What is a land trust?

Personal Finance, Community Planning and Zoning December 14, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

A land trust is a nonprofit organization that holds property or interests in property, in trust, for the public good. The first land trusts were formed in the 1890s in the northeastern United States in response to the rapid urbanization that accompanied the industrial revolution. These trusts initially operated much like private park commissions, acquiring lands in or near urban areas for the public to use and enjoy.

During the first half of the 20th century, land trusts and the types of lands protected became more diverse, although the actual number of land trusts and the amount of land protected grew somewhat slowly. By 1950, only about 50 land trusts were operating in the United States; most of them were located in either the Northeast or along the Pacific Coast. The environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s brought a new-found interest in conservation, and the number of land trusts began to grow at a more rapid pace.

Currently, thousands of land trusts exist, located in every state in the nation. Additional information is available in the Web sites of the following land trust organizations:

• American Farmland Trust www.farmland.org

• Land Trust Alliance www.lta.org

• Trust for Public Land www.tpl.org

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