March 5, 2012


Tocqueville Would Be Proud (G. TRACY MEHAN, III, 3.5.12, American Spectator)

The growth of the private land trust movement in the United States has often been cited as a premier example of Alexis de Tocqueville's insight regarding the American genius for forming voluntary associations to achieve common goals, avoiding both the perils of hyper-individualism and an intrusive government. When done properly, these trusts or conservancies typify the best of what is sometimes called "free market' environmentalism.

Land trusts engage in entirely free-market transactions with willing landowners who are able to sell or donate the development rights on all or part of their land in return for compensation or favorable tax treatment. They grant a conservation easement to the land trust which is responsible for protecting the easement for generations to come. [...]

At the end of 2011, LTA released its new 2010 National Land Trust Census for the period from 2005 to 2010, which covers conservation work right through the depths of the Great Recession of 2008. Incredibly, the new data indicate that private land trusts protected 10 million acres over those five years, totaling 47 million acres-an area the size of Washington state. Wendy Koch of USA Today notes that this is a jump of 27 percent since 2005.

The new Census shows that, while the number of land trusts has stabilized, the number of active volunteers increased by 70 percent since 2005.

The land trust movement is not just buying land. It is also paying attention to monitoring its investment given its legal, fiduciary and tax obligations in terms of ongoing stewardship. So it is encouraging that between 2005 and 2010 trusts more than doubled the amount of funding they have dedicated to monitoring, stewardship and legal defense. This was backed up by almost a tripling of their operating endowments.
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Posted by at March 5, 2012 6:27 AM

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