What is a Land Trust?




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A land trust is a charitable organization that acquires land or conservation easements, or that stewards land or easements, to achieve one or more qualified conservation purposes. A land trust must qualify as a 501(c)(3) organization under the Internal Revenue Code.

The qualified 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, preserving historically important land areas or structures; or preserving land for recreation or educational purposes.

Land trusts work cooperatively with landowners to complete real estate transactions, sometimes purchasing property interests and sometimes accepting donations of those interests. In larger transactions land trusts often work with other parties (in addition to the landowner) in order to facilitate conservation transactions; those parties might include other landowners, businesses, conservation organizations, and local governments, as well as state and federal agencies (such as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Forest Service).

Land trusts also work to ensure that land previously acquired or placed under easement is properly conserved. They conduct annual monitoring to ensure that the conservation-related requirements are being complied with, and, if necessary, will take action to enforce compliance. Other common functions of land trusts include environmental education and community involvement. Land trusts seek to bring important and lasting conservation benefits to communities.

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