What Is a Land Trust?

Land Trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations that conserve land by undertaking or assisting in outright donations, bequests, conservation easements, and the purchase of development rights. 

They also acquire conservation easements to protect scenic vistas and open spaces. Land trusts serve the people who live in the communities where they work by protecting property values, maintaining the vitality and quality of life, and ensuring the availability of green spaces. 

They also provide new opportunities for people to enjoy and protect natural areas in their communities. Land trusts contribute to local economies by improving traffic patterns, bolstering tourism, and increasing home values. 

Land Trusts serve all kinds of communities: urban and rural; rich and poor; those with a long-standing environmental ethic and those where natural resource protection is a newer concern.

Land Trusts are living trust funds through which individuals, families, and organizations can secure their own peace of mind by permanently protecting the land around them. 

How a Land Trust Works

Land preservation is the only charitable purpose of Land Trusts. Land Trusts then work with landowners to create conservation easements that legally limit future development and then monitor those easements for compliance.

Landowners can receive income tax deductions for this kind of gift and retain estate benefits as well.

Types of Land Trusts

There are two types of Land Trusts: Title-Holding Land Trust and Conservation Land Trust.

Title-Holding Land Trust

In a Title-Holding Land Trust, the Land Trust holds legal title to the conservation easement. Landowners contribute their land to the Land Trust and receive income tax deductions for this gift.

Land Trusts that own fee title to the land and hold it in perpetuity for conservation purposes.

This is usually donated by the owner or purchased at fair market value. Landowners donate an easement that limits the development of their property, keeping it as open space forever.

Conservation Land Trust

Land Trusts that do not own the property but still protect it for conservation purposes using easements. 

Landowners donate an easement that limits the development of their land and then sell or lease the land back to the Land Trust at a reduced cost. 

Landowners can maintain ownership and control over their property, but still, ensure its protection as open space for all time. Land Trusts can also invest their funds in a mutually beneficial way that helps the Land Trust meet its conservation goals.

How Can Land Conservation Help Me? 

Preserving Land Protects Your Land

Land trusts are often the only organizations in their communities able to purchase development rights on open lands. By contributing your land or a conservation easement, you can help protect scenic vistas and open spaces. 

Land conservation protects the environment. Land protected by Land Trusts is a habitat for plants and animals, green space for people, and a natural resource for future generations. Land conservation may help you avoid the high costs of protecting land yourself.

Land trusts are among the few organizations with the ability to negotiate special easements or agreements that meet your needs while complying with environmental laws.

Conserving Land Protects Your Future

Land trusts are committed to long-term land conservation. Land protected by Land Trusts will remain undeveloped forever. Land ownership can be complicated and sometimes costly to maintain, especially for those without large amounts of money or estates.

Land trusts take the burden off landowners’ shoulders by ensuring that land will always be protected regardless of any future circumstances. 

Land conservation preserves local communities. Land protected by Land Trusts contributes to local economies by improving traffic patterns, bolstering tourism, and increasing home values. Land conservation is an investment in the future of our communities.

Why Should I Donate My Land? 

Donating Land is Beneficial to You

Landowners who donate property receive charitable income tax deductions. These deductions help reduce your tax obligations. Landowners can also receive estate benefits for this kind of gift, which may help reduce the size or value of your taxable estate. 

Donating Land is Beneficial to Land Trusts

Donations enable Land Trusts to maintain a large portfolio of land in perpetuity and with current market values. Land trusts welcome donations by individuals as well as corporations and foundations. 

Land Trusts can also help you avoid the costs of owning undeveloped land by encouraging landowners to donate their property for conservation purposes.

A Land Trust can be a nonprofit organization that holds and manages conservation easements or fee title to real property, for conservation purposes.
Land trusts can protect landscapes that are important for their natural, scenic, recreational, or cultural values. Land trusts are grassroots organizations that are privately funded by donations from individuals and foundations.
Eligibility for Land Trusts means that the land meets the Land Trust's specific conservation objectives. Land trusts have different rules and regulations based upon their mission statement.
Donating your property to Land Trust can be an excellent way of ensuring that your land will remain conserved forever. Land trusts are the best bet to ensure the conservation of privately-owned lands, for future generations.
Land trusts are good tax stewards. Land trusts have low overhead and are open to local communities. Land trusts create jobs in the community.

Disclaimer: The above references an opinion and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.