By Maya Fuller, 2023 Intern for the Future of the Adirondacks 

The values statement that hangs on the wall at the Adirondack Land Trust office acts as a daily reminder that how we approach our work is just as important as our mission. In this statement, diversity, equity, inclusion, and access are recognized as “essential to all aspects of conservation work, and to ensuring that the Adirondack Park welcomes and provides benefits for all people.” In the summer of 2023, I was tasked with helping to actualize these values in all aspects of the land trust’s work.  

This resulted in the creation of a roadmap for cultural due diligence. Due diligence is a general term. Real estate due diligence, which includes property surveys and title reports, is a routine and required part of the process of land acquisition. Cultural due diligence involves investigation of the human history of the land. We see it as a moral and ethical responsibility.  

Cultural due diligence asks: 

  • Which properties are best suited for this type of research? 
  • What resources do we use to find information? 
  • How do we determine the validity of the information gathered? 
  • How do we know when we’ve collected enough information to inform decisions? 

This process, though it can be broadly applied, will look different for every property. Bringing the past to light allows us to provide an honest accounting of history and has the potential to guide our land protection and stewardship decisions. We learned this summer, for instance, that a section of a newly acquired parcel was among the properties that the abolitionist Gerrit Smith granted to African Americans in the 1800s. We will incorporate that information into how the land is managed and interpreted. I’m excited for this work to continue, and for the Adirondack Land Trust to be at the forefront of a conservation movement that protects outdoor spaces for the benefit of all and that considers the past—not just ownerships and ecology, but injustices and oral and social histories. 

Photo by Nancie Battaglia. From left: Adirondack Land Trust Stewardship & GIS Manager Becca Halter, Adirondack Diversity Initiative Executive Director Tiffany Rea-Fisher, and Adirondack Land Trust Intern for the Future of the Adirondacks Maya Fuller review trail plans on site at Glenview.