SMHT Color Logo 115x180px History

The Southern Madison Heritage Trust (SMHT) is a grassroots conservation organization made up of a broad range of community members. Our all-volunteer Board has included local farmers, a DEC forester, a Cornell Cooperative Extension educator, a geologist, a real estate appraiser, an English professor, and other professionals at various times. Our mission statement charges us "to conserve, for public benefit, the natural resources in and around the townships of Brookfield, Eaton, Hamilton, Lebanon, and Madison, in Madison County, New York. These resources shall include land, water, unique habitats, scenic landscapes, recreational sites, and historic features. [We] will conserve such resources through land stewardship, public education and support of practices and policies that advance natural resource conservation."

Our mission began to take shape in January 2000 when we met as a group of concerned citizens. We were aware of the priorities for agricultural and natural resource conservation supported in the Hamilton Township Comprehensive Plan (1998) but we felt more needed to be done to promote these priorities, both in the Hamilton Township and beyond.

After several months of regular meetings with Land Trust Alliance representatives and other conservation advocates, we decided to form a land trust. The appeal of a land trust over other advocate-type groups was first, that landowner participation is voluntary, and thus we would be able to achieve our goals without polarizing politics, and second, that our achievements would be permanent.

In October 2000 we voted for incorporation, elected officers, and began to plan community outreach. In January 2001 we held three community-wide meetings to get the word out about our group, gain consensus about our direction, and educate potential landowner-partners about our conservation methods. At the first meeting Jerry Cosgrove from American Farmland Trust presented information about conservation easements to a crowd of 120 people!

From January 2001 to present we have worked on several fronts. In the organizational category, we filed for incorporation and nonprofit 501c3 status and received our certification in May 2002. Meanwhile, SMHT Board members retreated from projects during the first months of 2002 to develop a strategic plan. In July 2002 we promoted the organization with handsome brochures and displays at the community Fourth of July festivities and celebrated our incorporation at our first annual picnic. The organization has benefited from the phenomenal dedication of its Board.

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Southern Madison Heritage Trust
P.O. Box 117 - Hamilton, NY 13346

Banner photo by John Hubbard