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Manchester Essex Conservation Tr Inv

 PO Box 1486
 Manchester, MA 01944
[P] (978) 890-7153
[F] (978) 768-3286
Alida Bryant
 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 04-3469549

LAST UPDATED: 11/27/2017
Organization DBA --
Former Names Manchester Conservation Trust (1998)
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years Yes


Mission StatementMORE »

To promote the preservation of natural beauty, wildlife and resources in Manchester-by-the-Sea and Essex, Massachusetts, and adjacent communities through the acquisition of real and personal property and interests by gift, purchase and otherwise; through encouraging scientific study of the wildlife and resources therein; through promoting the passive recreational use of walking trails on the land.

Mission Statement

To promote the preservation of natural beauty, wildlife and resources in Manchester-by-the-Sea and Essex, Massachusetts, and adjacent communities through the acquisition of real and personal property and interests by gift, purchase and otherwise; through encouraging scientific study of the wildlife and resources therein; through promoting the passive recreational use of walking trails on the land.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year Jan 01, 2017 to Dec 31, 2017
Projected Income $130,000.00
Projected Expense $180,000.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Land Protection and Stewardship

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

To promote the preservation of natural beauty, wildlife and resources in Manchester-by-the-Sea and Essex, Massachusetts, and adjacent communities through the acquisition of real and personal property and interests by gift, purchase and otherwise; through encouraging scientific study of the wildlife and resources therein; through promoting the passive recreational use of walking trails on the land.

Background Statement

In 1963 Manchester and Essex were two small coastal towns roughly twenty-five miles from Boston, known as delightful summer destinations. Extensive, little-visited woodlands, with a single paved road overhung with branches, linked the two villages.

Route 128 had just been completed, one that augured major changes for the North Shore. Cutting through Manchester’s woodlands, it opened up convenient automobile access to the west and south. But were all the possible changes desirable? What that was irreplaceable might be lost?

To save the woodlands, a few landowners who shared a conservation urge gave their parcels to Frances L. Burnett, a dedicated nature lover who had begun a lifetime of research into woodlot ownership as she sought to preserve a section of the woods she had often visited. Albert M. Creighton and George G. Loring joined with Frances in forming a trust to hold title to the parcels that had been entrusted to her, and to seek further gifts and purchases. Manchester Conservation Trust was born.

Within three years the Trust owned more than 200 acres north of Route 128 (half in Manchester and half in Essex). It worked with the Manchester Conservation Commission in protecting 400 acres of tax-title woodlands. By 1990 more than 900 acres in both towns formed a Wilderness Conservation Area (WCA); a decade later nearly 1,100 acres in the Manchester-Essex Woods had been saved. In 1999 Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust, Inc. was created, with officers and a board of trustees, to reflect the growing responsibilities of the Trust.

Since 1963 the value of these land holdings has been strongly reinforced through scientific research. We now know more about the woods’ biodiversity and critical roles in community wellbeing, as well as community aesthetics and quiet recreational activities. Massachusetts' Biomap2, published in 2010, identifies the 3,000-plus-acre Manchester-Essex Woods as “core habitat” for biodiversity — the highest category of land that should be protected.

In 2004 more than 100 acres in the heart of the Manchester-Essex Woods was put under agreement for residential development. MECT negotiated acquisition of the land for conservation, for $1.4 million. Never before had such a large sum been needed. The highly successful Save Our Woods campaign was launched, yielding more than $3 million toward land purchases to complete the central portion of the WCA.

Impact Statement

In 2013, MECT: 

  1. Protected approximately 4 acres of conservation land in Essex with conservation easements from two landowners and continued land protection research in Essex in a zone of unprotected, undeveloped open space.             
  2.  Completed “Assessing Your Organization” – a tool for land trusts to conduct a detailed assessment of organizational strength and handling of land transactions. The project was funded and facilitated by the national Land Trust Alliance, and resulted in a detailed and prioritized work plan. 
  3. Celebrated 50th Anniversary by: 1) producing a celebratory video; 2) sponsoring a festive community walk; 3) collaborating with the town of Manchester to begin an environmentally-based Cedar Swamp gateway renovation; 4) unveiling a new membership program, and 5) holding a gala annual meeting.                            
  4. Funded public school environmental education programs at all grade levels in the Manchester-Essex Regional School district. 200 students participated.
  5. Reviewed and accepted a “Wilderness Conservation Area Management Plan” prepared by an environmental scientist as commissioned by MECT. The plan provides a survey of MECT’s most sensitive habitats and suggests management priorities.
FY 2014 Goals                                                                                      
  1. Acquire conservation land as available and continue land protection research.                                                                       
  2. Implement prioritized goals resulting from 2013 organizational assessment, focusing on strategic planning, transition planning, records management, and board policies and development.           
  3. Complete Cedar Swamp gateway renovation.                           
  4. Continue funding public school environmental education programs.
  5. Assess opportunities for habitat management in Wilderness Conservation Area.

Needs Statement

  1. Increased unrestricted endowment: $250,000
  2. School Education Endowment Fund: $250,000
  3. Cedar Swamp Gateway renovation: $50,000
  4. Implement Land Trust Alliance Assessment Recommendations: $15,000
  5. Implement Invasive Plant Species Control Program: $50,000

CEO Statement

The Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust (MECT) is remarkable for the sustained vision, effort and accomplishments of the many volunteers, financial contributors and local officials who have united to protect over 1,000 acres of upland, wetland and coastal habitat in Manchester and Essex. Current and past trustees and dedicated volunteers participate in every program area – land protection, habitat conservation, youth and adult education, land and trail stewardship, outreach and fundraising, and organizational sustainability with a degree of energy and dedication to the mission that takes my breath away. As CEO, I am inspired (and humbled!) by this robust commitment to take action on behalf of the mission. As ideas flow and projects develop, cooperation between trustees and with staff creates a productive, team-oriented and pleasurable atmosphere for accomplishing MECT’s goals.
While seeking to increase awareness of the woods' importance in the two communities and operate a fiscally strong and responsible organization, the trustees and staff remain focused on the mission - protecting land and stewarding natural resources. Thanks to recent foundation grants, MECT has stepped up deed research, mapping and surveying in a vulnerable tract of Essex woodland. Grants also funded a professional habitat survey in one of the most biologically sensitive and diverse areas of the woods. Accompanying management recommendations have given MECT a focus for future land stewardship activities. 
As a membership organization, MECT relies on annual dues and donations, but the remarkable success of the Save Our Woods campaign in 2004 exceeded all expectations and goals, demonstrating strong support for MECT's work, and community-wide understanding of the importance of protecting a large tract of unfragmented, roadless woodland in a largely suburban region. 
50 years of sustained dedication to a focused and clear mission is MECT's hallmark and key to conservation success.

Board Chair Statement

The Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust is 50 years old and only one person who was part of its formation remains active. Therefore, one challenge is maintaining the spirit and intense dedication that the founding trio brought to its beginning. While we have been successful in protecting large blocks of local land, many parcels remain vulnerable and face development incursions on all sides. Addressing these threats takes a great deal of time and financial resources as well insuring a members' and trustees' understanding of the issues. Bringing newcomers up to speed is a challenge.
The founders contributed a large amount of time and financial resources to the Trust and conveyed their enthusiasm to their peers, thereby allowing the Trust to acquire valuable core land. Many of the original contributors have passed out of the picture making it difficult to build on their commitment. Another challenge is encouraging new citizens and younger families to make sizable donations when they see how much land is already protected. Adding to that is the challenge of maintaining municipal support for open space protection when other immediate  priorities and constituencies with competing needs demand attention. 
Uncovering land ownership information and relating it to the facts "on the ground" is a challenge. Records are incomplete and sometimes contradictory, making the surveying tasks complicated and expensive. Data from the early eighteenth century did not include dependable reference points, making the search process an ongoing obstacle course.
Lastly, our board consists of many talented and busy people who are dedicated, but often unavailable to devote as much time as we might like to the Trust's activities. Some give inordinate amounts of time while others are pulled in many directions by family and professional obligations and cannot contribute as much as we might need.
While these challenges are real, they can be managed and worked around. We are blessed with a key group of dedicated and enthusiastic members who are devoting their energy to our programs and promoting our activities. We also have many individuals whose outside activities and interests relate to ours, providing wonderful synergy and cooperation. We are dedicating time to long range planning and strategic thinking to ensure we are concentrating on the important issues, as well as the urgent and tactical matters.
Our board is dedicated and skilled and our reputation is good so we are able to attract people who are willing to make special commitments to advance our programs and contribute financially. Our success has come about due to outstanding communication among board members, committee people and staff. Our members stimulate us and we endeavor to seek their reaction to our projects and activities. We continually express our appreciation for their support. This resulted in a high level of membership and annual appeal giving in 2013. 
We are at an enviable level with regard to the towns' opinion of our contribution to our communities. We must capitalize on this to increase membership levels and encourage more involvement by residents and business to fulfill our mission and manage our priorities.  

Geographic Area Served


Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA
Essex, MA
Communities affected by the general watershed area

Organization Categories

  1. Environment - Forest Conservation
  2. -
  3. -

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)



Land Protection and Stewardship

Our sole mission is land protection and stewardship and our entire budget funds this mission. 
Budget  $113,000.00
Category  Environment, General/Other Natural Resources Conservation & Protection
Population Served Families
Program Short-Term Success  MECT will identify land ownership of 25 parcels in a highly vulnerable area of undeveloped woodland. 
Program Long-Term Success  100% of targeted woodland and open space in Manchester and Essex will be securely protected from development and other encroachment.  Achieving this goal will safeguard local drinking water supply, protect biodiversity and provide a place for quiet outdoor recreation.  
Program Success Monitored By 
Success is monitored with careful record keeping, mapping, and review by a land acquisition and defense committee with help from legal counsel.  The committee reports to the full board on a regular basis.  
Positive outcomes to legal challenges, resulting in increased land protection and habitat conservation solidify MECT's activities. 
Examples of Program Success  MECT has identified five key parcels of land that are critical to protecting larger tracts and will help MECT defend against encroachment on its own holdings.  In 2014, MECT protected 4 acres of upland habitat in Essex via two donated conservation easements. 

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

MECT is a small, community-based, mostly-volunteer land trust with a modest annual income to support land acquisition, defense and stewardship, educational programs and general operations. Because the geographic region is small (two towns, c. 7,500 total population), we cannot expect to increase membership and annual donations significantly. This presents a challenge. Excessive draw on endowment is not prudent; grant-funded programs are valuable, but must be chosen and managed carefully to advance the mission; reducing staff and overhead would limit the trustee’s ability to accomplish annual and long-term goals. To address this need, staff and trustees are implementing additional short and long-term fundraising programs. These include a new corporate member program that attracted four local businesses in 2013; creation of a new endowment fund that will support school education programs currently funded in the annual budget; and a planned giving program. If successful, and in tandem with traditional member-based income, each of these will increase revenue and help meet the challenge of funding an annual budget.

Clarity about land ownership in the geographic area in which MECT operates is often murky. Despite meticulous research and documentation of ownership and boundaries of its own parcels, MECT has faced legal challenges to its claims. Surveys and legal counsel are costly, difficult to predict and estimate and could potentially severely impact MECT’s ability to continue with its mission. Trustees are grappling with this issue.

As a result of the 2013 Land Trust Alliance Organizational Assessment Process/workplan, MECT is attending to the following issues:

  • Expected departure of a long-term volunteer whose specialized expertise includes parcel and deed research, evaluating and negotiating land acquisition and defense options, and record-keeping. This work is essential to carrying out the core mission. MECT is assessing logistical and financial implications of making this transition as well as assembling a land acquisition and defense handbook that will help future volunteers and staff members continue the excellent work that has already been accomplished.
  • Develop and implement a records-organization and storage policy to identify and safeguard important documents.
  • Update and clarify Board policies and responsibilities; strengthen recruitment and training.


CEO/Executive Director Ms. Michelle M Vaillancourt
CEO Term Start July 2017
CEO Email
CEO Experience My pre-MECT, pre-"retirement" career was with the Massachusetts Audubon Society. 1979-1989: Director, Natural History Travel program.  1990-2011: Co-Director, and then Director - North Shore Conservation Advocacy. In this role, I worked with municipalities, other non-profits and grass-roots organizations to promote and implement conservation projects in the North Shore region, focusing primarily on coastal habitats. 
Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
Ms. Kathryn W. Leahy July 2012 June 2017
Ms. Helen Bethell Jan 1999 June 2012

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Ms. Alida L Bryant Finance & Development Director --
Ms. Michelle M. Vaillancourt Executive Director --


Award Awarding Organization Year
-- -- --


Affiliation Year
Land Trust Alliance 2013
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --


MECT has three critical collaborators:  The towns of Manchester and Essex, Massachusetts and The Essex County Greenbelt Association (ECGA). Beginning in 2012, MECT rents office space at ECGA headquarters. The two organizations co-sponsor public programs, cooperate on land protection projects, and strategize about potential conservation threats. ECGA is generous in providing advice and support to staff and trustees in all areas of operation from investment strategies to managing conservation easements.  
MECT's relationship with the municipalities is strong. The MECT-inspired Cedar Swamp Gateway project attracted generous financial support via the Manchester Community Preservation Act. MECT and the Conservation Commissions are vigilant partners in protecting open space and wetlands in the woods. Local officials in each community attend MECT events.

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments


Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 0
Number of Part Time Staff 3
Number of Volunteers 0
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 100%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 3
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 3
Male: 0
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? No
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 5
Management Succession Plan Under Development
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Under Development
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy No
Document Destruction Policy No
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Yes
State Registration --

Risk Management Provisions


Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? N/A
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency No N/A
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency No N/A
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency N/A N/A


Board Chair Mr. Michael Dyer
Board Chair Company Affiliation Retired
Board Chair Term Nov 2015 - Dec 2017
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Ms. Lynn Atkinson Endicott College Voting
Mr. Alan Budreau Self Employed Voting
Ms. Vickie Cataldo retired Voting
Ms. Frances R Caudill Retired Voting
Mr. Jeffrey Cochand Self Employed Voting
Mr. Albert M Creighton Jr. Retired Voting
Mr. Greg A Crockett Self Employed Voting
Mr. George E Davis Air Worldwide Voting
Mr. Michael Dyer Community Volunteer Voting
Mr. David Kahle Tufts University Voting
Mr. Michael McDonagh Self Employed Voting
Mr. Garlan Morse Jr. Morse & Morse Voting
Ms. Bethe M. Palmer Self-Employed Voting
Ms. Julie Scofield Retired Voting
Mr. George P Smith retired Voting
Mr. Fred Wales retired Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 16
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 5
Male: 11
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 0
Board Meeting Attendance % 80%
Written Board Selection Criteria No
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy No
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 50%
Constituency Includes Client Representation No

Standing Committees

  • Community Outreach / Community Relations
  • Distributions / Grant Making
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • Membership
  • Nominating
  • Program / Program Planning

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

The "Program/Program Planning" Standing Committee is actually our Land Acquisition and Protection Committee.  We also have a standing Land Stewardship Committee, which tends to trails, signage and usage issues.  The chair of each committee is on the Executive Committee.

Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Revenue $604,036 $611,019 $360,075
Total Expenses $140,784 $162,391 $154,899

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
-- -- --
Government Contributions $0 $23,192 $23,900
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- $23,192 $23,900
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions $569,352 $553,085 $136,521
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue -- -- --
Investment Income, Net of Losses $34,684 $34,742 $199,654
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events -- -- --
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other -- -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Program Expense $88,281 $119,951 $115,571
Administration Expense $28,883 $28,480 $32,140
Fundraising Expense $23,620 $13,960 $7,188
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 4.29 3.76 2.32
Program Expense/Total Expenses 63% 74% 75%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 4% 2% 4%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Assets $6,047,627 $5,519,042 $5,124,297
Current Assets $776,158 $519,333 $101,179
Long-Term Liabilities -- $0 $0
Current Liabilities $7,770 $4,462 $14,275
Total Net Assets $6,039,857 $5,514,580 $5,110,022

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value --
Spending Policy N/A
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund No
How many months does reserve cover? --

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? Yes
Capital Campaign Purpose To increase our unrestricted reserves which support operating expenses.
Campaign Goal $1,000,000.00
Capital Campaign Dates May 2016 - Dec 2018
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount $713,000.00
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? No

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 99.89 116.39 7.09

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

The Board recognizes that we have several elderly donors who are substantial supporters of the organization, including founders. As a small land trust with a donor base of 2 small towns, we recognize the need to increase our unrestricted reserves to ensure sustainability for the next 25 years. Hence, the revenue reported is much higher in the short term as we work on our Capital Campaign.

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in the charts and graphs above are per the organization's IRS Form 990s. Contributions from Foundations and Corporations are listed under Individuals when the breakout was not available.


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.


The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.

1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?

MECT's continuing mission is to protect watershed and wildlife habitat in the towns of Manchester and Essex. This provides 'green infrastructure' to our 2 towns and to neighboring communities. There are still parcels at risk of development that would negatively impact water quality, quantity and flood control. Once those parcels are protected, it will be MECT's mission to protect them in perpetuity from encroachment and other threats. At the same time, we continue to provide grants to our local schools to get children into the woods, preparing the next generation of conservationists.

2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

MECT has close connections with property owners and town conservation commissions, open space committees, and master planning committees. We have identified key areas of land and individual parcels that are the highest priority. As parcels become available, MECT helps to determine best use of land and most appropriate ownership and makes recommendations accordingly. Depending on the circumstances we might receive a gift, make a purchase, or receive a conservation easement (restriction). We reach out in a variety of ways to educate town boards and all residents as to the importance of land protection for managing climate change now, and in the future. Over 54 years of service, we are the go-to source for land management practices and solutions in the two towns.

3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

MECT has a highly professional and capable part-time staff of three. The Executive Director is experienced in land strategy and management. The Land research and GIS coordinator is well versed in survey, title and deed research and manages a sophisticated database of maps and records which is essential to insure due diligence for each of our acquisitions. The Director of Finance and Development has 25 years of accounting and non-profit management experience, with several fundraising campaigns under her belt. She is responsible for Membership, Annual Appeal and Capital Campaigns, with a great deal of Board of Trustees' help. MECT's Board of Trustees is currently 17 strong. All contribute in many different ways: Committees on Outreach, Land Acquisition, Land Stewardship, Development and Finance; leading hikers through our woods; keeping the trails clear and welcoming; 

4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

We measure success one acre at a time. But we also measure success by our friendships and connections within the community. It takes a village (in this case, two villages) to prepare ourselves for existing and future climate change. 

5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

MECT currently protect over 400 parcels covering 1400 acres of land. There are perhaps ______ acres of critical habitat that still need protection, and _____ more parcels that we would like to see protected. The challenge is identifying the owners! These are woodlots passed down through many generations from the 1700's. Many heirs and deeds have been lost along the way.