Conserved land is set apart and secured, protecting it from various hazards that could harm either the land itself or the animals and plants that live on the conserved land. Sometimes land is conserved in an effort to protect or assist wildlife or plants living in the area from becoming endangered or extinct. Land conservation is also a means of protecting natural resources from depletion or of protecting historic or cultural sites from damage. Land conservation is a concerted effort to use and manage land wisely in various ways.
Conserving land has a variety of benefits. Natural resources such as water and air are often conserved by managing land carefully. Water and air pollution is also minimized, and greenhouses gases are reduced as well. Land conservation is also directly tied with the preservation of open green spaces, and it helps to maintain recreational land and scenic landscapes. Cultural and historic sites that need protecting and preserving receive a protective buffer around them that helps ensure their continued integrity and scenic beauty for current and future generations. Protecting wetlands is another important benefit of land conservation, and soil erosion generally is reduced as well. Working farms and forests are largely responsible for providing fresh products that people need, and it's vital to protect these lands as a part of both local and national economies.
A land trust is a legal means of gaining ownership or authority over a piece of land, enabled by the property owner. Every land trust is unique, having different terms and providing different benefits. Land trusts gain legal ownership, stewardship, or partial control over specific parcels of land. Setting up a land trust generally involves contracting with a dedicated trustee company or a law firm to draw up the paperwork.
A title-holding land trust enables a property owner to maintain property rights anonymously, also controlling the actions of the land trust. Most states have laws in place that dictate how title-holding land trusts function. Title-holding land trusts are most often used anonymously by landowners as a way of keeping valuable assets out of probate or as a way of protecting assets from liens or judgments. Wealthy landowners and big companies also often like to keep big development plans confidential.
A conservation land trust involves the landowner relinquishing some rights over the land use and development. This type of land trust is used to protect natural resources, wildlife, and historical or cultural sites from activities that would disrupt or pollute them. Conservation land trusts are often used to manage undeveloped land to protect natural resources or public recreational areas to ensure that these areas are preserved for future generations. A conservation land trust does not always fully take over the land unless the landowner donates it completely. The landowner might enter into a conservation easement, which is a legal agreement that involves the donation of the development rights to the trust. The trust then has to ensure the enforcement of the easement to manage the property.