What IS a Land Trust?
Land trusts are local, state, or regional non-profit organizations
directly involved in protecting land for its natural, recreational,
scenic, historical, or productive value. Most land trusts are
private, non-profit corporations. Land trusts are not "trusts" in
the legal sense, and may also be called "conservancies," "foundations," or
any number of other names descriptive of their purpose.
Land trusts are distinguished by their first-hand involvement
in land transactions or management. This involvement can take
many forms. Some land trusts purchase or accept donations of
land or of conservation easements (permanent, binding agreements
that restrict the uses of a piece of land to protect its conservation
resources). Some manage land owned by others or advise landowners
on how to preserve their land. Some land trusts help negotiate
conservation transactions in which they play no other role. Land
trusts often work cooperatively with government agencies by acquiring
or managing land, researching open space needs and priorities,
and assisting in the development of open space plans. They also
may work with other non-profit organizations and sometimes with
developers. A land trust may do one, several, or all of these
Some land trusts are organized to protect a single piece of
property, but the more active trusts have a larger land protection
agenda. They may focus their efforts in a community, in a region,
on a particular type of resource, or on a protection project.
Some operate statewide and work cooperatively with local land
trusts in addition to conducting their own land conservation
projects. Resources protected by land trusts include forests,
prairie grasslands, islands, urban gardens, river corridors,
farmland, watersheds, parklands, marshes, ranchland, scenic vistas,
cultural landscapes, Civil War battlefields, and hiking trails.
Most land trusts depend on volunteer leadership and support
even if they also have a professional staff. They have the potential
to bring together a wide range of people in a community, such
as naturalists, planners, farmers, hunters, landowners, community
leaders, sometimes developers, and others who care about special
lands in their communities.
For more information about land trusts nationwide, please
visit The Land
Trust Alliance website.
(Source: The Land Trust Alliance. Starting a Land Trust:
A Guide to Forming a Land Conservation Organization. Virginia:
The Land Trust