What is a Land Trust?

What is a Land Trust?

Land Trust Basics

A land trust is a charitable organization that acquires land or conservation easements, or that steward’s land or easements, to achieve one or more conservation purposes. The conservation purposes may include protecting natural habitat, water quality, or scenic views; ensuring that the land is always available for farming, forestry, or outdoor recreational use; or protecting other values provided by open land. Land trusts work cooperatively with landowners to complete real estate transactions, sometimes purchasing property interests, sometimes accepting donations of those interests. After completing land or easement acquisitions,

land trusts work to ensure that the conservation efforts are lasting. They seek to bring enduring benefits—permanent improvements—to communities.

RiverLink is one of those land trusts here in western North Carolina.  We are also recognized as an accredited land trust through the Land Trust Alliance; a national a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 1,000 member land trusts supported by more than five million members nationwide.

Land Trust Standards and Practices

As an accredited land trust, RiverLink follows the standards established for such entities in their operations and in their land conservation activities.  The Land Trust Standards and Practices are the primary operational guidelines for land trusts. They are designed to help organizations operate in an ethically and technically sound manner. The Standards reflect the values and concerns expressed by many voices in the land trust community. The Standards consist of 12 broad principles, which are divided into 59 practices and 188 practice elements that describe the actions required to meet the Standards. The practice elements vary in their focus—ethics, legalities, running an effective organization, supporting the land trust movement as a whole, optimizing public relations, and more. The Standards are guidelines; there are many ways for a land trust to implement the practices, depending on the size and scope of the organization. The Standards provide multiple layers of benefits:

  • The concrete, widely accepted guidelines help individual land trusts operate responsibly and successfully. The public benefits from the quality of conservation achieved by well-run organizations.
  • The land trust community as a whole gains credibility from its constituent land trusts continuously striving towards conformance with high standards of behavior.
  • The public benefits from the quality of conservation achieved by well-run organizations.

The Land Trust Alliance (LTA) originally developed the Standards in 1989 with the encouragement of land trusts, recognizing that a strong land trust community depends on the credibility and effectiveness of all its members. LTA has revised the Standards over the years to incorporate the insight of hundreds of conservation leaders from across the country; the most recent revision process took place in 2017. More than 1,000 land trusts have adopted the Standards. See the guide Land Trust Standards and Practices  to learn more.