Privately-owned land makes up 60% of the United States, but only 3% of it is protected for conservation. Land trusts work with voluntary private land owners to find the best way to conserve their land forever.
Privately-owned lands are being lost almost five times faster than lands owned or managed by federal or state governments, and unprotected private lands are losing habitat for threatened and endangered species twice as quickly as on federal lands.
That’s where land trusts come in. A land trust, or land conservancy, is a community-based, nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land by acquiring it or partnering with willing landowners to establish a conservation easement on privately-owned land. Land trusts also manage or restore land once it has been conserved.
The protection of private land always has three things in common: it's local, it's voluntary and it’s forever.
Land trusts work in 93% of U.S. counties — serving urban, suburban and rural communities. And land trust staff, volunteers and supporters are committed to saving the places that make their communities special — farms, forests, scenic views, parks, trails, swimming holes, community gardens and more.
Decisions about whether to protect a piece of private property are landowner-driven. Landowners choose to protect their land for a variety of reasons. Often, the primary motivation is a desire to conserve the special qualities of their land — for example, its productive farm soils, scenic beauty or valuable wildlife habitat.
Tax incentives and other funding available for conservation often factor into a family’s decision to protect their land. For some families, especially farmers and ranchers, the tax advantages of conservation allow them to stay on the land and pass it on to the next generation.
The land trust’s role is to answer the landowner’s questions, provide conservation options and help the landowner determine if conservation is the right decision for their family.