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Expanding Horizons: Why the Cumberland River Compact Is Pursuing Land Trust Conservation and Accreditation

May 22, 2023

By: Mekayle Houghton

Since 1997, the Cumberland River Compact has been at the forefront of water conservation efforts in our region. Our organization’s board of directors recently made an exciting decision that will expand the Compact’s capacity to serve all of the people and animals who depend on clean and abundant water from the Cumberland River Basin. Recognizing the profound connection between land and water, the Cumberland River Compact is venturing into land trust conservation and pursuing accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance.

Our colleagues at Tennessee-based land trusts are making monumental contributions to the conservation of the state’s natural resources. In conversations with them, we found an important and unfilled job: conserving the waterways and the buffers and wetlands in proximity to these waterways. Becoming an accredited land trust in Tennessee, will allow the Compact to expand our work safeguarding the natural landscapes and habitats that directly impact water quality and availability. Through strategic land acquisition and conservation easements, we will work to  maintain protective buffer zones along rivers, streams, and wetlands. Protecting these natural filters will help prevent pollution, reduce erosion, and maintain the health and resilience of the entire watershed.

Land conservation efforts undertaken by the Cumberland River Compact, in connection to compensatory stream mitigation, will also enable the restoration of critical ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems contribute to water quality by naturally filtering pollutants and maintaining ecological balance.  Through the conservation of these essential ecosystems, we aim to facilitate the return of native species, promote biodiversity, and improve overall ecosystem health. The Compact’s land trust activities will work in harmony with our water conservation efforts, creating a comprehensive approach to environmental stewardship.

The Cumberland River Compact’s decision to pursue land trust accreditation marks a new chapter in our commitment to environmental conservation. By expanding our focus beyond water and embracing land trust activities, we are embarking on a journey that recognizes the inextricable link between land and water resources. Through strategic land conservation, ecological restoration, and sustainable land use practices, the Compact will be able to protect and restore vital ecosystems, mitigate flood risks, and secure the future of our region’s water supply. This holistic approach, backed by collaboration and community engagement, will undoubtedly make a lasting impact on the Cumberland River watershed and beyond.

To learn more about the accreditation process and to comment, click here. 

Comments on Cumberland River Compact’s application will be most useful by July 21st, 2023.


Author Bio:

Mekayle Houghton, Executive Director at the Cumberland River Compact, oversees the organization’s programs and operations. Mekayle has been with the organization since 2005. She serves on the board of directors for River Network and the Ohio River Basin Alliance Steering Committee. Locally, she has served on the sustainability board for the last three mayors of Nashville as well as the steering committee for TN H20. Mekayle earned a Bachelor and Masters degree from the University of Chicago.