The Ventura Land Trust is searching for a new executive director as Derek Poultney, the current director, is stepping into the Conservation Director role. Poultney recently recommended this change to the Board of Directors as a way to build and optimize organizational capacity during this phase of tremendous organizational growth.
During Poultney’s 11 years of leadership (five as Executive Director), the trust grew significantly. From two acres and two staff in 2010, Ventura Land Trust now manages 4000 acres and has 24 employees. “It is an incredibly exciting time for Ventura and Ventura Land Trust and there is more growth on the horizon, says Mark Watkins, the trust’s newly appointed President of the Board. With five years of environmental consulting and field biology work and five years as Conservation Director at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) prior to his current tenure at Ventura Land Trust, Poultney remains dedicated to preserving nature and public access to nature for the community.
Poultney is excited about this new opportunity because “I will be able to get back to doing what I love doing the most and what I’m most effective doing, and I’m looking forward to having a new mentor who can usher us into our next period of growth.” Watkins has worked closely with Poultney in his time at the Trust and is looking forward to bringing in additional resources with this change. “We looked at the next five years from a strategic planning perspective and mutually agreed that Derek would best serve the Trust in the Conservation Director role. He has been a great leader for this organization and he really shines when able to focus on securing the resources needed to complete acquisition and habitat restoration projects.”
The last year has particularly proven the benefit the Land Trust brings to the community. When much of the city was shut down to the public, its nature preserves provided solace and comfort. In 2020, the Land Trust established the 2,100-acre Harmon Canyon Preserve which has been well-received by hikers, runners and cyclists. This is the largest acquisition for the Trust to date and has attracted attention throughout Ventura County and from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.
Looking toward the future, the Land Trust is focused on connecting with more people throughout Ventura County and southern California. One of the many goals along these lines is to provide opportunities for students interested in nature. Since 2004, the Land Trust has worked with thousands of students, ranging from elementary school to graduate level, to educate them on the importance of preserving and restoring natural lands in Ventura. Most recently, they have significantly increased this capacity by teaming up with the popular local outdoor environmental education programs: Once Upon a Watershed and Ventura Wild.
“When you reach more students, parents, and schools,” Derek said, “you build a stronger and lasting relationship in the community. You’re building your next group of stakeholders and land stewards.”