What is a Land Trust?

Working only with willing landowners, providing a voluntary option for them to conserve their land

What is a land trust?
A land trust is a nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easements.

Land trusts work with landowners and the community to conserve land by accepting donations of land, purchasing land, negotiating conservation agreements on land (called conservation easement), and stewarding conserved land through the generations to come.

A land trust works for conservation instead of the generation of profits through land sales.

Most land trusts are community-based and deeply connected to local needs, so they’re well-equipped to identify land that offers critical natural habitat as well as land offering recreational, agricultural and other conservation value.

How does a Land Trust work?

Land trusts work to implement three fundamentally American ideals:

* Volunteerism
* Community Spirit
* Connection to the Land

By holding land or conservation easements on land with high conservation value, land trusts counter the economic model of poorly planned development and sprawl.

Land trusts communicate and demonstrate the powerful benefits of land on our lives and on the human spirit.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement (sometimes also referred to as a conservation restriction) is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.

When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement’s terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed on a long-term basis.
Land Trust Alliance Standards & Practices

Land Trust Standards and Practices are guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust, which is run legally, ethically and in the public interest and conducts a sound program of land transactions and stewardship.

The Land Trust Alliance originally developed the standards and practices in 1989 at the urging of land trusts, which believe a strong land trust community depends on the credibility and effectiveness of all its members. The Standards and Practices were last revised in 2004.

Land Trust Accreditation

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, provides independent verification of the 37 indicator practices from Land Trust Standards and Practices that show a land trust’s ability to operate in an ethical, legal and technically sound manner and ensure the long-term protection of land in the public interest.

Those land trusts that have completed the accreditation process will have the right to display the accreditation seal, demonstrating that they are a land conservation organization that meets national standards for excellence, upholds the public trust and ensures that conservation efforts are permanent.

Heart of the Rockies partners that currently display this seal are:

  • Bitter Root Land Trust (MT)
  • Five Valleys Land Trust (MT)
  • Flathead Land Trust (MT)
  • Gallatin Valley Land Trust (MT)
  • Jackson Hole Land Trust (WY)
  • Lemhi Regional Land Trust (ID)
  • Prickly Pear Land Trust (MT)
  • Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust (ID)
  • Teton Regional Land Trust (ID)
  • The Conservation Fund
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Vital Ground Foundation (MT)
  • Wood River Land Trust (ID)
  • Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust

The above information was provided courtesy of the Land Trust Alliance and the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission.