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Land Trusts

What is a land trust? Land trusts are usually locally based, non-profit organizations directly involved in protecting important land resources for public benefit. Land trusts form when grass-roots citizen interest is sparked to protect community open space values. Land trusts depend on the financial support, volunteer assistance, and participation of the people in the community.

Land trusts are not “trusts” in the legal sense. In fact, many refer to themselves as conservancies, foundations, or associations. Land trusts often offer quick response, flexibility, and confidentiality, and are friendly providers of preservation assistance.

Land trusts protect a range of different resources from greenways to farmland to open space. They protect land that has natural, recreational, scenic, historic, cultural, scientific and educational, or productive value, depending on the needs of the community. Many protect wetlands as their highest priority.

Land trusts protect land permanently and directly. They can be the official “holder” of a conservation easement, taking on the responsibility of overseeing, managing, and enforcing the land restrictions. They also directly own land.

The hallmark of land trusts is their direct involvement in land transactions. Almost all land trusts offer technical assistance to landowners to preserve quality natural resources. They use a variety of flexible and creative methods that achieve conservation goals while meeting the specific needs of the community and landowner. Some common tools and techniques are: the acceptance of donations, securing of conservation easements, and outright purchase or bargain sales.

There are many benefits landowners might expect from conveying all or some of the interests in their land to a land trust. These include: direct compensation, income tax deductions for donations, and lowered property and estate taxes. The process of working out an agreeable transaction may also provide landowners with a better understanding of their real estate rights and a plan for managing their estates.

Land trusts are not adversarial, but work cooperatively with landowners and government agencies. Therefore, trusts can lead community efforts to preserve open space by working with local residents and officials to strengthen planning and zoning regulations and non-regulatory protection of sensitive areas.


In addition to the National and Regional Land Trusts, with links below,there are many more localized trusts. iLocal land trusts cover everything from a single canyon (Cowiche Canyon Conservancy) to a river basin (Chehalis River Basin Land Trust) to a multi-county area (Inland Northwest Land Trust), working in six counties in northeast Washington).

Most land trusts are members of the Land Trust Alliance, which maintains a searchable and comprehensive list.

More Information on Land Trusts

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