Voluntary Private Land Conservation 101

Whether you're new to the world of voluntary private land conservation or looking for a refresh, read on for answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions about land trusts.

By Kelsey Pramik March 29

What are land trusts?

A land trust, or land conservancy, is a community-based, nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land by acquiring land or conservation easements from willing landowners. Land trusts also manage or restore land once it has been conserved.

How many are there?

Based on the most recent National Land Trust Census, there are 1,281 land trusts nationwide, 950 of which are members of the Land Trust Alliance. These land trusts are collectively backed by 234,000 volunteers and roughly 6.3 million supporters, and they welcomed 16.7 million visitors in 2020 alone.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land to protect its conservation values. It is a powerful tool for individuals who want to protect their private property for future generations. Learn more on the Alliance's website.

What is the Land Trust Alliance?

The Alliance is a national land conservation nonprofit working to save the places people need and love across America. It's the leading voice for voluntary private land conservation.

Where can you find a land trust?

Our member land trusts work in 93% of U.S. counties — serving urban, suburban and rural communities. Use the Find a Land Trust tool to locate the one closest to you!

What is their impact on the environment?

Over the last 40 years, land trusts have conserved more than 60 million acres — an area larger than all the land contained in America's National Parks. Together, they aim to conserve an additional 60 million acres by the end of 2030.

Land trusts preserve biodiversity by protecting important habitat for plants and wildlife and maintaining critical migration corridors; mitigate the impact of climate change; reduce carbon in our air by protecting forests, grasslands and wetlands; secure local farms and ranches, ensuring sustainable food; protect beautiful natural places for people to recreate and relax; and ensure clean air and drinking water by protecting and stewarding forests and wetlands.

Simply put, land trusts are great organizations doing great work! Visit GainingGroundUSA.org for examples of land trusts making a difference in their communities or FindaLandTrust.org to find a land trust near you.

This blog was originally posted to the Land Trust Alliance blog in April 2021 and updated in April 2022.