Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, Inc. has announced the completion of a merger between itself and Brookfield Open Space Legacy, Inc.

The merger became effective Oct. 31.

Weantinoge, the surviving entity of the merger, is the largest land trust in Connecticut and the 18th largest land trust in the United States by the number of lands conserved.

Founded in 1965, Weantinoge permanently protects 10,300 acres in Litchfield and northern Fairfield Counties, including 12 public hiking preserves; 29 working farms; and 42 miles of rivers, lakes, and streams.

In addition, Weantinoge offers free education programs to more than 2,000 children and families annually.

Weantinoge is a nationally accredited land trust with the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

For its commitment to conservation excellence and education it has received a 2013 EPA Environmental Merit Award and a 2017 Working Lands Alliance Pathfinder Award.

“Weantinoge has worked closely with BOSLI for a number of years and this merger is a natural next step for our two organizations,” said Catherine Rawson, Executive Director of Weantinoge.

“Through this merger, Weantinoge will ensure BOSLI’s land assets are protected in perpetuity,” she said. “Combining our efforts also enables us to more efficiently provide services and benefits that our members care most about, such as improved public access to natural lands. We are pleased to work even more closely with BOSLI and the community of Brookfield “

BOSLI, also founded in 1965, is an all-volunteer, non-profit land trust having stewardship of 167 acres of protected land in Brookfield.

“BOSLI has a legal obligation to forever protect and maintain our nature preserves but it has become increasingly difficult to accomplish this mission,” said Louis Memoli, president of the Brookfield Open Space Legacy.

“Over the past few years, BOSLI has relied heavily on Weantinoge for guidance, staff support, grant applications, project management, and their volunteers,” Memoli said.

“It has become apparent to the BOSLI Board of Directors that we can no longer live up to our legal responsibilities alone and that the future of Brookfield’s open space will be better served by merging with Weantinoge,” he said. “We believe that this is a prudent and our best option to ensure that Brookfield’s open space is forever preserved for the benefit of the community and for the education and enjoyment of its residents.”

BOSLI will be integrated into the Weantinoge organization and its board members will remain actively engaged in preserving and protecting Brookfield’s private open space as part of Weantinoge’s mission.

Both organizations were in a strong financial and governance position at the time of the merger.

As a result of the merger, Weantinoge has taken on the management of an additional 170 acres, including two public nature preserves with hiking trails.

The two organizations celebrated the merger at Weantinoge’s annual meeting Nov. 23.