Land Trusts

What is a Land Trust?
A land trust is a nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easements.

Are land trusts government agencies?
No, they are independent, entrepreneurial organizations that work with landowners who are interested in protecting open space. But land trusts often work cooperatively with government agencies by acquiring or managing land, researching open space needs and priorities, or assisting in the development of open space plans.

So, what are the advantages of working with a land trust?
Land trusts are very closely tied to the communities in which they operate. Moreover, land trusts' nonprofit tax status brings them a variety of tax benefits. Donations of land, conservation easements or money may qualify you for income, estate, or gift tax savings. Moreover, because they are private organizations, land trusts can be more flexible and creative than public agencies - and can act more quickly – in saving land.

What does a land trust do?
Local and regional land trusts, organized as charitable organizations under federal tax laws, are directly involved in conserving land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical and productive values. Land Trusts can purchase land for permanent protection, or they may use one of several other methods: accept donations of land or the funds to purchase land, accept a bequest, or accept donations of a conservation easement, which permanently limits the type and scope of development that can take place on the land. In some instances, land trusts also purchase conservation easements.

How is land protected?
There are several strategies available through Land Trusts to landowners who want to preserve their cherished lands. Occasionally, a landowner may donate or sell parcels of land to a Land Trust in order to place the land entirely in the Trust's permanent care. More often, however, a landowner will donate to a Land Trust a conservation easement, which places protective restrictions on future uses of land. The conservation easement also assigns responsibility to the Land Trust to enforce those protections forever, even when the ownership of the land changes.