role as co-founder, connecting Harriet and her cause to such conservation legends as Bruce Babbitt, David Brower, Pete McCloskey, Margaret Owings, Galen Rowell, Wallace Stegner, Stuart Udall, Ardis Walker, and more. By staying the course and never backing down from a challenge, ALCâ€™s small staff was able to conserve hundreds of thousands of acres across fourteen states during Harrietâ€™s era.
After Harriet's retirement in 2005, ALC continued to carry on her undying commitment to conserve land for the benefit of people and wildlife. In 2006-2007 ALC moved to a programmatic approach to its work, focusing on five main program areas: Alaska, Central Valley and Foothills, the Great Basin, the West Coast Trail, and the Mississippi River. Additional conservation work in select areas across the country has also been carried out through ALC's American Landscapes program.
ALC's recent work has ranged from protection of Kodiak Brown Bear habitat in Alaska, to conserving working ranches in Nevada and California, to creating ecotourism-based economic development opportunities in communities along the Mississippi River. Since its inception in 1990 ALC has conserved more than 274,000 acres nationwide. Sadly, Harriet passed away in 2010, but we are confident she would be proud of the legacy she helped create through her humble but determined efforts so many years ago.
Learn more about ALC's founder, Harriet Burgess.