Viv Burton, co-founder of World Land Trust, explains why the charity is a key player in the fight to save land and species – and how you can help

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 19 December 2019

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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This article first appeared in our Consumer Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, released on 19 Dec 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Main image: Patricia Arellano, WLT

When World Land Trust (WLT) was born in 1989, the world was a simpler place. It was the year the World Wide Web was invented. It was the year the Berlin Wall came down. It was the year the first GPS satellite went into orbit. Aluminium can recycling got underway and ‘environmentally friendly’ started to become a catchy slogan.

To the founders of WLT, anything felt possible: communication, freedom, discovery and environmental awakening – it seemed a good time to pioneer land purchase and protection, starting in a forest in Belize. 110,000 acres of rich tropical forest, to be precise – all set to be chopped down to make way for the monoculture and cattle farming that was sweeping through Belize.

Putting Belize on the map

At that time not much was known about Belize – probably because it had been the UK’s last continental possession in the Americas, then British Honduras. So, the first thing WLT had to do was to put Belize on the map.

Why Belize? It’s a short answer: the forests were spectacular, the biodiversity was stunning, the threat was imminent, the land was cheap and no people were being displaced. The premise was simple, too: just £25 to buy an acre of Belizean tropical forest and save it forever.

The idea took off and people really connected with the concept. Here was an opportunity where the individual really could get involved – and they did, in their thousands.

Those people have, together, ensured that 260,000 acres of tropical forest in Belize are now safe from the chainsaw, but only in the nick of time. Once the land was bought one of the first things to do was waymark the boundaries of the reserve.

Sadly, today, those waymarks are no longer necessary: monoculture has swept right up to the forest frontiers – a reminder of what the future held for this Belizean forest and its wildlife, had WLT not been able to mobilise donor support.

‘When I’m asked why I support World and Trust I say that it can be summed up by the following reasons. They are short and to the point, which is what I like about WLT. First, they save land… Second, WLT does not own the land, the ownership of land they have saved is vested in their in-country conservation partners. Third, WLT keeps its overheads low.’

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH

Keeping the vision

WLT has punched well above its weight; in subsequent years it has tackled the catastrophic loss of the Atlantic forest of Brazil, saved an island in the Philippines from destruction, worked with indigenous Guarani communities to protect their forest habitat in Argentina and secured right of passage for Indian wildlife across traditional migration routes.

More recently, £1m was raised to connect isolated forests in the Kinabatangan flood plain of Malaysian Borneo to ensure the survival of orangutans. The key to WLT’s astonishing success is its close relationship with knowledgeable and established local non-governmental partner organisations – 29 and counting.

30 years on from its first project in Belize, WLT supporters have helped save more than 775,000 acres around the world – that’s three-quarters of a million acres of habitat that would have been lost, together with its wildlife.

How it works

WLT can still purchase real acres in real places, to be saved forever, for just £100. It also has an Action Fund, supported mainly by regular donations from WLT Friends, and a Plant a Tree initiative to restore native tree species on cleared land.

WLT Christmas gifts

£5 Plant a tree to restore natural forest
£25 Help offset your Christmas impact and indulge without guilt
£50 Help offset your journey this Christmas if you’re planning to travel
£100 Buy an Acre in Mexico, Colombia or Zambia

Special Appeals are launched to raise funds for urgent land protection projects – look out for WLT’s current appeal: Scorched earth to forest haven – turning back the clock on the Vietnam war and helping restore its forests.

These days life isn’t as simple as it was in 1989; while WLT can boast tremendous success when it comes to saving real acres in real places, the world is struggling to survive. Yes, do buy environmentally friendly products and do all you can to reduce your carbon footprint, but there’s an urgent need to change both heads and hearts.

Click here to support WLT’s mission to save land to save species this Christmas.

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