What is a land trust?
Learn more about these private, nonprofit organizations with missions to conserve and steward land and its resources.
A land trust is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to conserve and steward land and its resources forever. Landowners can work with a land trust when they want to permanently protect the ecological, agricultural, scenic, historic or recreational qualities of their land.
A land trust provides many services to landowners. It helps choose a protection strategy that meets the landowner’s conservation and financial needs. A land trust may own the property or hold the development rights through a conservation easement. The landowner may benefit from reductions in both state and federal taxes.
How is land protected?
There are several strategies for landowners who want to preserve their lands. A landowner may donate or sell parcels of land to a land trust in order to place the land entirely in the trust’s permanent care. Alternatively, a landowner may donate a conservation easement to a land trust. The conservation easement places protective restrictions on future uses of land. The conservation easement also assigns responsibility to the land trust to enforce those protections forever, even when the ownership of the land changes.
The land trust movement
Although land trusts have been protecting lands in the United States for over a century, most have been founded in the last 30 years. In 1965, there were 132 active land trusts in the United States. That number has grown to more than 1,500 land trusts, which are collectively protecting millions of acres of conservation lands.
National, state and local endorsements
Land trusts follow strict state and federal guidelines to organize and operate as nonprofit, tax-exempt, charitable corporations in order to provide tax benefits to donors. Federal policy recognizes that conservation of natural sites benefit the public, and income tax deductions are allowed for the value of property or of a conservation easement.
To qualify for these tax benefits, a conservation donation must be granted in perpetuity and to a qualified nature conservancy organization—such as Columbia Land Trust. Federal estate tax guidelines also allow the reduction of the inheritance tax obligation of estates, after donation of a qualified conservation easement.
Columbia Land Trust
Columbia Land Trust is dedicated to conserving the signature landscapes and vital habitat in the Columbia River region from the east end of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area to the Pacific Ocean. Based in Vancouver, Washington, Columbia Land Trust provides opportunities for community members to conserve their land or to contribute financially to private land conservation.
Columbia Land Trust helps landowners preserve their land through conservation easements or donations of fee simple ownership. In some circumstances the Land Trust raises money to purchase priority land for conservation. Since 1990, Columbia Land Trust has conserved more than 9,800 acres throughout the Columbia River region.
How you can participate
Join Columbia Land Trust [LINK: Get involved] with a contribution of $25 or more and support conservation throughout the Columbia River region. Members and individual donations provide the financial foundation for Columbia Land Trust. With generous donations from members, Columbia Land Trust saves land that would otherwise be lost.