Private Land Conservation Soars in U.S.

The nonprofit Land Trust Alliance (LTA) reported last week that Americans have increased the conservation of private lands by more than 50 percent in just five years. Currently about 37 million acres of private land has been set aside as natural areas across the U.S., as compared to just 24 million acres when the group last conducted such a tally in 2000. LTA works with local land trusts to help conserve private lands.

The group attributes the increase to the rising popularity of land trusts—nonprofits that usually operate regionally to help landowners reap tax benefits by voluntarily committing not to develop land holdings—especially in the western U.S. According to LTA’s 2005 National Land Trust Census, the number of land trusts grew to 1,667, a 32 percent increase over five years since the previous tally.

LTA reports that other factors contributing to the increase in private lands conservation include towns wanting to preserve their quality of life, state and local open space bond initiatives, and policymakers concerned about sprawl and unchecked development. The group also acknowledged the work of other nonprofits, including the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and the Trust for Public Land in helping increase the conservation of private lands.