Massive leap in US land protected privately

An area twice the size of the state of Connecticut was brought under the protection of private land conservation trusts during the 1990s, and, for the first time, every US state and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, has land under permanent protection.

The results come from the latest National Land Trust Census, which surveys the activities of the US’s local and regional, private, non-profit making land trusts movement. The Census recorded a massive 241% rise in acreages of protected private land across the US, led by California, New York and Montana.

However, it was the 42% national increase in the number of trusts formed during the decade to a record 1,263, which represents a milestone for the land trust movement, founded in 1891. This leap in membership places it amongst the ranks of the fastest growing sectors of the conservation community. In particular, Texas now has 22 land trusts conserving land in 2000, compared to just nine in 1990.

“The Census portrays a growing movement that is fuelled by people’s desire to save the open lands that make each community unique”, the president of said the Land Trust Alliance, the national leader of the private land conservation movement, Jean Hocker. “In nearly every corner of America, people can point proudly to land that is voluntarily conserved through a land trust – land that is important for wildlife and natural resources values, for scenic and recreational values, for its value as productive farm, ranch and timberland and – most essentially – for its value to people’s lives”.

Primary candidates for protection were wetlands, river corridors, and watershed/water quality and farmland and ranch land, according to the Census. Two of the most commonly used methods of protecting land by land trusts are through purchase and donation of land or via a conservation easement – a legal agreement that permanently restricts the development and use of land to ensure protection of its conservation values. Some land trusts acquire land and then transfer it to another NGO or a government agency for permanent protection and stewardship. Land trusts also protect land by: providing funding to other groups for land acquisition; negotiating with conservation buyers – conservation-minded individuals who are willing to invest in property in anticipation of its ultimate and permanent protection as open space; and facilitating negotiations for land to be acquired by another non-profit organisation or a public agency.

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