Protecting our own little piece of the planet

Private land conservation provides a means for Americans of all backgrounds to save the places they need and love through personal initiative, landowner empowerment and charity — something we’re extremely thankful for this Thanksgiving.

By Corey Himrod November 23

Here in the U.S., we're watching our land disappear.

There's coastal erosion due to sea-level rise, while our forests, grasslands and wetlands are being lost to industry, urban sprawl and other human activities. Research has shown it equates to about a football field worth of natural land lost every 30 seconds.

That reality, when paired with issues like climate inaction, can lead to a feeling of helplessness over the future of our planet.

That’s what makes land conservation that takes place outside of the government sphere — through community-based, nonprofit organizations known as land trusts, for example — so important. Private land conservation provides a means for Americans of all backgrounds to save the places they need and love through personal initiative, landowner empowerment and charity — something we’re extremely thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Cheryl Meyer is a landowner in Michigan. For 20 years now, Meyer and her husband have been “acquiring farmland and transforming it back into a natural space.”

In this story from Teresa Homsi and WCMU Public Radio in Michigan, Meyer talks about projects like transforming former farmland into a 17-acre pollinator field, and how her next step is looking into a conservation easement that will preserve that transformation into the future.

“Half the world is on fire, it feels like,” Meyer said. “Knowing that we can do something to help at least maintain our small portion…I think there's a trickle-down effect, and it makes it a lot less dire.”

Conservation easements are one of the most important tools in our nation’s land conservation toolbox. These legal agreements between a willing landowner and a qualified conservation organization or government agency help conserve land — forever — while leaving it in private ownership.

As Mike Lavelli of the accredited Chippewa Watershed Conservancy notes in the story, easements can focus on preserving a variety of different things, but in the end, the goal is simple:

Some easements focus on protecting natural resources while others preserve agricultural land for its historic heritage. Lavelli said easements — of all types — are popular in areas experiencing high growth and development.

“Maybe there's a river, lake or forest they grew up loving, and they just would hate to see that turned into something else,” Lavelli said. “Even if they don't have the benefit of using it, they want to see that maintained as that type of space.”

Cheryl Meyer put it more simply: Conservation easements are a way to help a “little piece of the planet.”

Read the full story here.