While many of us live in apartments or in urban areas, we or our families may someday own a little piece of land. You've probably heard of land trusts before, but we've invited our sister, a land protection specialist, to give us some basic information about them and how they help protect the earth's future. What exactly is a land trust?
A land trust is a non-profit organization that works with landowners to conserve land and protect its conservation values through active stewardship.
Why are land trusts important? Land trusts are important because they protect land that has significant conservation values and natural resouces, such as water, wildlife habitat, working farms and forests. Land trusts also protect special places for their scenic, recreational and historical values. In the face of ever-growing development pressure, protecting land is not only about conserving natural resouces, but also about ensuring that there will still be a place for our children and all future generations to discover the wonders of nature.
How do land trusts work? There are different tools for protecting land. The most common tool is probably the conservation easement, which is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust (or other governmental entity) that permanently limits the uses of the land in order to protect its significant natural features. After a conservation easement is placed on a property, the land is still owned and managed by the landowner, but they must manage it in accordance with the specific resrictions spelled out in the conservation easement. Conservation easements stay with the land forever, restricting the property for all future owners. The land trust takes on the responsibility of making sure that the restrictions are upheld. Another common tool that land trusts use for protecting land is acquiring full ownership of a property.
Where can I get more information? If you are interested in protecting land that you own, you should contact a land trust that works in your community. There are hundreds of land trusts in the nation. To find one near you, visit the Land Trust Alliance. Once you find a land trust in your area, contact them directly for more information. If you live in a city, there are land trusts that protect open spaces in urban environments, such as parks, gardens and trails. You may also want to contact a land trust, if you want to volunteer.
Anne McBride is a land protection specialist with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, a land trust that has been protecting the special places of New Hampshire since 1901. Thanks, Anne!