California Wetlands Information System

Land Trusts

While there is no one "program" carried out by all land trusts, the work they do invariably involves private lands, and their principal objectives are associated with achieving permanent preservation of lands having at least one of the following qualities: valuable wildlife habitat or other natural resources, agricultural, historic, recreational, or scenic significance. Land trusts focus their efforts on a range of resources, from greenways to farmlands to endangered species; their efforts can be concentrated on a single watershed or take in an entire nation. Many land trusts are initially formed to save a particular piece of property with special significance to the local community, but others are started with a broader vision, in hopes of halting land use trends that consume habitat and open space. Land trusts also vary in the sort of involvement they have in land conservation. Some limit their projects to conservation easements, others will acquire full interests in land along with the responsibilities of natural lands management, while still others will hold land only until a government agency has gathered the resources to take ownership. Some land trusts also specialize in providing advisory services to local landowners or other land trusts.

Whatever their particular area of expertise, land trusts have a well-deserved reputation for crafting innovative approaches to land conservation that provide gains to private landowners even as they conserve critical resources. All of the tools described in the section entitled "Approaches to Land Protection" require involvement of an outside party in addition to the landowner, and quite often a land trust is the most likely candidate. The types of benefits landowners might expect from conveying to a land trust all or some of the interests in their land include: direct compensation, income tax deductions for donations, and lowered property and estate taxes. The process of working out an agreeable transaction may also provide landowners with a better understanding of their real estate rights and a plan for managing their estates. To many, the satisfaction of knowing that wetlands will be left undisturbed is an unquantifiable but unequivocal reward.


Local and national land trusts are located throughout the state. The American Farmland Trust at (916) 753-1073 can provide information about land trusts geared to the protection of farmland. The Trust for Public Land's Land Trust Program at (415) 495-4014 may be able to provide additional information about a particular land trust's area of focus. The State Coastal Conservancy's Nonprofit Assistance Program at (510) 286-1015 is another good contact for information about land trusts within the coastal zone.

This page is an exerpt from Options for Wetland Conservation: A Guide for California Landowners, a publication of the California State Coastal Commission. To obtain a copy of the guide or for more information about the Coastal Conservancy contact:

California State Coastal Conservancy
1330 Broadway, Suite 1100
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 286-1015
FAX: (510) 286-0470

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