Digging Up Land Trusts’ Urban Roots

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Conservation land trusts work to protect land by holding property rights for the public good.

Relying on a combination of volunteers, staff and a board of directors, these nonprofit organizations may own land outright (which may be turned into public recreation areas or reserved for conservation purposes), or place conservation easements on pieces of property (which allows the land to remain privately-owned while still protected from development). In doing so, land trusts are advocates for responsible land use so that current and future generations can enjoy the many benefits of open space: recreation, agriculture, biodiversity and climate resiliency (just to name a few).

But, while all land trusts work towards these fundamental goals, each one represents a unique community and defines its own mission. Looking across the U.S. you can find land trusts of all shapes and sizes, but no two are identical.

People often imagine land conservation as occurring on tracts of remote wilderness, along the rolling hills of a bucolic farm, or framing a National Park; and, some land trusts do work on large scale preserves. But many land trusts form when development pressure reaches a breaking point and jeopardizes some of last remaining space for communities to gather.

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