What is a land trust?
Land trusts are conservation organizations that work to protect some or all of the following community assets: productive agricultural and forestland, scenic and recreational resources, such as lakes and rivers, wildlife habitat, historic sites, community open space; and ecologically sensitive areas, such as groundwater recharge areas, wetlands, river banks, and coastal zones.
Also known as "conservancies," land trusts are community-based, private, and nonprofit. They protect land by acquiring outright ownership, by receiving a conservation easement, or by facilitating the transfer of ownership or easements to other conservation organizations that will ensure protection.
Specific techniques used by land trusts to protect land include bargain sale, conservation easement, limited development, cooperative agreement, and outright donation. Other commonly used tools are land exchange, preacquisition, revolving fund, rights-of-first-refusal, and purchase/leaseback agreements. This diversity of techniques allows conservancies to develop creative protection plans that meet the needs of the individual landowner, the land trust, and the community-at-large.
Since most land trusts are run by local citizens, they are often more responsive to the needs of the community than are national organizations or government agencies. Because they are private, they possess a flexibility that governments often lack. And, as nonprofits, they do not pay taxes. In addition, donations made to a trust are tax-deductible.
For more information about land trusts, see the Land Trust Alliance.