What is a land trust?
Land trusts are local, regional, or statewide non-profit organizations directly involved in protecting important land resources for the public benefit. America’s nearly 1200 land trusts have protected over 3 million acres. These include farms, wetlands, wildlife habitat, urban gardens and parks, forests, ranches, watersheds, coastlines, river corridors, and trails. The next few years represent the last chance for many of America’s undeveloped areas; over 3,000 acres of wetlands, farms, and forests are being lost to development each day. Land trusts, with their ability to respond creatively and effectively to local conservation needs, are uniquely suited to meet the challenge of saving these lands.
It’s no wonder that land trusts are the fastest-growing conservation movement today, with new land trusts forming at an average rate of more than one per week.
If you are interested in preserving your land with the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, please contact Marty Engel, Land Stewardship Manager, at 715-653-6153-X102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Basic Features of Land Trusts
Private, nonprofit, tax-exempt. They are funded largely through membership dues and donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations. Not “trusts” in the legal sense. In fact, many refer to themselves as conservancies, foundations, or associations.
Vary in size. Some are small and are run solely by volunteers. Others manage thousands of acres and have large, professional staff.
Protect land permanently and directly. Land trusts accept donations of properties, buy land, or help landowners establish legal restrictions that limit harmful use and development.
Protect land that has natural, recreational, scenic, historic, or productive value. Some land trusts preserve many different types of land. Others focus on a particular area or resource.
Cooperative. Land trusts work cooperatively with landowners, the community, and government agencies.
Some own and manage nature preserves, recreation areas, or historic sites. Others monitor the development restrictions they have helped establish, but own no land at all, while still others work in partnership with government conservation agencies, acquiring critical land that they later convey to the agencies.
Special Advantages of Land Trusts
As private, local community organizations, land trusts offer some special advantages. Land trusts:
Understand the special needs of the land and people in their regions.
Help landowners obtain professional assistance in estate planning, tax and conservation law, and environmental and land planning.
Respond quickly, flexibly, and confidentially. They may be effective where government action falls short.
Provide a cost-effective approach to conservation. They often protect land at a cost below its market value.
Offer a successful, cooperative approach to land conservation. Land trusts are the creative answer to today’s conservation challenges.
Conservation Methods Used By Land Trusts
The hallmark of land trusts is their direct involvement in land transactions. They use a variety of flexible and creative conservation methods that achieve conservation goals while meeting the specific needs of the community and landowner. Many approaches offer income, estate, or property tax benefits that help make conservation affordable.
Land trust tools include:
Conservation easement. The landowner enters into a perpetual legal agreement with the land trust that permanently restricts harmful uses and development of the property. The land stays in private ownership and use, and the land trust sees that the restrictions are carried out. Also known as “voluntary land preservation agreement.”
Donation. The landowner gives property to the land trust by gift or will.
Purchase or bargain sale. The land trust buys the property from the landowner. Sales for less than market value, called bargain sales, reduce the cost to the trust and offer tax benefits to the seller.
Life estate. The landowner sells or donates the land, but retains the right to live on it throughout his or her lifetime.
Limited development. The land trust arranges a strategy whereby the least environmentally significant portion of a property is carefully developed in order to finance conservation of the rest. Limited development may be used when conservation of an expensive property would otherwise be impossible.
Using the methods described above, The Kinnickinnic River Land Trust is prepared to assist landowners, land buyers, and others in the community to conserve the natural resources and scenic beauty of the Kinnickinnic watershed.
* This page was adapted from a brochure published by the Land Trust Alliance